London ball

We have withstood the pandemic, but London must be ready for the trials of the future

Monday 09 May 2022 06h15


Chris Hayward

Chris Hayward is Policy Chairman of the City of London Corporation

The Square Mile must remain the heart of a prosperous UK. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

What will the Square Mile look like in five years? Unfortunately I don’t have a crystal ball but – as I begin my tenure as Chairman of Policy at the City of London Corporation – I know that we are facing a critical inflection point after a period of turbulent economic and unprecedented political upheavals.

Brexit, the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine have all posed unique tests for London and the UK. The city’s businesses, workers and residents grapple with high inflation and skyrocketing energy bills while trying to combat climate change.

The economic outlook and the geopolitical landscape are challenging, but I am confident that by working together, the city will once again reinvent itself to remain the dynamic destination of choice.

It matters because the City is an asset to London, the UK and the world. It creates jobs, stimulates investment and supports trade for the benefit of communities both at home and abroad.

As Policy Chair, I want to champion the city to ensure it is globally competitive and locally engaged. In other words, I want to make the City the most innovative, inclusive and sustainable business ecosystem in the world, as well as an attractive place to invest, work, live, learn and visit.

To achieve this vision, it is essential to strengthen London’s position as the world capital of financial and professional services, particularly in terms of technological innovation.

To give an example, the contribution of the fintech sector to our economy is expected to almost double to £13.7 billion by 2030, with job creation contributing 70% of this increase.

We need to ensure that the UK encourages this innovation and entrepreneurship to drive our economic recovery forward.

Second, we must lead the way in tackling climate change. ESG is high on the agenda of city boards, but now it needs to be translated into tangible actions.

Later this week, we will host the Net Zero Delivery Summit to bring together international leaders from business, politics and public policy to mobilize the private capital needed to ensure a just transition to net zero. This is particularly timely in light of the current challenges to energy security and supply posed by the war in Ukraine.

Third, for businesses to thrive, we need to make sure the city is a vibrant, fun, and inclusive place.

During the pandemic, our streets fell silent as people were forced to work from home. Fortunately, this is no longer the case, but we need to make a compelling case to encourage people to work, visit and play in the Square Mile as flexible and hybrid work models evolve. I will announce a series of measures later this month to enhance the attractiveness of the City’s offer and ensure that we are the destination of choice.

Early in my predecessor’s tenure, a global pandemic and war in Europe would have seemed like remote possibilities. Other unexpected lawsuits are likely to emerge over the next five years.

Nonetheless, I strongly believe that a vibrant and thriving Square Mile will meet these challenges and remain at the heart of a globally thriving UK.