Bob Wigley speech at the UK Finance Annual Dinner 2023

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My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening and a very warm welcome to the Guildhall for the UK Finance Annual Dinner. I am Bob Wigley, Chair of UK Finance.

I’m delighted to welcome so many members, ministers, parliamentarians, regulators and journalists to celebrate with us tonight in this iconic building. And a particular thank you to our sponsor for this evening, EY.

I know, given the current political situation, how much we are all looking forward to hearing from our guest speaker Beth Rigby. Beth really needs no introduction but is the political editor of Sky News and I am sure will draw on the insights she has gained through her unique window, reporting as she has on some of the most important and high-profile political events of recent years.

I want to talk briefly about how the challenges of the last year have again shown the importance of our sector and what we can do for business, households and society when we work in partnership with government and the third sector – whether that’s promoting the UK abroad, driving economic growth in the UK by financing small and large business investment and trade, helping struggling customers through the cost of living crisis, fighting economic crime, or working on plans to finance Net Zero.

Partnership runs through UK Finance’s DNA and it’s the reason we achieve so much. I recently attended the party conferences in Manchester and Liverpool. I spoke with party leaders, chancellor and shadow chancellor, business secretaries, indeed all the key secretaries of state and shadow secretaries we deal with.  I had one key message: don’t look at the banking and finance sector just as a sector to regulate and tax – look at us as partners you need to deliver your public policy objectives.

Last year at this dinner, I said we needed an even more proactive partnership between government, regulators and our industry, not just to address the risks on the horizon, but to seize the opportunities ahead.

I was delighted when during this year we launched three major new reports, setting out how we could green our housing stock, how we can further improve the international competitiveness of the UK capital markets  and how the UK can grasp the opportunity that digital tokenisation of the capital markets represents. All three were very well received, and we are now working with our counterparts on these projects to make sure the UK leads the world in each of these areas.

The partnership approach in the end is all about helping customers. We have worked very closely with the government and the Financial Conduct Authority this year on support for borrowers in financial difficulty. Our members finance not just the provision of financial literacy education in the UK, but advice for those in financial difficulty through key charities, like the one represented on our board, the Money Advice Trust. We helped craft the Mortgage Charter and masterminded the Reach Out campaign, all of which are designed to help those struggling with their mortgage payments.

We continue to lead national efforts to tackle economic crime. Not only trying to protect people from falling victim to online theft, but through our industry’s partnership with the Met and City of London Police, the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, convicting fraudsters and preventing the proceeds of online theft getting into the hands of criminals. Money that would have gone on to fund county lines and the worse activities of serious organised crime groups. I always say, our members are actually the nation’s fraud police.

In his Mansion House speech in July the Chancellor said “a strong City needs a successful economy, and a strong economy needs a successful City”­ – I couldn’t agree more.

The UK’s financial services sector is one of the UK’s few globally leading sectors. I hope people across the political spectrum increasingly recognise that, whatever the historic propensity to banker bash, our sector is almost always a necessary partner to deliver public priorities:

  • You can’t design or deliver financial support to millions of customers and businesses during Covid-19 without our industry.
  • You can’t solve a mortgage prisoner problem created by Grenfell tower and the cladding issue without our industry.
  • You can’t design appropriate sanctions and implement them against Russia without our industry.
  • You can’t deliver rebates on energy bills to support vulnerable customers through the cost-of-living crisis without our industry.
  • And ultimately, you can’t return to a more prosperous growth path without our industry.

Going forward, it is our industry that will design and provide innovative products to finance Net Zero; we will design more advanced ways of giving customers more choice and convenience through digitisation; we will innovate to find new ways of preventing and detecting online theft in the fight against economic crime – who knows, we may even finally persuade government that the telecom and online platform companies should share our responsibility to stop fraud, finance the fight against fraud and reimburse customers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you enjoy this evening’s dinner and agree with me that our sector should be proud of the massive contribution it makes not just to employment, training and tax, but to supporting households, businesses and society more widely.

Thank you for everything you do.

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