The City's purpose - past, present and future

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As Rathbones completes its combination with Investec Wealth & Investment UK, it's gives me cause for a moment of positive reflection on how the successes of individual institutions in the City belong to everyone in a nationwide financial ecosystem that serves people across the country.

In the last few weeks, Rathbones, for whom I've worked for more than 25 years, completed a combination with Investec Wealth & Investment UK to create the UK’s leading discretionary wealth manager.

As Alderman for the Ward of Cheap in the City of London, I am delighted that the combined businesses will have the City office here in the Ward at 30 Gresham Street. So, it will be a particular pleasure to work and vote within the Ward where I represent the interests of local businesses and individuals.

Together we will have one of the largest regional office footprints, with 23 locations in the UK and Channel Islands, and going forward they will be referred to as Rathbones Group Plc. This combination is not only positive news for Rathbones and Investec, but for the City and the nationwide financial ecosystem that we're a part of.

Serving the nation

I have written before about what I believe to be the importance of the financial services sector in London for the local community and the nation as a whole.

We can consider this in terms of raw numbers as well as on a more holistic level. For example, it's widely reported that the City of London’s tax contribution (£1.2bn in business rates) represents 5% of England’s total business rates collection and is spent on services across the UK.

London also accounts for almost a quarter (22.7%) of the UK's total economic activity, according to the Office of National Statistics. While I am a strong advocate for being physically present in the workplace, the flexibility of hybrid working enables people to live and work across the UK whilst drawing financial benefits from London through salaries as well as the power of personal investment choices.

In this way, there is an opportunity for The City to act like a battery pack for the country. We can help drive growth to all corners of the UK, further enabling individuals to live/visit and spend in local communities, feeding regional economies and the nation's collective success as well.

Serving individuals

As someone who works in the investment and wealth management sector, I think it's an incredible thing to consider the ecosystem we're a part of and what a personal impact financial services can have on people up and down the country as they to boost the financial wellbeing of themselves and their families.

It's easy to see the big towers of London and think of it purely as a set of impersonal financial deals, but every day I seek to remember that for each transaction or communication I am part of, there is an individual at the other end of that trade or action for whom it is deeply important. Perhaps it is helping them to save for a well-earned holiday, for their retirement, a new car or to buy their first home. It may simply be to create a little more security for their loved ones in an uncertain world.

It's to these people we owe it to be passionate as well as prudent in our endeavours within the City, taking our fiduciary responsibility seriously because others trust us to do so. It's the reason I implemented Rathbones Governance Committee to develop our proxy voting systems some 15 years ago. It is also why I am an advocate of the growing movement in the marketplace that believes shareholder voices should be heard as in the company.

As a case in point, last year Sir Douglas Flint’s Digitisation Taskforce was launched to drive forward the modernisation of the UK’s shareholding framework. Part of that involves the dematerialisation of share certificates, for the ultimate beneficial owners to be identified and for intermediaries (stockbrokers, nominee companies, fund managers) to offer access to shareholder rights for voting and so forth.

No man (or business) is an island

With all of this in mind, while the City is indeed a centre of commerce and trade, it’s much more than that as well. Our successes do not exist in a vacuum, nor are they merely our own. It's helpful to remember that the triumphs (and failures) of an organisation or individual are not theirs alone. They aren't purely the result of one person's hard work, and their impact is not isolated either.

I think if we keep in mind the vast amount of work that's gone before us and exists around us; if we remember with compassion and humility that we are the privileged guardians of institutions; and that it's in our efforts that many individuals unknown to us put their faith and trust, then we also remember that there's purpose to our work that goes far beyond the daily ritual of coming to an office. It’s by doing our job well that we serve one another and the nation.