Resilience is in the air. It seems wherever you turn in the world of business, someone is talking about resilience. That is certainly true of the City of London.
“The mood is entirely positive”, says David Sales, Master of the Worshipful Company of Insurers and a leading aviation broker. “The Corporation has launched a Recovery Task Force and the feeling is that the City will adapt and return again to thrive and flourish. That is not just with fingers crossed or with hopeful thinking. It is underpinned by a really strong rationale.
“The City has always demonstrated resilience. I have every confidence that it will still be able to demonstrate it is a world class place to do business when this is over”, says Sales.
One of the concepts being explored by the City’s task force is “the idea of having the City as more of a business campus, a place where you can meet up with people in a variety of spaces and where you can move around easily”. This could meet the changed needs of financial institutions as they feel their way back to a new normality.
A year away from their City offices has changed working habits for good. The ease with which the diverse and complex London insurance market has adapted to remote working and electronic placement is to be applauded, he says, and it will shape the future.
“We have to expect working from home to become a permanent feature, at least for most people for some of the time. It has given us much more flexibility and we will want to retain an element of that when the restrictions ease”, although he admits that sometimes “I feel I am more living at work rather than working from home”.
People relationships are key to the long-term success of the City, to insurers, brokers and asset managers and that is something that cannot be replicated working from home on endless video calls.
“The hardest part has been the lack of collaboration and social interaction. I can’t see how you can forge a genuinely close relationship if you are not meeting people. There is that subtle body language that is a key element of the negotiating process and then there are the casual encounters that are so important for creativity and for younger people to build up their contacts and market intelligence”.
Looking specifically at the London insurance market, he believes that face-to-face placing of business will come back, at least for complex risks, giving Lloyd’s hope that its famous underwriting floor will find fresh purpose. This will also drive the return of business travel, essential for the big deals that London depends on.
“A lot of clients still enjoy coming to London to meet the insurance market. It is still a great place for them to come and I am sure it will quickly recapture the vibrancy and buzz that it has always had”.
- The City of London Corporation has launched a Recovery Task Force which will help is create a blueprint for how the Square Mile can remain internationally competitive and locally vibrant. The mission of the taskforce is to ensure the Square Mile is the world’s most innovative, inclusive and sustainable business ecosystem, and an attractive place to work, live, learn and visit. It will be a five year plan that will include initiatives to attract green finance, fintech and creative industries intio the City. As part of this project is has launched a public survey that is open until 25 February.
Recovery across the Square Mile survey
David Sales was interviewed by David Worsfold