Saturday 15 December 2018

Lord Mayor heads north to forge united front with Scottish financial services

Charles Bowman will be the first Lord Mayor to visit Scotland in two years.

Charles Bowman is Lord Mayor of the City of London (City of LondonCorporation/PA)
Charles Bowman is Lord Mayor of the City of London (City of LondonCorporation/PA)

By Kalyeena Makortoff, Press Association City Reporter

The Lord Mayor of London will travel to Scotland this week with hopes of forging a united front between the nations’ financial services sectors on Brexit.

The 690th Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman, is set to hold meetings with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and firms including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Standard Life Aberdeen and Virgin Money, to communicate support for Scotland’s financial and professional services “specifically in a post-Brexit context”.

He will be the first Lord Mayor to visit Scotland in two years.

Mr Bowman told the Press Association that it was essential to “strengthen ties with Edinburgh and Glasgow” to guarantee that England and Scotland “work closely together to ensure the best possible Brexit deal”.

But he played down the renewed prospect of Scottish independence – which was sparked by Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU – and its influence on forthcoming meetings.

Edinburgh skyline

“Look, Scotland perhaps voted in a particular way in relation to Brexit (but) you might say the same thing in respect of London,” he said, adding that he was only going to be dealing with “facts and circumstances”.

“The facts and circumstances as they stand at this moment in time is that we are a United Kingdom … that we will be leaving the European Union.”

It comes just days after Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond hosted a Brexit roundtable with senior executives from the likes of Goldman Sachs, Prudential, Lloyd’s of London, Aviva and Barclays.

Mrs May urged banking chiefs to “emphasise the benefits” of preserving the UK’s status as Europe’s key financial centre when meeting with authorities’ rival EU hubs, but Mr Bowman said this should not be seen as a sign of desperation.

“We all play our part in this and we all want the best and the right outcome from what is a complex arrangement.

“So business has to have a part to play, as do the politicians, as do leaders in all sorts of different communities.”

City sources told the Press Association that finance bosses were “encouraged” by the meeting with the Prime Minister last week, which was touted as one of the “most positive they’d been to in recent years”.

But if the last year and a half is any indication, the path to Brexit will not be smooth, Mr Bowman warned.

“There will be an emotional roller coaster as we progress – we’ve seen that over the last 18 months or so,” Mr Bowman said.

There will be a loss of some jobs as a result of the EU divorce, the Lord Mayor admitted, but technology may pose a larger threat to the industry.

“If there are some jobs to lose – we may lose one or two or a few to various centres – but one is more likely in financial services to be challenged by technology, AI and robotics.

“And actually, therein lies the opportunity for the UK … and driving that significant change in and through financial and professional services is very exciting.”

The Lord Mayor, who will be in Scotland until Wednesday, is also set to launch a “Business of Trust” initiative this week, in an effort to restore faith in the financial sector as it battles the legacy of the financial crisis.

“One doesn’t always get it right in leadership … and actually an important part of that is to recognise, put their hand up, admit when perhaps it hasn’t gone right, but most importantly, learn from those mistakes” Mr Bowman said.

Press Association

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