Opportunities for London’s financial services sector

Speech given at the Insurance Institute of London Lecture to representatives from the Financial Services industry.

Speech by Gavin Cleary, Commercial Officer, UKTI Financial Services Organisation.

It is a privilege to be here and speaking to you all today.

Whenever I come to the Lloyd’s building I cannot help but be impressed.

As you come in through the awe-inspiring atrium the Lloyd’s building is itself a manifestation the traits and attributes that make Lloyd’s – and indeed London and Britain – great.

Pioneering, innovative, combining the best of the traditional with the ground-breaking.

From its early days in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house, Lloyd’s has been at the forefront of innovation.

In the 17th century, London’s importance as a trade centre led to increasing demand for ship and cargo insurance.

Edward Lloyd’s coffee house became recognised as the place to go for marine information and then for insurance.

325 years later Lloyd’s is the world’s leading market for specialist insurance.

And like Lloyd’s, the UK retains its position as a leading global financial centre, in part because it never stands still.

The Government recognises that in order to maintain its position as the world’s leading international financial centre we need to keep our competitive edge.

But first, before I go into how the Government is going about that, I’d like to take a few moments to take stock.

First, some key facts:

  • the UK is the world’s leading exporter of financial and professional services with a trade surplus of £71 billion in 2013.
  • the UK is the largest source of insurance funds and pensions in Europe
  • investment in financial technology is growing faster in the UK and Ireland than anywhere else in the world.
  • the UK accounted for 41 per cent of global foreign exchange trading in April 2013, well ahead of the USA, Japan and Singapore.
  • the UK is the leading Western country and Europe’s premier centre for Islamic finance, with US$19 billion of reported assets.
  • almost two-thirds of all RMB payments outside China and Hong Kong now take place in London and 28 percent of all international RMB payments are made in the UK, the most outside Hong Kong and mainland China.

The UK is a leading global financial services centre and the single most internationally focused financial marketplace in the world.

It has an unrivalled concentration of capital and capabilities, as well as a regulatory system that is effective, fair and principled, which means that more overseas financial institutions and investors choose to do business in, and with, the UK than any other country.

The importance of London is core to the UK’s international position but other cities are also important financial centres such as

  • Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland;
  • Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds,
  • Liverpool, Manchester and Norwich in England;
  • Cardiff in Wales;
  • Belfast in Northern Ireland

According to independent corporate finance adviser IMAS, there are just under 28,000 regulated companies in the UK financial services industry, comprising investment firms, lending businesses, general insurance companies and associated financial support services providers.

There are 976 general insurance companies in the UK.

The industry continues to offer a number of compelling reasons for overseas firms to invest, including the UK’s expertise and skills base.

  • its robust legal and regulatory framework,
  • its liquid capital markets,
  • its transparency in financial reporting
  • its geographic position and language.

As a result, the industry continues to attract investment from a broad range of overseas investors as well as from local UK-based businesses.

The UK insurance industry is the largest in Europe and third largest in the world.

TheCityUK, the independent membership body promoting the UK financial services industry, reports that London is the only place in the world where all 20 of the world’s largest insurers and reinsurers are active.

So it is fair to say that the UK has a strong financial services sector and a strong offer to any company thinking of setting up a presence here.

  • financial and related professional services contributed £174 billion to the UK economy in 2012,
  • representing 12.6 per cent of UK economic output.
  • the sector contributed £65 billion in tax receipts in 2012/13
  • 12 per cent of total UK tax receipts.

Over 2 million people work across the UK in financial and related professional services.

Two-thirds are employed outside London.

Almost 320,000 of these are employed in the insurance sector.

London vies with New York for the status of the world’s leading financial centre, with the Global Financial Centres Index barely able to separate the two cities in its assessment of their competitive strengths.

Hong Kong and Singapore are also competing strongly – two examples of financial centres that have based themselves on UK practices and models.

Working with other financial centres has helped develop the international networks of UK-based firms, allowing them to expand their international business.

In return, the UK has provided access to its markets and expertise for overseas companies, and has acted as a template for many developing centres.

TheCityUK reports that financial and related professional services generated a record trade surplus of £71billion in 2013 making the UK the world’s leading exporter of these services.

This £71 billion was more than twice that of the next largest trade surplus recorded by the US and Luxembourg.

Financial services also account for around a third of all foreign direct investment into the UK, more than any other sector.

TheCityUK highlights five factors that underpin London’s status as the premier international financial centre.

  • its central geographical location between the US and Asian time zones allows London to work virtually around the clock.
  • there is easy access to markets combined with a tradition of welcoming foreign firms.
  • the availability of high-quality professional and support services, substantial, modern office accommodation and an efficient telecommunications infrastructure.
  • the concentration of financial institutions; London has more foreign banks than any other centre.
  • the UK has a consistent, politically neutral legal system that is widely used and understood globally.
  • this is key for insurance.

The international appeal of the sector is indicated by 251 foreign banks in London employing around 160,000 people.

IMAS figures show that the USA accounted for the largest share of overseas investments in UK financial services businesses in 2012, 47 per cent of the total.

Switzerland, Germany and Japan are also large overseas investors in to the UK.

The emerging BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China have grown their ownership share of UK financial services far more quickly, increasing by over 29 per cent in the year.

Although in absolute terms, the BRIC nations represent just under 5 per cent of all overseas investments, but as I said, this is growing.

The Government recognises that we cannot rest of our laurels and that more can be done.

Although the economic recovery is gathering pace, trade and investment is still the way forward and key to the government’s plans for rebalancing the economy.

The sector has a vital role to play in the growth and prosperity of the wider UK economy, through its role as the provider of credit and financial intermediation services to business and consumers.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, an estimated 90 per cent of global demand will be generated outside of Europe.

It is important that UK based firms exporting abroard and firms based in the UK can tap into this growth potential and take advantage of new international business opportunities.

The Government sees it as its responsibility to create the right environment for UK based companies – whether indigenous or foreign owned – to access markets and to have the support that would benefit them to gain market share, especially in emerging economies where new investors, savers and opportunities are appearing.

At the Budget 2013 the Government established the Financial Services Trade and Investment Board, a strategic body chaired by Her Majesty’s Treasury, which brings together government and industry. The Board is tasked with attracting inward investment, promoting external trade and removing barriers for the UK’s financial services sector.

My team, the UK Trade & Investment Financial Services Organisation is a delivery arm of that Strategic Board.

Headed up by CEO Sue Langley – previously Chairman of Lloyd’s Japan and Director of Lloyd’s Asia – the UKTI Financial Services Organisation has two principal aims:

  • to attract high value Foreign Direct Investment into the UK’s financial services sector
  • and to help UK-based companies grow their business through international trade.

Since its inception in 2013 the Financial Services Trade and Investment Board has identified a number of key areas where the Government and industry can work in partnership to pursue and secure trade and investment opportunities.

These efforts are helping financial services firms to increase their market share overseas and cement the role of the UK as the pre-eminent global financial centre.

The areas identified by the Board are as follows:

  • to develop London as the global hub for renminbi business outside China and support the internationalisation of RMB by the Chinese authorities.
  • to make the UK one of the world’s most competitive places for the Investment Management industry.
  • To develop the UK as a global centre for Islamic finance.
  • to work with the European Commission to increase the access of UK firms to overseas markets and promote greater coherence and consistency in financial regulation through the EU’s free trade negotiations with our key trading partners
  • to support emerging markets develop deep and well regulated capital markets.
  • to promote the UK’s financial technology sector and identify and pursue high value trade and investment opportunities for this important growing sector.
  • to develop the UK’s capacity to provide back and middle office functions for international financial services firms; including banks.
  • to promote the UK as a prime destination for international firms to raise finance.

And perhaps most relevant to this audience, to grow the market share of UK insurers in high growth economies in Asia and Latin America; and to attract inward investment – both insurance capital and jobs – to the UK market.

The Government’s Insurance Growth Action Plan was launched here at Lloyd’s in December 2013 with an ambition to further strengthen the UK one of the most competitive places in the world for insurance.

The plan, led by HM Treasury, follows the same thinking as Lloyd’s own ‘Vision 2025’ agenda for international growth, which acknowledges that engaging with premium income in high-growth economies across the world will be crucial to the insurance industry of tomorrow.

  • the UK insurance industry is largest in the EU and
  • 3rd largest in the world.
  • the industry manages investments of £1.8 trillion and contributes £12bn in taxes to the government.
  • and employs around 320,000 individuals in the UK,
  • a third of these are directly employed by insurers with the remainder in broking and insurance related services.

The Government’s objective is to support UK companies and the Lloyd’s and London markets to grow their business internationally.

We are also taking steps to help better connect UK insurers and brokers to the UK Trade & Investment network for example linking them to our network of officials based in embassies and consular offices around the world.

We are working hand in hand with industry partners and directly with foreign owned companies to attract high quality inward investment to the UK;

And have established whole-of-government relationships with industry to increase exports and investment.

We are focusing on five main areas:

  • the UK industry in overseas markets;
  • five key markets have been identified.
  • these are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Turkey.
  • the UK as a location for insurers;
  • insurers as long-term investors in the UK;
  • serving UK insurance customers;
  • and skills and diversity in insurance.

The next steps will be for government to work closely with the insurance industry to implement the measures in the Action Plan, and over the next 12-18 months to achieve our overseas growth and inward investment aims.

Specific measures include:

  • pursuing high value initiatives in the priority targets markets;
  • establishing a programme of senior government and private sector representation in the target markets, along with inward visits
  • and stronger insurance representation on cross-sectoral UK overseas trade missions

We are working with the CII to develop a training package for UK government officials tasked with promoting the UK’s commercial interests and implementing actions in the target markets; and the Financial Services Trade and Investment Board will develop a programme, to be led by UKTI’s Financial Services Organisation, to target commercial insurers looking to move their domicile to the UK.

The UKTI Financial Services Organisation is working closely with insurers to take advantage of new opportunities.

The contribution of the insurance sector and the Lloyd’s and London markets are crucial to the UK economy.

Dialogue between government and industry will be crucial in maintaining and developing this position over the coming years.

So to summarise, lots of progress has been made;

The Government recognises the significance of a strong insurance sector to the economy.

And the UK Trade & Investment Organisation is working with colleagues in Her Majesty’s Treasury to bring the measures identified in the Insurance Growth Action Plan

But there is still much to do.

The Government is committed to increasing trade and investment which are key to the economic recovery.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today and I wish you a good day.

Published 3 October 2014