Since stepping into his role as Lord Mayor of London, Nicholas Lyons (pictured) has demonstrated his commitment to revitalising relations between the City of London and the (re)insurance market. This year marked the first time a Lord Mayor of London attended Rendez-Vous de Septembre, while, in September, two insurance stalwarts - Alderwoman Dame Susan Langley and Alderman Bronek Masojada – took office as City of London Sheriffs.
“The most important function of the Lord Mayor is really as the ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services sector, which creates £100 billion of value for the UK economy, and employs two and a half million people across the UK,” he said. “So, it really does need somebody banging the drum.
“But I’m also an ambassador for London as a global financial centre and we have more international companies in London than in any other financial hub in the world. Within that [constituency] spans not just banks, asset managers and insurance companies - but also all professional services including legal, actuarial and accountancy. And it’s that richness, that breadth and depth which makes London so unusual and makes it stand out as a global centre.”
As chairman of Phoenix Group and a board member of Miller and Convex, Lyons is deeply familiar with the significant role insurance plays, not just in terms of how it underpins our economy, but also its own financial output, representing 25% of London’s GDP. Insurance has often not garnered the attention it deserves, he said, partially because it is so diverse in its makeup but also because it’s quite difficult for many people to understand.
As it stands, insurance is well supported by industry associations, trade associations and Lloyd’s of London who are very effective at creating publicity for the sector. However, he said, in order to present a global view of London as a financial centre, it’s critical to ensure that the City of London is also banging the drum for insurance.
“I’ve sat on the boards of P&C companies and life insurance companies, and pension companies and health insurance companies for 20 years,” he said. “My narrative is that it’s time to give these some extra focus. And RVS in Monaco was a great opportunity to do so because you can meet with the chairmen and chief executives of global companies here… To be able to catch up with the heads of all the big brokers and big reinsurers is a great opportunity.”
Lyons emphasised the importance of having a Lord Mayor with personal involvement and interest in the industry – and how the recent appointments of Gallagher UK’s Langley and SiriusPoint’s Masojada point to the tenacity of the City of London’s commitment to the insurance market. His key area of focus right now, he said, is on building strong foundations for longer-term relationships between global insurance businesses and London as a financial centre.
“That’s around whether London is as efficient and as effective as it can be and as it needs to be, and what things we need to be taking back to the politicians and the regulators to help make London a more attractive place for inward investment,” he said. “We’re always trying to encourage as many overseas players as possible to invest more in London, to make sure we channel as much business as possible. So, my job is to make sure that we have a rising tide while their job is to make sure that each of their individual boats is as well trimmed as possible so that it floats on that rising tide.”
Having set out his stall clearly, Lyons is now looking to the natural next steps in his campaign to bring together top players in the insurance industry with the UK’s financial and professional services sector – and the City of London. He’s keen to see the City of London become involved in the hosting of an event for the P&C insurance market. The top players in the (re)insurance market are no strangers to spending substantial time in London, he said, and it would be great to have another opportunity – similar to RVS – to offer them a touchpoint in the calendar.
“This is an industry which I think almost more than any other in financial services depends on personal relationships,” he said. “It’s a subscription market so, everybody not only competes on business, but then also works together on business, participating in different layers of risk. So, you have this extraordinary relationship where you are both competitors and colleagues. And that puts a huge onus on personal relationships and face-to-face meetings.”
Lyons highlighted the publication of a recent report from the City of London Corporation and Oliver Wyman - ‘A Vision for Economic Growth – a roadmap to prosperity‘ - which outlined a long-term strategy for the City of London as a financial centre. The 50-page report was the product of six months’ worth of research, he said, involving four major work streams with eight senior City figures – and over 300 organisations were consulted to arrive at its nine key recommendations.
“We need to be strategic,” he said. “This is an attempt to create a long-term strategy for the City of London, pulled together by participants in the City of London so we can go to politicians and say, ‘this is the recommendation of the City, this is what those with so much expertise in the market think we need to do.’
“And we need to align the government and the Treasury and the regulators and the private sector to deliver on this. Firstly, to agree that these are the right priorities and secondly, to agree on some milestones to achieving those by 2030. That’s so we have got a City of London that’s not only terrific today, but is as good as it possibly can be looking forward and facing the challenges of the future.”
The body was devised to launch pre-party conference season as a politically agnostic recognition of what the private sector believes needs to be done to make the City as effective as possible as a primer for the UK economy. Crucially, he said, the recommendations pivot on recognising what the private sector can do for the UK economy, and how the government and regulators can support that work.
“One of the mechanisms we’re suggesting to do this by is a quarterly Financial Services Council, which would be chaired by the Chancellor of the day,” Lyons said. “It would be public sector, private sector and the regulator meeting together to make sure that we’re monitoring progress against that long-term plan, and facing up to whatever other challenges arise.
“This would look to entrench a regular dialogue between politicians and the private sector, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to allocate capital as sensibly as possible. My mayoral theme is ‘financing our future’ and that’s what this is all about. How do we make sure that the City finances this country’s future?”
What are your thoughts on this story? Feel free to share them in the comment box below.