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London is ready for the future, Brexit included

Whatever happens next in Westminster, the Square Mile will continue to march towards the future, argues Lord Mayor Peter Estlin.


September 2019

At this time of uncertainty, it can be hard to stay focused. Brexit is dominating conversations in board rooms across the country and finding a solution remains a key priority for the City, as much as it does for Westminster.

It is not, however, the City’s only priority. Innovation is another.

Prioritising innovation 

Across the world, the UK is being recognised for its sheer scale of innovation in sectors from life sciences to health tech, creative industries to fin tech. As technology becomes a key driver of growth for the global economy, maintaining this momentum is vital for the UK’s future.

From my mayoralty so far, I’ve seen what a bright future that promises to be. Indeed, I believe we are at the eve of what will be the most technologically transformational period that humanity has ever seen – the fourth industrial revolution.

The technologically "brave new world"

London’s fundamental strengths are as important as ever as we look to embrace everything this brave new world has to offer, from quantum computing, to cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence. This city has a synergy of the best in global financial services expertise, technological innovation, creativity and social responsibility, coming together to break new ground in emerging areas like fintech, green finance and much more.

The facts speak for themselves. We’re home to more than a tenth of the world’s fintech industry, with more VC investment into the sector than anywhere else in Europe. We could soon overtake even San Francisco as the home to most fintech ‘unicorn’ companies, with the likes of Revolut, TransferWise and OakNorth leading the way.

When I have accompanied fintech delegations around the world, from Toronto to Tallinn, I am frequently told how London is at the forefront of technological developments across the full scope of the financial services ecosystem.

A green London?

Elsewhere, we recently launched our Green Finance Institute, which is already providing leadership in the nascent green finance sector. I have seen for myself how partners from around the world are eager to work with London to progress in this space, whether that be in order to build sustainable energy infrastructure in Colombia or to work with China on building green principles for the Belt and Road Initiative.

There is still much more to do. As the digital revolution arrives, I have made it the core aim of my Shaping Tomorrow’s City Today mayoral theme to ensure that the benefits of innovation are shared across our communities to create a fairer and more sustainable global economy.

Embracing the future now 

As such, on 10 October – Digital Day – I am looking forward to launching “Future.NOW.” This will be a coalition between businesses, civic society and government with the aim of motivating people and businesses across the UK to boost their digital skills to thrive in the digital age.

Yes, the current uncertainty for businesses and consumers is something we could do without. Nonetheless, this city continues to prove once again that it possesses the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive long into the 21st century.

Whatever happens next in Westminster, the Square Mile will continue to march towards the future.

Peter Estlin is 691st Lord Mayor of the City of London, an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and member of the London Society of Chartered Accountants.

Hear from the Lord Mayor at this year’s Pan Accountancy Lunch taking place on 4 October at the Mansion House.

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