The 690th Lord Mayor of the City of London, LSCA member Charles Bowman, tells London Accountant about his mission to restore business trust, the need for a quick Brexit divorce deal and what his seven-year-old self would think about where he is today.
As a seven-year-old, Charles Bowman went to see the Lord Mayor’s show on a wet November Saturday with his father, a chartered accountant. Little did he know that, 50 years later, he would be sitting in the Mayor’s golden coach, again on a wet Saturday in November, parading through the streets of the City, and admiring all the diversity that the City has to offer.
Now, 35 years after joining Price Waterhouse, he has the opportunity to use his professional qualification and experience to drive forward a campaign to restore trust in the City and wider business community, to build strong international ties and lobby government for a rapid conclusion of Brexit negotiations.
At the same time, he wants to empower the next generation of City and business leaders, who will be at the forefront of delivering the new world outside the European Union and beyond.
Having studied architecture at Bristol University, Bowman chose a career in chartered accountancy as he recognised the qualification’s value as a training ground for business. “It was relevant in my day, and it is even more relevant today,” he says. “You don’t need to look much further than the proportion of directors on the FTSE 100 boards who have the ACA qualification underpinning their position, and my year in office gives the opportunity to shine the spotlight on something unique and special that we have.”
One of Bowman’s first moves as Lord Mayor was to launch the City’s business trust campaign, which will aim to address falling confidence among ordinary people in business’ ability to do the right thing. “It is a complex agenda, and there is no silver bullet,” he says. “Trust arrives on foot but leaves on a galloping horse. We won’t have the answers to these questions in just one year, but if I am able to leave this in safe hands, then I will be pleased.”
Some of these safe hands will belong to the next generation of business leaders, a point that Bowman has recognised through the creation of a 100-strong network of future business leaders. “I asked organisations to nominate individuals who they thought would be in this next generation. They are all hugely energetic, and will act as a strong ambassadorial force, with many different capacities.”
But overshadowing these initiatives will be the UK’s departure from the EU, arguably the most significant issue to have faced the City in its long history. Bowman took the opportunity to outline in his first speech as Lord Mayor, with the prime minister sat by his side the three issues of talent, trade and transition that would need to be settled for a successful outcome of Brexit negotiations. And he has been urging government to reach a divorce bill agreement as soon as possible. “If you haggle over the pennies, you could end up losing the pounds,” he says.
As a senior partner at PwC, Bowman is no stranger to international travel, which is just as well as during his year of office he will be spending 100 days abroad, visiting 27 countries, building relations with emerging economies while strengthening the important ties with developed markets, such as China, Canada and the US.
Closer to home, Bowman will be working closely with a number of charities to develop a three-year programme for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, which will work on four key pillars to build a City that is inclusive, healthy, skilled and fair, with the single aim of building a better City.
Bowman recognises the history, tradition and pageantry that comes with the office of Lord Mayor – and yes, he has a small flock of sheep at his home in Suffolk that he may, or may not, take across London Bridge – but he sees the Lord Mayor as a very modern role, a jewel in the UK crown, but one that is truly engaged with the cut and thrust of business life.
As he says: “It is a very modern role.”
Charles Bowman, the 690th Lord Mayor, is a senior partner at PwC, a former member of the ICAEW Council, a former chair of the ICAEW Audit and Assurance Faculty and current chair of the Audit Quality Forum.
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