The Government last week renewed its commitment to creating a level playing field for the UK’s nations and regions in the Budget. It also announced support for a new independent review by Lord Hill, recommending reforms to UK listing rules to boost growth and our capital markets.
The two should not be viewed separately but complementary to each other as key elements in our nation’s drive for a post-pandemic recovery.
A recent report by the Centre for Cities has highlighted how the pandemic has negatively impacted regional imbalances, meaning that addressing levelling up challenges will be significantly more difficult than before Covid-19.
The report also shows that people living in the Midlands and northern cities, such as Birmingham, Hull and Blackpool, are facing the greatest levelling up challenges.
In my role as ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services industry, I often travel up and down the country to meet with firms and policy leaders to identify ways in which cities across the UK can capitalise on their unique selling points and use London as a launchpad for growth.
My aim is to build awareness of the opportunities and expertise London provides to UK-based firms to export their products and services globally, as well as help facilitate the process of firms looking to expand their operations across the UK.
Despite the current restrictions, I have continued these visits virtually.
Indeed, last week I was pleased to join leaders and entrepreneurs in Birmingham to deepen our partnership and harness the full potential of the growing ‘supertech’ cluster in the West Midlands – the first financial and professional services technology supercluster in the UK.
I was deeply impressed by the innovation and ground-breaking results being achieved by some of these companies – fintechs such as Crowdproperty, Carillis and Ashman Finance, which are making the most of a favourable regulatory environment
Financial services hubs up and down the country will play a crucial role in driving prosperity nationwide, particularly as the country emerges from the pandemic. Last year alone, the UK’s financial services sector contributed a record £75.6bn in tax in the year to March 2020 – a period covering significant uncertainty about the UK’s relationship with the European Union.
Two thirds of financial services jobs are outside of London, so it is vital that we allow these centres to grow and keep making a significant contribution to their local economies.
The Kalifa Review, recently published by the Government, shows there is vast potential for fintech which goes well beyond the capital. There are successful fintech hubs across the UK in cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast, so it’s vital we all collaborate together closely.
However, we can do better. There is still untapped potential in these regions for growth. With our departure from the European Union it is fundamental that we work together and nurture collaboration and cross pollination between London and the other financial hubs to further unlock the potential of the UK regional economy.
By creating deeper relationships and sharing knowhow, we will not only cement the UK’s position as the world’s leading global financial hub but will create more equal opportunities across the country.