With the Government’s eagerly awaited levelling up strategy due to be published later this month, the term itself has become a buzzword. A recent YouGov poll found more than half of people did not understand what levelling up means in practice.
If the UK is to retain its position as an economic powerhouse, it is vital for the many individuals and clusters of expertise up and down the country to combine strengths, share benefits and find innovative opportunities. The commitment to creating a level playing field for the UK’s nations and regions has never been more essential.
As one of the UK’s largest employers, the financial and professional services sector plays a crucial role in driving prosperity nationwide. It employs over 2.3 million people, with two-thirds of this employment outside of London.
Properly empowered, the sector can deliver real gains by channelling investment and capital to regional centres in priority areas like net zero, unlocking the capacity of technology to deliver growth and developing a skilled workforce for the future.
The City of London Corporation is working to distribute opportunity across the nation through our UK partnerships strategy. We are also striving to ensure that the best talent rises to the top, meritocratically.
In 2022 I will be travelling around the country to meet with firms and policy leaders to identify ways in which cities across the UK can capitalise on their selling points and use London as a launchpad for growth.
Notable regional clusters of specialisations – such as lawtech and proftech in the Midlands – have the potential to scale and support the levelling up agenda. The North East is separately playing a key role in new growth areas such as energy and net zero.
However, levelling up is not only about addressing the challenges of regional disparity. It also means making the best use of talent within organisations.
My mayoral theme, People and Purpose, will focus on just this – skills, social mobility and deploying finance for social impact. Success should be measured by performance rather than ‘polish’. People from all backgrounds must be able to reach the top rung of their career ladder.
Currently, fewer than one in ten management roles in financial services are held by ethnic minority people. Our research found that employees from less privileged backgrounds take an extra year to progress through each stage of their careers, despite no evidence of poorer performance.
In an effort to address this, HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commissioned the City Corporation to lead an independent taskforce to improve socio-economic diversity at senior levels in UK financial and professional services. We urge people across the industry to complete our benchmarking survey so progress can be tracked. The taskforce’s work will spread opportunity and improve productivity.
And this is the crux of the matter. Levelling up our country, sharing know-how and forging mutually beneficial partnerships is crucial for our position on the world’s stage.
Allowing talented people to shine, unfettered by where they live or socio-economic background, is vital to levelling up our society. Working closely with the government, we can make this a success.