Let’s see the City as a solution not a problem

Michael Bear
AS A civil engineer, I come from the demand side of financial services – a client. So when I came into office last November, I brought with me a fresh perspective on the role of the mayoralty with my business theme – City of London: City of Choice.

This has involved promoting the importance of keeping the City competitive, especially in response to regulatory proposals from Europe, and highlighting the vital link between what we do in the City and industry, investment and exports.

The City has a vital role to play in creating jobs and growth, and supporting the real economy – not least our vital small and medium-sized enterprises. There are no less than 16,000 in the Square Mile – many of which are specialist or niche businesses that give us our competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Everything I have seen has confirmed the crucial importance of the City, especially in my regional visits and in each of the 22 countries I have visited. The City brand and Brand Britain remain hugely strong.

I have given these visits a sharper business focus by working in line with the Prime Minister’s vision on commercial diplomacy. This has involved piloting a consortium approach and looking for high value opportunities for business, not just for financial services but for wider industry as well. This is especially true in infrastructure, where we have unique expertise in all aspects of the supply chain.

But that is not to say the year has not been without its challenges. The Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, the Eurozone crisis, the US debt ceiling discussions, London riots, and protests outside St Paul’s have all had, and continue to have, an impact upon the City.

But I am confident that the City is an important part of the solutions to challenges. For example, my initiative to restore trust is looking at solid practical ways of embedding best practice in every office in the City.

In my year, I have also worked hard on philanthropy, the softer – but equally important – side of the mayoralty. Through my Lord Mayor’s Appeal – Bear Necessities: Building Better Lives – we have raised millions of pounds for Coram, London’s foremost children’s charity and RedR, the international disaster relief charity.

Also, through my programme of cultural diplomacy – building bridges through music in partnership with the Concordia Foundation, to host hugely successful concerts in China, Vietnam and Kenya – we have left a lasting legacy, for instance, by teaching a musical instrument to schoolchildren in Nairobi.

I am delighted to pass on the baton to the 684th Lord Mayor David Wootton, who will be a great champion of the City, and I look forward to supporting British business in the future. I have accepted the invitation of our trade and investment minister, Lord Green, to be a member of his new strategic advisory group, which will advise government on helping British business export and foreign companies invest, and will continue to work hard to ensure we remain the global city of choice.

Michael Bear is the Lord Mayor of the City of London.