OUR SUCCESS as a global financial centre depends on trust. Recent events have shaken that trust, and we must restore it. It is the responsibility of us all to make the case for the importance of the City to both the British economy and to other economies abroad, both now and in the future. It is vital in creating jobs and growth. The services we provide are our livelihoods, but they also help to create and support the livelihoods of our fellow citizens, up and down the country.
But the City must be trusted if it is to help create jobs and growth. If it is not, our ability to serve the wider economy will be restricted by overly burdensome regulation and law. My concern is that the way in which the current debate is being conducted omits the central importance of the City to the wider economy and also the fact that only a tiny number of people have not met the standards the City and the wider community expect of them. Over 300,000 people work in the City, and nearly all of us go about our work with the right values and the right ethos. We deserve the trust our clients put in us. We must also convince others that we are to be trusted.
On Wednesday, when I entertain Her Majesty’s Judges to dinner at the Mansion House, I will – as Lord Mayor and as a lawyer – reaffirm the importance we attach to the rule of law.
This is not a legal abstraction. It is about having the right regulations and the right laws in place, but it is about those who are governed by regulation and law to following them because they know them to be right. They should be followed by choice, not by necessity.
It is no coincidence that international business bases itself in London: English law and British politics provide the stability, predictability and clarity that it needs – and because international business knows that we go about business in the right way. Our commitment to the rule of law is valued right across the world.
There is no doubt that the reputation of London as a global financial centre has been damaged by the minority involved in the Libor scandal. That is why we need to stress the importance of upholding the highest standards of ethics when it comes to dealing with clients, shareholders and the public. Only then can the City prove that we are once again worthy of the public’s trust.
We should be firm with those who have let others – including the rest of the City – down and we must be seen to be firm. But we must also make it clear that we live the right values in our work and are worthy of the trust of our clients, shareholders and country. These are the standards that have made London the world’s pre-eminent global financial centre.
David Wootton is Lord Mayor of the City of London.