UK government must improve image to lift business confidence, report warns

The UK government must return to being seen as “stable and strategic” in order to strengthen business confidence and reinforce London’s position as a leading financial centre, according to a new report.

The study, commissioned by the City of London Corporation, which governs the Square Mile, identified a number of ways to boost the capital’s financial district after Brexit.

These included improving its ability to attract listings and an increased focus on reinforcing business confidence that the UK was a market worth investing in. The report said that “the UK government needs to return to being perceived as more predictable, stable and strategic” to do this.

It also said that there needed to be further investment in the UK’s digital and transport infrastructure, and gender parity within financial services firms’ executive committees.

The future of the City of London has been under scrutiny in recent weeks since the UK left the EU trading bloc, with financial services firms concerned that the UK had lost the “equivalence” status that would allow them to trade freely across the region.

The report concluded that London held the top spot for financial and professional services compared with New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Frankfurt, based on analysis of 91 metrics.

It found that London and the UK had the strongest overall competitive offering, with leadership in innovation, reach of financial activity, resilience and business infrastructure, talent and skills and regulation.

It also said that London was the world’s capital for fintech and innovation in financial services. The UK was Europe’s leading destination for investment in financial services, it added, and had the second-most international financial activity after the US.

But the report identified issues to address. The UK government has already started to look at a number of areas to boost London’s competitiveness after Brexit, including reviews of the country’s listing regime and the fintech sector.

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said: “These findings clearly demonstrate that for all the challenges it faces, the UK continues to lead the world when it comes to financial and professional services. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels.”

She said that London and the UK should be well placed to seize opportunities outside the EU.

“In order to do so, however, we need to invest in infrastructure and skills across the country. We also need to ensure our regulatory framework keeps pace with technological change and innovation.”

The report also said that the UK’s future immigration system needed to ensure that access to international talent remained competitive.

“The perception of the UK as a top destination for international talent has diminished in the last four years and risks falling lower once [EU] freedom of movement ends. It is therefore vital to make access to skilled workers from around the world as straightforward as possible.”

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