IN THE 35 years since I first started working in the Square Mile, I have seen many things change. But one constant over this period is that the success of our financial services industry continues to be dependent on the concept of service. In other words, the City must serve society rather than the other way around.
As the newly inaugurated 685th lord mayor of the City of London – and the first banker to take on this role for some time – I am determined to demonstrate the relationship between finance and society. I passionately believe and am determined to show that the City is not, to paraphrase that great Londoner John Donne, an island of itself.
There is a long tradition within the City of encouraging social as well as financial returns, as displayed by the work of the livery companies. My predecessor David Wootton made a huge contribution in this area through his generosity of spirit and thoughtful advocacy on behalf of the City of London.
I want to build on this foundation by making the case for services in which the City excels, both domestically and internationally. Having worked for the London-based operation of a Swedish merchant bank for the past three decades (including six years in Japan), I know that the financing of projects, companies and institutions makes a tangible difference across society and borders.
Providing high quality services to our clients and customers supports business in creating jobs and growth. There have been some serious mistakes made in banking, my own sector. But the City – and the City’s banks – know that finance is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
I will also be promoting the City as a global centre for philanthropy and managing philanthropic funds over the next year. We already have a proud history, from Dick Whittington to the City of London Corporation charity, the City Bridge Trust. But there is always more that can be done and our new strategy, City Philanthropy: A Wealth of Opportunity, aims to foster a new climate of giving among individuals and institutions.
This emphasis on ensuring the City delivers returns for the wider community also lies at the heart of social finance, a potentially huge new market being pioneered here in the Square Mile. Big Society Capital and the City Corporation’s own social investment fund are among those demonstrating how innovative new models can help to meet growing demand.
The City serves our communities because the City is in society – my theme for the year. Over the next twelve months, I will work to raise recognition of what the vast majority in the City of London have recognised for centuries, namely that financial and social returns can go hand in hand.
Roger Gifford is lord mayor of the City of London.