Former Lord Mayor Sir Alan Yarrow speech at the Wincott Foundation Awards

Speech by the former Lord Mayor of the City of London, Sir Alan Yarrow, at the Wincott Foundation Awards on Thursday 19th May 2016 at the Mansion House.


Sir Richard, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome to the Mansion House, on behalf of its current occupant – Lord Mayor of London, the Lord Mountevans. He is on a business visit to Slovakia. On a pretty relentless schedule, as I know from my own term in office, last year!

Happily, however, I did manage to make it to this lunch– so am pleased to be here two years on the trot. A great opportunity to pay tribute to some of the finest examples of UK journalism. For which we are renowned across the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen – I was delighted to serve this City as Lord Mayor last year. I am a salesman! There is nothing I love more than selling a good product. And we certainly have it here in the City of London, and UK. Pre-eminent global financial centre – ahead of New York! As we are very fond of reminding the Americans!

Lord Mayors and the City of London Corporation work closely with UK Government and policy makers, to represent the concerns and challenges facing financial and professional services. Tax....regulation....skills....access to talent....infrastructure........and support for small business.

We also champion innovative new economic areas, with huge potential. From the development of London as a Renminbi trading centre....through Fin London’s leadership of Green and Sustainable Finance.

So why do we do this? Why do people like me volunteer to be Lord Mayor.....and spend a year zipping around the UK, and the world, championing brand Britain?

So we can protect our competitive edge. Protect the 2.2 million jobs in this country, in financial and professional services. That’s over seven per cent of the UK workforce. To say nothing of the millions more jobs – millions more people – that are direct or indirect consumers.

In all, financial and professional services produces nearly 12 per cent of the UK’s total economic output, and two and a half times the net exports of all our other net exports aggregated.

We have a responsibility. To build resilience – build economic security – for this country. Strong commerce....strong communities....the two are interdependent.

Let’s get real – there are many cities out there who want what we’ve got. New York, Hong Kong, Paris and Singapore are snapping at our heels!

We need to make sure our offer is better. More attractive. More competitive.

As Harold Wincott knew, economic and financial journalism has the influence to shape markets.

And we – British business – welcome the incisiveness and integrity of UK economic and financial journalists. Critical contributors to the fact that our business environment is among the best in the world. The principles and values by which we abide – underpinned by the Rule of Law – are the benchmark for all good business, everywhere.

We must always be mindful of the end goal – to bring people and companies up. To encourage and instil the right behaviours.

Yes, to call out any wrong-doing – and hold those people to account. And the Fair and Effective Markets Review – published last year, on the day of Bankers’ Dinner I hosted here with the Chancellor, and the Governor of the Bank of England – has set out clear parameters and process to do this.

But I am an optimist. And I believe we have much to be optimistic about. We should take immense pride in this City and Nation’s industries – which are a beacon of good business. As Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment – the biggest professional accreditation body of its kind – I know this to be true!

We are citizens of a great Nation. A Nation made great by its commercial values, and outlook.

Let us take pride in that.

Ladies and Gentlemen – at a time when multiple stories are jostling for attention in the Press.....with every modicum of sense trumped by, well, Trump.....there is a particular word which keeps leaping out...


The generation born between 1980 and 2000 – who will live their lives in ways that are completely alien to any before them.

Their identity as world citizens knows few barriers. Fewer than those with which we were raised. The digital age has ignited interaction across continents – and a much more open approach to the world.

The EU

Millennials are power-players in the debate.

At least, they should be.

They are the people who will deliver decisions made – and will live with the consequences. Look at what they delivered in Ireland – particularly on same-sex marriage.

And they know – as we all should do – that this City, this Nation, are the legacy of internationalism. Working with, and within, immensely important vehicles for global trade and industry.

Vehicles such as the European Union.

The City Corporation voted last month. The CBI has reported its members’ views.

For the vast majority of the UK’s business community, the case is overwhelming. And we are keen to make that case – with all its positives for British companies, and individual British workers.

We are in. Because we will be stronger in.

And may I say, as strongly as possible, that we have a responsibility to our bright young things – our millennials – when we go to the polls on 23rd June.

A good friend and former colleague – David Willetts – he and I used to work together. He wrote an excellent book called ‘The Pinch’, about how we, the baby boomers, were taking wealth away from our children’s generation.

We all know the demographic of the referendum and the propensity to vote of the different age groups. Looking at how the older generation has been treated in political manifestos and subsequent budgets … so do the politicians. Even the protection of the NHS where the over 65’s represent 20% of our population and take 40% of the expenditure.

The fact is with protected pensions, heating allowances, free travel ......all this has to be paid for by an ever-decreasing, younger, working population.

I was speaking about this in a speech to the Institute of Actuaries and a lady came up to me afterwards and said I should have been at their Sunday lunch. Her aged mother, pro Brexit, was banging on.... But, was interrupted by her grandson, who had never before uttered a political point, but went on to list the protected benefits the OAP gets. He ended up by saying those soon to be seminal words: “Granny don’t be so selfish”

Well, that pulled the whole family up short! And it pulled me up short too – frankly, I think it’s worth getting on a T-shirt!

In all seriousness, that’s the reality of demographic division in this country. For years, Governments have courted the older vote – in full knowledge that the over-55s are more likely to vote.

But what about the young? Those who are going to end up paying for it all?

We cannot continue like this. And millennials deserve to be heard.

Ladies and Gentlemen – until someone gets me a T-shirt with “Granny, don’t be so selfish” on it, I will continue to scour the media for powerful truths and comments.

And may I congratulate all the organizations and journalists who are equipping the public with important economic facts and forecasts, in advance of the referendum.

You certainly deserve some time off for this lunch, and I hope you will forgive me for talking shop!

May I say again that you play such an important role in keeping UK financial and professional services strong, and competitive.

Congratulations to all today’s winners, and it is my honour to hand over to Sir Richard Lambert.