Monday 21 June 2021 5:30 am

The City is resilient but it needs to nurture its small businesses and advocate for a return to the office

Over the last 12 months, the City has faced twin challenges from Britain’s exit from the European Union and the pandemic.

Despite these challenges, the financial and professional services sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience as well as playing a key role in supporting other parts of the economy.

We cannot, however, afford to be complacent. So as City Week returns today for its 11th year, with the online summit focussing on financing a sustainable global recovery, we must not only celebrate the sector’s response but also build on our fundamental strengths. 

City firms have shown resilience in keeping markets open, flexibility in switching to remote working, and innovation in using technology to support the wider economy.

It’s for these reasons that we can be confident in the City’s future in the years ahead, and in the strength of our global competitiveness.

That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels – far from it.

Earlier this year we launched a report, The Square Mile: Future City, which includes a five year plan to make sure the City is the world’s most innovative, inclusive and sustainable business eco-system, and an attractive place to invest, work, live, learn and visit.

A key element of this is nurturing our small business community, with fintech being a particular area of focus. Last year, the UK sector attracted some $4.1 billion in investment, the second highest globally. The recent Kalifa Review, which the City Corporation supported, provides a vision for growing this even further, and we will be working with Government and stakeholders to take forward its important recommendations.

Another strength of London is our openness, particularly in terms of our regulatory regime. Following our departure from the EU, the UK has an opportunity to look at ways in which regulation can be improved and tailored to our market, and the International Regulatory Strategy Group, which the City Corporation supports alongside TheCityUK, is looking at just that. Its report, due to be released next month, will outline how through minor improvements the UK’s access regimes can be enhanced, improving its navigability and transparency.

The elephant in the room is of course climate change, and again the City Corporation is working hard to put the City front and centre in this area.

Alongside the Green Finance Institute we are co-hosting a hybrid Green Horizon Summit at COP26 in November, focussing on how to mobilise public and private finance for the transition to a net zero economy. We are also delighted to continue work with the Financial Conduct Authority on phase two of the Digital Sandbox, this time focusing on the role of technology in tackling climate change-related challenges.

We know the decision last week by the Government to delay the end of Covid restrictions would have been deeply disappointing news for many City businesses and workers hoping to return to the office.

While we must be guided by the data, we also urge policymakers to keep the decision under close review, based on the evidence, so that the capital can return to being a vibrant and thriving hub as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I for one look forward to hearing the thoughts of speakers throughout City Week, and hope that next year we can welcome the event back to Guildhall once more.

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.

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