London remains one of the preeminent financial centres of the world. For some this statement is an outdated notion which forgets the turmoil of recent years. Brexit, relatively unstable governments, and the pandemic have all contributed to a misplaced sense of decline.
However, for all the drama of the past few years, if you step back and take an objective look at the City of London, it would be short sighted to give it up for lost. The fundamentals remain the same, as noted by its Mayor Sadiq Kahn at the start of this year: “Britain’s history in financial services, its geographic position, language, appeal to global talent, and internationally respected regulatory landscape, equips us to lead the world in banking, insurance, trading and related services.1”
These factors have not changed. Beyond the most obvious signs of a thriving metropolis, such as the ever more elaborate skyscrapers remoulding the cityscape, London remains a draw for global talent, with the latest City of London statistics showing that 40% of the workforce was born outside of the UK2. More importantly for the financial services industry, the UK enjoys a regulatory infrastructure that provides security for firms and clients alike. The UK has often led the way within Europe on the regulatory response to conduct and financial stability issues and whilst it may have lost its direct influence over EU legislation, it will remain an important player in setting international standards.
“Whilst today’s challenges are great, so too is the City and the people within it, and I strongly believe that it has the capacity to lean on its strengths to react to changing trends and seismic shifts we are seeing today to maintain a leading position on the global stage.”
It is these factors that led Britannia Financial Group to enter the London market five years ago, pursuing an acquisition led growth strategy with the aim of building a full-service financial services group willing to deliver superior levels of client service, rooted in traditional relationship banking values. We continue to build for growth, whether it be fitting out another 20,000 square feet of our London headquarters or continuing to take on new teams and business lines throughout the pandemic when other businesses have done the opposite.
One area of focus has been on developing a compelling commodities broking offering, in a market hit by significant sector consolidation, as demonstrated by the recent acquisition of XFA by Marex Spectron, and series of large multidisciplined firms leaving the market.
As others have left this market, Britannia has entered to take their place and do things differently. We have been able to do this by providing highly specialised services across a set number of markets, including, to date, fixed income, equities, soft commodities, FX, energy and metals, working with our clients to provide access to a wider range of jurisdictions, such as the Middle East and Asia, based on our higher geographic tolerance.
Another factor in London’s favour is its continued status as a global FinTech leader, attracting over £38.4bn of investment in 2019, according to KPMG3, almost double the previous year. The success of the UK’s financial services industry and Britannia’s own to date has been supported by this London led technology revolution. The rise of FinTech and the solutions it brings has and will continue to play a significant part in the way our industry has adapted to challenges in recent years. There is no clearer example of this than the Covid-19 pandemic and the shift to working from home, which many financial services organisations have managed seamlessly through the use of online trading platforms and exchanges to provide clients with service continuity over the past 18 months.
In short, the City of London has weathered its fair share of challenges in recent decades, but it has a history of turning opposition into opportunity and over the years we have seen it review and renew itself in order to survive. And survive it has.
As an American who has chosen London as my adoptive city, I understand why Britannia has done the same. Whilst today’s challenges are great, so too is the City and the people within it, and I strongly believe that it has the capacity to lean on its strengths to react to changing trends and seismic shifts we are seeing today to maintain a leading position on the global stage.
To learn more about Britannia Financial Group, please visit: https://britannia.com/
1Sadiq Khan: Financial services have been badly let down by Brexit – https://www.ft.com/content/96070a44-192a-4607-a6d1-ea5053b53aa2
2City of London – City Statistics Briefing – May 2021 https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/supporting-businesses/economic-research/statistics-about-the-city
3KPMG – A blockbuster year for UK fintech investment – 24 February 2020 – https://home.kpmg/uk/en/home/media/press-releases/2020/02/2019-a-blockbuster-year-for-uk-fintech-investment.html