City of London,

Lord Mayor Alan Yarrow's speech at City Banquet

At the City Banquet tonight at the Mansion House, held for an audience of regulators in the financial services industry, Lord Mayor Alan Yarrow will give the following speech (check against delivery).

The other speakers will be Dr Andrew Bailey and Ms Tracey McDermott.

Speech begins:

Andrew Bailey, Tracey McDermott – both of you have spoken a lot about the City brand. How we have some of the best people in the world working here, who believe in doing the right thing, working hard, and supporting their families.

I recently returned from a two-week trip to Africa. Before that, I was in China, and this time last night I hosted a state banquet for the Chinese President.

Let me tell you that internationally, the City brand is as strong as ever. It is back here, in the streets outside, that our reputation still staggers. I have spent 43 years of my life in financial services. It is my home. And it pains me to see its grand heritage trampled by people out for a quick buck.

I hope we have stopped people with the attitude that the client comes second. I grew up in the ‘partnership’ culture of the 1970s. The buck stopped with my partners and me, for our mistakes. I condemn those who put themselves before their clients, using their firms to feather their own nests with little risk to themselves.

I have a message for those people: your days are numbered. The system is being changed to dig you out, and get you out. But at the same time, and in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes, we need to acknowledge something. Regulators can only do so much.

But by definition, regulation will always be behind the curve of innovation. This is NOT a criticism – it is a reality. It’s like so many other areas in life – the people who set the rules, chase the game. Look at cybercrime, where the police struggle to contain ever-more sophisticated hackers. Or education, where the head teacher can’t see into every classroom at once. What can we do?

There is only one answer. If we want clean and efficient markets, management must understand their responsibilities.

It’s like the old Heineken advert – managers can reach the parts that regulators can’t. So regulators must embrace the same ‘partnership culture’ that I grew up with, and seek the support of practitioners. Working together and ending up in the right place: not with light regulation, but the right regulation.

THAT is how you build a Better Brand, a Better Economy and a Better Society. But there are other things we can do to restore the City’s domestic reputation. And a few weeks ago, we saw a glimpse of it. The City as a force for good in the community. That may not come as a surprise to you and me. But to many people out there, the City is just a commercial centre. City Giving Day, at the end of September, was one way to address that.

It started at 6.30am with an interview on the Today programme, and finished sixteen hours later with the Dragon Awards in this very room. During that time over 200 organisations, from HSBC to Allianz, promoted their outreach work – alongside the charities, community groups and local projects which benefit from it.

These are people, remember, who until quite recently could have sat in a pub and complained about the City being out of touch. And now here they are, at the heart of the Square Mile, singing the praises of business. The supported standing beside the supporters, saying a public ‘thank you’, in the hope that others might hear it, ask themselves why they aren’t up there, and be encouraged to do the same.

As Lord Mayor, I speak for and to the City. It has been a real privilege to do that over the past year. And while I’ve spoken for you, if you look at what’s happened, we have seen progress.

The narrative has improved. Groups like the FICC Markets Standards Board and the Banking Standards Board have integrity as the very core of their existence. Government and regulators have moved a long way, opening the door for more trust in City institutions. I welcome that. And I know that you do too.

But now, as I come to the end of my year, I stand here and speak squarely to the City. To you. Along with that trust comes responsibility! We must prove that we deserve it, and that we will use it well. Because if we don’t, we know what will happen.

If we don’t stand up and articulate how important the City is to this country…

If we don’t show that the benefits we bring to society aren’t limited to just tax and GDP…

If we don’t prove that we are stitched into the very fabric of community…

Then should doomsday come, we will have to fight for our very existence.

And it will be our fault that we haven’t marketed our full contribution to the country’s wellbeing.

I remember when I first came to the City. I was proud of where I worked! That pride has been eroded by the stupidity of some. But they won’t win! Let’s not let those chat-room conversations and reactionary headlines define us.

No: let’s rebuild that same pride that we all felt at the outset of our own careers.

Because that is the strength of the City. Working together. Whether it’s community projects or policing. Mentoring or military affiliations. Volunteering or regulation.

Before us stands a new time of co-operation. Better for everyone.

A good deal for clients and communities. And better, healthier, more Profitable markets.

That is the aim. It is within our reach! And to cement it, let me propose the toast.


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