Monday 4 October 2021 6:40 am

UK talent pools will run dry without easier immigration

William Russell is Lord Mayor of the City of London.

The UK’s credentials as a leading global financial centre are undisputed. Our time zone, language, and regulatory system all contribute to this unrivalled status.

Over the centuries the sector has combined tradition with innovation and shown openness and willingness to change and adapt.

This has made the Square Mile an attractive arena with unique strengths for business – such as our access to a deep pool of the most highly skilled and talented workers in the world.

Currently just under 20 per cent of the financial services workforce is international, rising to 42 per cent in Fintech.

This world class multinational and multilingual workforce gives Britain an edge over our rivals.

The benefits the UK gains from being at the zenith of financial services are immense.

The industry contributes over 10 per cent of the UK’s total economic output, and it is the country’s largest taxpayer and and exporter.

With over 2.3 million people across the UK working in financial and related professional services – two thirds of whom are employed outside of London – the sector is vital for our recovery.

It provides a boost to the wider economy by financing businesses in all sectors, thereby creating jobs and driving growth.

But other financial centres are taking steps to catch up with the UK and we cannot rest on our laurels (however good they may be).

In order to protect our competitive advantage, policymakers must ensure that our businesses maintain unrivalled access to the most important source of future growth available: top global talent.

So, what can be done?

Last year the City of London Corporation and EY produced a report which proposed reforms to develop a world class visa regime to help international businesses.

At the same time, TheCityUK and EY published a paper outlining how the UK’s new independent trade and investment policy could help UK businesses secure access to global talent.

Both bits of work emphasised this as a top priority for industries across the UK in order to ensure our enduring competitive edge.

Since then, the Government has acted on many of our recommendations.

But businesses continue to struggle with process-related issues . Since the introduction of the new points-based immigration system, it is becoming harder – and costlier – to secure the talent we’ve always relied on to keep Britain competitive.

Last week the City Corporation, TheCityUK and EY produced a series of recommendations to ensure we stay in front of the pack, including vital reforms to the UK’s immigration system. It included a suite of proposals to attract the best people, and help firms access and export to the high-growth markets of the future.

Ministers need to create a new short-term business visa to allow overseas staff to visit and work in the UK. This would streamline the cost and time taken to move people around regional offices under current immigration rules.

Remote working has had a transformative impact on international talent. It has opened up new growth opportunities for UK based businesses and the finance industry.

We need to ensure we take advtange of these opportunites. This needs to be a public and private partnership between Government and industry to keep our pools of talent deep and our economy strong.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.