Analyses & Studies  •  Sectors & markets

Reshaping the financial world

Brexit is just the latest chapter in the storied history of London’s financial centre, says Catherine McGuinness, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London Corporation

London’s trading past with France is one of the few things that has a longer history than the City of London Corporation itself – and given that this institution has been in existence for around a millennium, that illustrates just how deep our relationship really is. Today, many of France’s – and the world’s – biggest banks have a presence here in the Square Mile, such as BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Societe Generale.

It is within this context that Brexit should in many ways be examined as the latest reconfiguration of that relationship. That isn’t to say that the City isn’t taking Brexit lightly – quite the opposite. We’ve been firm in our support for a deal with the European Union for our departure, which will provide the future framework of the trading relationship in financial services that businesses and consumers on both sides of the Channel need to see.

While the UK is set to leave the European Union, our commitment to open and free trade within the multilateral global regulatory framework will not diminish. Fragmentation of global markets is inefficient and costly – and while others turn inwards, London will remain an advocate for the creation of a more efficient, inclusive and fair global financial system. In this respect, France will undoubtedly continue to be a key ally.

Of course, we will continue to compete for business but the common challenges that the UK, France and indeed the European Union face over the coming years – including the likes of climate change and an ageing population – are not confined by borders. Financial services can be a key part of the solution.

This is why we are continuing our approach towards a great digital transition in the global economy through fintech and encouraging the uptake of green finance – the UK’s financial services sector is at the forefront of this new paradigm. Collaboration with like-minded partners – such as France – can take this to new heights. From banking and insurance to asset management and foreign exchange, the UK has both scale and truly international reach across the full spectrum of financial services.

But it’s our culture of innovation which distinguishes us. The UK has always been a champion of new products, creative solutions and entrepreneurialism, and it is home to the sectors that are already reshaping the financial world. It’s part of the fabric that makes London so resilient and fundamentally strong, irrespective of Brexit uncertainty.

Indeed, it was the City which laid the foundations of modern banking, which devised the first modern international capital markets and which remains at the leading edge of innovation, from fintech and blockchain to green finance. We offer the world a unique combination of time zone, language, legal system, global talent, and financial services ecosystem which makes us truly a gateway to global capital and advice. People come here not just for business but also for our cultural offer, our heritage, our open spaces, and our shopping experience – all aspects which the City Corporation plays a role in providing or supporting.

So while the headlines focus on events in Westminster, the reality is that London’s long-term future is bright. If we are to make the most of the opportunities that the 21st century has to offer, then we know that it is more important than ever for UK and French business to work together. Our trading partnership may be ingrained in our common history, but we know that the future – if we want it to – can bring a new chapter of success. 

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