WHEN I assumed the position of chairman of policy and resources at the City of London Corporation in 2008, I knew that there would be difficulties. But very few people could have anticipated the scale of the challenges that lay ahead.
Over the last four years there have been sequences of events that have defined my time as chairman.
The 2008 financial crisis gave a shock of seismic proportions to the international financial services industry. It also fundamentally challenged the City’s position in the economy and our standing in the community.
Last year was perhaps the most difficult, but I am hopeful that the value of the City to the UK economy is now better understood and the government remains supportive. We acknowledge that serious errors of judgement were made, with disastrous consequences, and both culture and business models had to change. I believe the City has taken this on board and the reform agenda will continue.
I can say that, despite the problems, the City has come through this very difficult period, battered but still intact, maintaining its title as the world’s leading international financial centre.
One of the great strengths of the City of London Corporation is its capacity to bring people together, ensuring the voice of UK business is heard. In 2010 we founded TheCityUK to create a practitioner-led body to coordinate and lead the promotion of UK financial services at home and abroad. I’m delighted with its success and wish it well in the future.
A lot of my time has been taken by the whole Brussels agenda, fighting to ensure that regulations proposed by the European Commission and/or Parliament do not erode the City’s global competitive position. These challenges remain and the fight continues. The City needs good regulation not over-regulation, often promulgated for political reasons.
Looking ahead, I anticipate we will see a further broadening of our international focus. Over the past four years, we have nurtured a collegiate approach to our international partnerships, sharing skills and experiences. This approach will continue to bring incremental benefits, as I hope to be the case with our initiative to build London as an offshore renminbi market. With time, I believe this will be seen as a major achievement and a source of substantial business.
I cannot ignore the issues we had over the Occupy movement and the campsite at St Paul’s. I hope we have made our position clear in that the City is open to protesters but not campers! I believe the City Corporation should protect everyone’s rights to move freely and to trade, and that no group has the right to take that away.
A difficult four years. Economic, political and regulatory issues continue, so I wish my successor every future success and thank all those who have helped steer the City through such troubled waters.
Stuart Fraser is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation.