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15. April 2021

A Roadmap to Recovery

Emma Reynolds
Managing Director, Public Affairs, Policy and Research
Nobody could have predicted what’s happened over the last 12 months. Covid 19 has provoked a public health emergency in the UK and across the world. And the economic consequences have been profound for families, communities, and businesses right across our country.

The central message of our Roadmap report is that the financial and related professional services industry is determined to be part of the solution to this economic crisis.

In the early stages of the pandemic, our industry acted as a shock absorber, delivering government-backed loans to more than 1.6 million companies at pace, offering holidays on mortgage and loan repayments ensuring markets continued to operate efficiently, and providing crucial legal and professional advice to businesses and people up and down the country.

As the nation takes cautious steps to move forward out of the pandemic, our industry has again a key role to play – as an engine for recovery and growth.

Going into this crisis, financial and related professional services were already making a huge contribution to the economy as the country’s biggest taxpayer and largest exporting industry, delivering 10 percent of economic output, and employing 2.3. million people, two-thirds of whom are outside London.

It is a truly national industry. Alongside London’s unique and unrivaled financial and professional services eco-system, there are strong industry hubs in cities from Belfast to Birmingham, from Cardiff to Manchester, and from Leeds to Edinburgh.

So the industry is well placed to kick-start economic recovery and growth right across the country now and in the decades ahead.

Another consequence of the pandemic is that it has accelerated trends and socio-economic challenges already in train, and our Roadmap reflects on these:

  • the international slide towards protectionism and isolationism.
  • regional disparities of wealth, investment, and opportunity.
  • the need for greater diversity, inclusion.
  • the urgency of climate change and rapid technological transformation.

In some cases, these trends provide opportunities which the industry can help the country to capitalize on: whether it’s the revolution in working patterns, the incredible digital transformation we’ve seen, or the renewed impetus to tackling the climate emergency.

In light of these challenges and opportunities, the Roadmap sets out recommendations across a broad range of areas:

From international trade to changes in regulation and tax, from innovation and technology to the crucial role of professional services alongside financial services.

I will give a flavor of some of our recommendations in three key areas: leveling up, skills and talent, and sustainability.

To support the Leveling-up agenda:

The industry already makes a huge contribution, with highly skilled and well-paid jobs across the UK. Only this week Goldman Sachs announced new investment in Birmingham, Barclays is opening new offices in Glasgow later this year and PWC recently opened a prestigious new office in Manchester’s financial district.

And we already see our industry collaborating with key partners such as universities to provide training opportunities for local people.

The industry also underpins vital investment across the economy.

The roadmap sets out how the industry, working with TheCityUK City Chairs and regional networks of practitioners around the country, should build on its current work in helping local leaders to shape their recovery strategies.

In the report, we call on the government to prioritize and support ultrafast broadband across the UK. We are also calling on the government to appoint a Cabinet-level Minister to lead a team responsible for defining, measuring, and delivering the leveling up agenda across government

Secondly, on skills and talent:

We recommend a greater focus on upskilling and reskilling our current workforce in key areas to ensure the industry has the skills it needs for the future.

We also recommend that our industry doubles down on commitments to youth and mentoring schemes.

And we must ensure that the government’s investment in skills and training aligns with the needs of business.

Crucially, we stress that more needs to be done to ensure that our industry is more representative of the people and communities that it serves and building on the excellent work already in progress, we recommend that firms accelerate efforts to collect data, and report and make public commitments to increase workforce diversity.

Finally, sustainability remains high on the agenda and our industry is at the forefront of the collective efforts of government and the private sector in tackling climate change.

We agree with the government’s focus on building back better from this pandemic, including the Prime Minister’s ’10 point plan’ announced last autumn and its plan to issue a sovereign green bond later this year.

We call on government and industry to work hand in hand to achieve the UK’s 2050 net-zero target and for the government to take the opportunity to drive international collaboration in its Presidency of COP26.

We also recommend that the government, including through the tax system, should implement incentive structures to promote sustainable investments.

For our part, the industry’s contribution to a sustainable economic recovery will focus on green finance, through products like green bonds and green loans. TheCityUK will be producing a new Green Finance report in the coming months to scope out the UK’s relative strengths in these products and services.

Conclusion

So to conclude, even though there is a growing sense of cautious optimism, the path out of the pandemic is still uncertain and there are no silver bullets.

We don’t pretend to have all the answers but we see our recommendations as the start, rather than the end, of a process.

We don’t want our report to sit on people’s bookshelves gathering dust.

It’s a roadmap we want to use to start a dialogue with central and local government, regulators, policymakers, small and large businesses, universities and others, as to how the financial and related professional services industry can work in partnership to accelerate the recovery and growth over the years to come.

And how we can put the full might of our collective efforts behind rebuilding and delivering a stronger and more resilient economy for cities and communities across the country.


 

Please download TheCityUK's report "A roadmap for economic recovery: The role of financial and related professional services."