Saturday 8 February 2020 4:06 am

The financial services sector will be key as we chart a new course on the world stage

William Russell is Lord Mayor of London.

The UK’s financial services sector has charted a pragmatic course since the EU Referendum, and recent figures show that it continues to flourish.

Indeed, research from Innovate Finance revealed how investment in the UK’s fintech sector reached a record high of nearly $5bn in 2019, with industry growth far outstripping that of the US, China, and Singapore. Separate findings show that a record amount of renminbi was traded in London last year.

The continued strength of the UK financial sector should not be underestimated, either in the coming trade negotiations with the EU, or in terms of our links to countries beyond Europe as we chart a new course on the world stage.

After all, our future trading relationship with the EU won’t all be about fish or goods containers on the back of cargo ships. In fact, as readers will know, it is in services — not goods — that Britain operates a trade surplus with our European partners, with financial and professional services making up more than half of services exports to the bloc.

That’s why we are calling on the government to prioritise this sector as trade talks get underway.

But with part two of Brexit still in its earliest stages, the UK’s relationships with other partners around the world are more in the spotlight than ever before.

All of this makes my visit this week to the Gulf — whose countries together are our second-biggest non-European financial services export destination after the US — an important moment. Indeed, it is already my second visit to the region during my mayoralty.

I will visit three countries over the next few days: the UAE, our fifteenth biggest trading partner; Kuwait, home of the Kuwait Investment Authority which has some £16bn invested in the UK and has had an office here since 1953; and Qatar, for whom we are the biggest investment destination, with around £40bn invested here.

These countries have shown continued faith in the UK economy. But more than that, they are partners with whom we still have untapped trading potential — especially in green finance, an area where the UK has huge expertise, but will be crucial to tackling a great global challenge.

Ahead of the Dubai Expo in October — where sustainability is among the key themes — and COP26 in Glasgow in November, my visit this week is an opportunity to make a running start in a huge year of joint engagement.

In the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait, the UK has three key partners we can count on in this area, as we work towards a global agreement later this year to take urgent action and transition to a zero-carbon economy.

I saw this for myself when I gave a keynote speech at the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance forum last month, where I had several discussions about the opportunities to invest in the UK’s green finance sector.

It’s time now to renew our trade ties with old friends and forge new ones with others. Let’s take that opportunity to work together on the world stage in a way that ensures the UK’s financial services sector can continue its global success story for decades to come.

Main image credit: Getty

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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