AS A Scotsman who has worked for many years for a Swedish bank in Japan, you might suggest I have a particularly experienced perspective on the international nature of the City. In truth, this international outlook is one shared by a large number of people in the Square Mile. It is, in fact, one of the City’s defining characteristics when compared to other financial centres like New York or Tokyo.
Having just returned from a visit to the latter (and Seoul), it is clear the City continues to be seen as the gateway to the globe. Japanese businesses have a major presence in the City, and South Korean institutions are growing, because London provides access to a uniquely international pool of capital and expertise.
The London Stock Exchange, for example, accounts for 10 per cent of initial public offerings worldwide, while the capital is also home to the world’s largest international insurance market. According to the most recent figures, there are 251 branches and subsidiaries of foreign banks across the UK – more than in any other country, and growing.
More broadly, the UK is the leading exporter of financial services across the world. A trade surplus of $51bn (£33.2bn) in 2011 was over double that of the next largest surpluses posted by Luxembourg, Switzerland and the US. These figures matter because they demonstrate how important it is for the City to remain an open, competitive hub – being international is central to our business. Unlike New York or Tokyo, for example, we do not have a huge domestic market on our doorstep – although providing finance and services to businesses and individuals across the country remains, of course, a core priority for City firms.
The City’s success on the international stage is precisely why the likes of Istanbul, Moscow, Shanghai, and Seoul are all looking to learn lessons from our continued position as a leading global – as opposed to domestic – financial centre. Sharing our experience and expertise may lead to losing market share in the short term, but it will ultimately grow the financial services industry as a whole. A bigger pie is good news for us all.
The funeral of Margaret Thatcher this Wednesday will be a significant event for both the Square Mile and the country as a whole, held in the heart of the City at St Pauls.
She had a great impact on the City of London and wider UK financial, professional and business services, not least through deregulation and the Big Bang. Her legacy continues to resonate around the globe.
More than 800 Armed Forces personnel will be involved in the funeral. It is vital the City continues to support their work – and the lord mayor’s Big Curry Lunch will be raising funds for ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity, at Guildhall this Thursday. Please come! Tickets are available from www.bigcurry.org
Roger Gifford is lord mayor of the City of London.