When I first came to the City of London from Dublin over three decades ago – with no professional network or established contacts on this side of the Irish Sea – it would have been far-fetched to imagine that I would eventually become its Lord Mayor.
Tonight I will be welcoming the Prime Minister to Guildhall for his first banquet in my post.
Everyone should have access to the abundance of opportunies offered in the Square Mile. People from all backgrounds should –with hard work – not only be able to get their foot on the ladder in the City, but also climb to its upper rungs.
Whether you’re from Ireland or India, talented individuals from all around the world have an opportunity to succeed here. At the same time, we must work hard to develop our own talent pool from all four corners of the UK and ensure progression is based on performance rather than polish. This will be a crucial focus for the City over the next year. Combining people and purpose to invest in a better future is my mission.
The first strand will focus on the City’s key asset: our people. The UK financial and professional services employs 2.3 million individuals but, while there has been steady change in recruiting diverse employees, progression remains stubborn.
Employees from less privileged backgrounds take 25 per cent longer to progress through grades, with this “progression gap” increasing to 32 per cent for black people with similar backgrounds. This is despite there being no evidence of poorer performance.
More needs to be done to ensure everyone can get ahead and fulfil their true potential – where high performance is valued over ‘fit’ and ‘polish’. The Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce is working with employers to promote equality in progression and boost social mobility.
The City also needs to ensure its workforce has the skills needed to keep pace with the digital revolution and remain at the cutting edge of innovation. The Financial Services Skills Commission is working to create guidance on how to grow skills and talent across the UK.
The second strand of my plan is to focus on purpose. City firms have taken great strides in supporting the fight against climate change and we are a world leader in green finance, as demonstrated at Cop26. Private finance will be critical to delivering the transition to net-zero.
The City has lead the way on investing in environmental initiatives. Boardrooms across the country have put ESG at the top of their agenda. Now is the time to focus on the social element of that conversation.
We must look to deploy finance in a way that delivers social impact for communities both in the UK and overseas.
The Global Impact Investment Summit will play an important role in setting standards on this type of investment and unlocking further capital for social infrastructure projects. It will also ensure the City and the UK remains a global leader in sustainable finance.
By focusing on people – wherever they live, whoever they are – and investing in greater social purpose, together we can help bring prosperity to every person in the United Kingdom and our partners around the world.