Manchester Metropolitan University Graduation

Large 0c0f7b5f 4328 4c73 85b4 bb4f6ac2e6f2

It is a day for celebration. The Bridgewater Hall is full of students and families celebrating their achievements, and as I stand here I can feel the sense of pride, hope and ambition that radiates off these new graduates.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor, guests and graduands...

Good morning! And thank you for your warm welcome and words of introduction.

As I walked to the Bridgewater Hall this morning the buzz and sense of anticipation was palpable on the streets of Manchester, and as I stand here and look out on the Hall I can see lots of glowing, proud, smiling faces – and that’s just the family and friends! The new graduates are positively radiant!

You will already, I hope, have had lots of people congratulating you on your wonderful achievement, but can I take this opportunity to congratulate each of you, and I mean you, and you and you, on what you have done. It is truly magnificent. [Let’s give it up again for all the graduates!]

Today is the day when you walk out of here, that you can stand a little taller with your head held high, rightly proud and confident in your achievements; ready to start of the next chapter of your life. And I am sure yours is a life with much potential.

It is a great honour to be here with you today, sharing a small part of your journey and providing some encouragement and tips for the next chapter of life.

Of course, I am truly thankful to Manchester Met, because it was this amazing institution that gave me the opportunity to do a degree, the first person in my family to get a degree, seeing what I hope was some a spark of potential, despite not very good A levels, and that’s an understatement. And in allowing me to do a degree I was given a springboard to my career that’s been stimulating and rewarding.

Immediately after graduating I joined the army, went to Sandhurst and served in Canada, Germany and the UK for four years. I then started work for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London. And I’ve been in that business ever since. People often ask me what I like about the job, and I say that I like to know what’s going on, and I am essentially paid to read the newspaper, or social media now, and then make a few decisions! Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that and it might appear daunting when you are responsible the 100’s of millions of pounds. But it started with modest amounts and grew over time. And I’d encourage you to find and pursue the thing you enjoy doing that you too can grow, over time with diligence and application. As the expression goes; from small acorns…

I know in the hall today there are graduates in economics, policy and international business, operations, technology, events and hospitality. Each of these areas has major challenges at the moment; whether it is the reimaging of capitalism as a force for good that encompasses human flourishing in the round, not just making money, or ensuring technology is developed by design, not by default, or encouraging people to come together post covid because we are social beings that need one another; one body many parts. I wish you well in making a difference in your area of expertise.

I’ve also had the opportunity to branch out over time and endeavour to make a difference; sitting on the Boards of professional institutes, charities, and nearly four years ago being elected as an Alderman of the City of London, which means I support the Lord Mayor of London, who is a global figure as the UK’s ambassador for the City of London and UK financial and professional services. The Lord Mayor brings the best of Britain to the world and the best of the world to Britain. Across the UK the financial and professional services employ 2.3m people, two thirds outside London in cities like Manchester, producing over 10% of the UK’s entire economic output and 13% of the nation’s tax contribution.

It is a huge privilege to serve as an Alderman - we form part of the City Corporation committed to bringing people together to solve the big problems across the globe, working closely and influencing with local and national governments and businesses, I hope for good.

It was 33 years ago I was sitting where you are. So what would I say to my young self, or to you if we were chatting 121?

Be constantly curious, in people, in things and in ideas, be interested, be kind to yourself and be kind to others.

There was an interesting survey I read about recently that contrasted character competence with technical competence; and businesses often default to technical competence when recruiting people, despite recognising that ultimately character competence is what is important – the technical bits can be learned. So, as you go into the world be people of character competence; learn to be grateful for what you have; including family, friends, colleagues, teachers and lecturers that have brought you to this place today, to be generous and remember to practice the Golden rule; do to others as you would have them do to you.

So, in concluding can I say again my warmest and most sincere congratulations to all the new graduates, please keep in touch with Manchester Metropolitan University and the alumni programme and I wish you the very best of success and happiness for your career and life ahead.

Thank you.