Thursday, September 26, 2013

TheCityUK in the Big Apple

After visiting US regulators and legislators in Washington D.C. earlier in the summer, this month’s second leg of our US initiative focused on our own member businesses in New York, with some outreach to like-minded business bodies, the global media and Britain’s New York based diplomats.

The abiding impressions gained after three days of discussion across the city confirm the deep networks of interaction and interdependence between London and New York business, the need for both cities to demonstrate their value of the physical economy to the rest of their countries, the shared concerns about the future competitiveness of both places in the wake of the financial crisis, and the value placed on the UK by both its European and North American partners.  

Looking at the world from a New York skyscraper, the view of global trends was just as stark and concerning as the one seen from our more low-rise offices off Moorgate. Congress, the European Parliament or Westminster could be substituted for each other during some of the frank conversations about the degree of legislators’ awareness of the realities and economic contribution made by the financial and related professional services sector. As the United Nations prepared for its General Assembly to meet, many people raised the disunited nature of the global regulatory response to the crisis and the steps taken to fit businesses into self-contained economic blocs or states. The question on many lips was: will a global economy continue to be serviced by global firms, drawing on truly international resources?

The role of the UK in influencing events on both sides of the Atlantic was brought home by the number of speakers who looked for British input, often technical, always pragmatic, to deal with the commercial and regulatory challenges ahead. Our new relationship with the UK government through the Financial Services Trade and Investment Board (FSTIB) was welcomed as an example of how our sector can get a fair hearing from government and support from the top when the business case has to be made and jobs and growth are at stake.

Our relationship with EU regulators, officials and parliamentarians was appreciated and subject to both intensive questioning and helpful advice.  Our evidence-led approach to the EU referendum debate in the UK was welcomed, and our focus on the value of the Single Market (LINK) to the City’s success was fully endorsed.

Equally, the potential harm posed by pressure for stability for the European financial services sector - maybe at the expense of growth – drew comment when we discussed changes that could be brought about in Europe in the future. TheCityUK’s Financial Transaction Tax brief was cited as an example of an evidence-based campaign to reverse an unwelcome and ill-thought out financial initiative.

Our other publication that was much in demand was the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) brief, explaining why financial and related professional services should be included in TTIP’s “regulatory coherence” provisions.  There is transatlantic business recognition that TTIP has the potential to build bridges between different regulatory approaches, both now and in the future. Both sides need to focus on solving the problem of regulatory divergence without undermining existing regulatory standards.

Finally, while the visit showed me that there are tremendous challenges ahead for our sector, there are also great opportunities to promote competitiveness in the interests of jobs and growth. To help achieve this, we will bring to bear its  unique network of influence and trust on both sides of the Atlantic.