YOU might wonder why the Lord Mayor of London would be on an official visit to Bournemouth.
But the Lord Mayor is more than the robed figurehead of the Square Mile – he sees himself as an ambassador for the whole financial services industry.
Recent holders of the post have ventured beyond London to foster links between the capital and the industry in the regions – and they have aimed to represent the whole industry abroad.
The current Lord Mayor, Alan Yarrow, told the Daily Echo: “I wanted to go somewhere which other Lord Mayors haven’t been to, where financial services is important.”
He points out that 1.7m of the 2.1m people employed in the sector are outside London – and that 243,000 of them are on the south coast.
Last week, Mr Yarrow delivered an uncompromising speech to the Bankers and Merchants Dinner in London, condemning those in the sector who had behaved badly – but also calling on the industry to champion the good things it does.
“I condemn anyone who puts themselves before their clients,” he told the Echo.
“I condemn anyone who profits for themselves and lets the shareholders and the company take the risk. I’ve got no qualms whatsoever in being pretty tough on those people who misbehave.
“However, it’s not a large number of people who behave badly. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of people in the sector are thoroughly decent people doing their job and, in the city and in the regions, and my jobs is to speak on behalf of the financial sector as well as speak to it.”
He said it was important that the sector takes ethics seriously. “Regulators are always going to be behind the curve of innovation and we cannot be as slow as the regulator,” he said. The industry, he said, should comply with the spirit of regulation all the time.
His trip to Bournemouth saw the Lord Mayor visiting JP Morgan and learning about the South Coast Financial Centre of Excellence initiative, announced last year as a way of promoting the sector. He was due to meet representatives from Bournemouth University.
He is also keen to highlight the corporate and social responsibility policies of companies like JP Morgan – which funds apprenticeships and community projects, as well as supporting some 130 causes a year through donations and volunteering.
Mr Yarrow said the best young employees wanted to work for socially responsible companies. And in London, he has organised an event called City Giving Day, which showcases the work the industry does in communities “from Dorset to Dundee”.
In his speech to the Bankers and Merchants Dinner, he recalled Robert Kennedy’s words about gross domestic product (GDP) and how it “measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.
“It measures everything in short – except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Financial services companies should speak up more about their contribution to the community, he told the Echo.
“I’ve always had the view that the average Brit doesn’t like bragging and therefore they don’t know what marketing is," he added.
He pointed out that the City and Guilds vocational education institution was started by the City of London in Victorian times and has issued 35m accreditations since 2000.
The ceremonial part of the Lord Mayor’s role is a relatively minor one, he added. “I spend about five per cent of my time dressed up.”
Instead, he spends 100 days abroad each year and delivers 850 speeches. “I’m basically a salesman,” he said.
“I’ve done 16 countries so far with another 14 to do,” he added.
“I feel the reputation of the City of London is just as high as it always has been. It’s only in the domestic environment where it’s low.”