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London: the leading world city

Having the right workforce matters to any city – and for London to achieve this we need to make the capital a place where people want to be

By Catherine McGuinness  

Skills are integral to attracting new businesses and enabling existing businesses to expand. The UK has the best pool of international talent for financial services in Europe, the largest pool of highly-skilled knowledge-based jobs in the world and draws its business leaders from the widest pool of countries.

We need to keep it this way. That is why the City of London Corporation has been urging the Government to act to deliver a world-class visa system that ensures the UK remains competitive after Brexit.

Besides the overall immigration policy the Government chooses to adopt, we should be aiming to make the process of applying to come to work in the UK as smooth and efficient as possible. Access to a global workforce is key to our competitive edge.

At the same time, of course, we must ensure that jobs are open to UK workers, and here we are working with the Financial Services Skills Taskforce set up by the Treasury, with our neighbouring boroughs and through our own schools and academies in developing the skills of tomorrow.

The UK’s financial and professional services sector employs 2.2million around the country. Two-thirds of those jobs are outside of London. In 2018 it made a record tax contribution. Its benefits are felt far and wide.

In recent years, fintech has been an integral part of the sector’s success.

The UK has a thriving fintech sector, which employs more than 76,000 people and which contributes £7 billion a year to the UK economy.

We think of fintech as an evolution of the financial services industry, in which start-ups can both compete and collaborate with established financial and professional services industries which we have been home to for many years.

And fintech is democratising financial services and allowing far greater numbers of people in every country to participate. Our own research has found 72% of firms in financial, insurance and professional services referred to the usage of technology as the key factor in determining whether a company is seen as innovative.

But there are challenges on the horizon

In the months since June 2016 businesses across the UK have spent a great deal of time dealing with uncertainty regarding the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. Clearly, uncertainty is bad for business. Speculation about job losses and investment opportunities lost has not abated. While we haven’t yet seen substantial financial job losses, it is early days and business are moving some of their operations. It may be some years before we know the full impact.

We have been working closely with practitioners in the City, with businesses and trade associations, to press ministers and to spell out the sector’s needs. The City will adapt, it always has, and thrive, but we should not be complacent about the impact of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

We must continue working together, having an inclusive conversation that shines a light on London’s positives, but does not forget the challenges, either. This will give London the best chance to ensure it remains the leading world city that it is – a success story not just for the capital, but for the UK as a whole.

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