Our financial services spread opportunities throughout the UK. We have to build on their success to put our country at the forefront, and make it a good place to live in for everyone, writes Chris Hayward
In a 1975 speech, former prime minister Margaret Thatcher argued that the UK should strive to achieve an “equality of opportunity,” ensuring everyone has the same chance to reach similar levels of success, whatever their focus.
In a time of unprecedented headwinds for the UK, as the economy pushes to recover from the pandemic and unlock the opportunities of Brexit, now more than ever we need a catalyst to support the nation in reaching its ambitions.
The British financial and professional services industry spreads opportunity throughout the UK. It helps people achieve business and ownership dreams through credit and mortgages; it helps the trailblazing companies of tomorrow grow through loans and support schemes. And, importantly, it helps our broader economy, employing over 2.5 million people with two thirds of jobs based outside London. That’s almost eight per cent of total UK employment.
I am also hugely impressed with the excellent work and opportunities being created in financial services centres outside of the capital in cities like Belfast, Edinburgh, Bristol, Belfast and Cardiff. They expand past our shores and onto the global stage.
It’s clear countries look towards the UK – particularly at our financial and professional services – and see opportunities for investment. EY’s latest Attractiveness Survey for Financial Services reported the UK continues to be Europe’s leading destination for foreign direct investment.
We recently saw the strength of the UK’s pull as WE Soda – the world’s largest producer of natural soda ash – made its debut on the London Stock Exchange. The IPO is expected to raise £645m. And last week we saw how the Alberta Investment Management Company – one of Canada’s largest asset managers – plans to more than double its headcount in London and invest billions in the UK, hailing the City as more of a gateway to the world than New York.
So we have to build on this success to put our country at the forefront – not just in financial services but holistically, by creating an environment that fosters investment, nurtures staff and preserves our world.
Just last month, we hosted the Net Zero Delivery Summit at the Mansion House, where government and financial innovators discussed the route to a carbon neutral future. We are also ensuring that our financial services benefit from the many opportunities of a more diverse workforce, through the Socio-Economic Diversity Taskforce.
But we know we must go further still. With a general election in front of us, the world is looking to the UK to redefine and grow British business. It’s a big opportunity to build on our strengths.
We have seen this ambition from the government, especially in the financial and professional services sector through the Edinburgh Reforms and the Financial Services and Markets Bill. We now need to ensure businesses take the opportunities of these reforms and bring about real change.
This change is at the heart of our flagship Finance for Growth programme. It’s not a project aimed at tinkering around the edges or making minor adjustments to our financial services sector. We want to see real positive change, focused on tech, innovation, and sustainable finance.
A financial and professional services sector that is best in class can create jobs and new prospects that support every household and the whole economy, bringing about that “equality of opportunity” that everyone in the UK so deserves.