The financial services industry in the United Kingdom operates within a global system. However, the City of London’s role as the world’s premier financial centre gives it a particular international responsibility. Home to about 250 foreign banks (all of whom, as City rate payers, have voting rights to elect members to the Council), London is the world’s biggest centre for foreign-exchange trading and cross-border bank lending. Every day it trades $1.4 trillion in interest derivatives. Financial services are the UK’s biggest export and pay almost 12% of the nation’s tax receipts.
The Corporation of the City of London prides itself on being the voice of the City of London at home and abroad. Yet at a time when the City has been rocked by crisis it seems to be failing to live up to its leadership role.
In July 2012, the Lord Mayor said “The City of London recognises that it has further work to do in restoring trust in our banking industry. I welcome a serious and sensible debate about the culture in parts of the financial services industry.” The City Reform Group now aims to play its part in this debate. We are arguing for the need for the Corporation to return to its best traditions, to reform itself and to lend a voice to all UK citizens who wish to see the capital markets serve the common good and a public purpose.
We are told that the Lord Mayor “travels overseas with the status of a Cabinet Minister”. Is it not time that he be held as accountable as any national politician? It is the Corporation’s Councillors who have a duty (and the power) to call him, and the Corporation, to account. This is why the City Reform Group seeks to see new and objective voices elected to the Council who will stand by our pledges and, together, represent a balance of interests and expertise better to equip the City Corporation to fulfill its leadership role.
Much of the Corporation’s resources are spent “promoting the City as a world leader in international finance”. It is time some of this effort was spent at home, examining and reforming itself.