The capital is well established as not just a great place in which to live, but also as the beating heart of business from as far back as Roman times. A favourable time zone makes it easy to connect with Asia, the Middle East, the US and the rest of Europe. But geography aside, a series of clever reforms such as the deregulation of financial markets, a robust legal system and investment in a highly skilled workforce gives London an enviably strong business reputation.
Despite the anxiety surrounding Brexit, London remains a hub for global business. The City of London is a mecca for the world’s biggest banks and financial institutions that power the world of commerce. The City has invested heavily over the years in developing both the legal framework and technological infrastructure that make the capital a global core of finance. For all the talk of banks and businesses deciding to set up new bases on the continent, it is precisely this winning combination that keeps them firmly rooted in London.
Take the City’s three clearing houses – LCH, ICE Clear Europe and LME Clear. They handle trillions of dollars worth of complex financial contracts every day; this plumbing cannot be easily uprooted and planted elsewhere. The EU has acknowledged as much. Global investor, Warren Buffett, even declared earlier this year that he is looking to invest in the UK, Brexit or no Brexit.
Londoners joke that if the city had better weather, it would be inundated with visitors and rents would spiral. The capital can be characterised as rainy, yet watertight. It has survived the Great Fire of London, Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and the Blitz. Quite frankly, it can survive Brexit.
Business leaders agree. More than a third of more than 450 leaders of large companies voted London the best place to establish global teams and innovate, despite Brexit uncertainty. London came out on top ahead of New York, Paris and Singapore*. It would appear that, even in these times of apparent uncertainty, the back-to-business feeling is alive and well in London this autumn.
The UK’s top vocational schools such as London’s Cass Business School are inundated with applications, according to data from the Financial Times. Tighter US visa laws make America less attractive to foreign students and London comparatively friendly. Meanwhile, the hotly anticipated London-Shanghai Stock Connect scheme is now live, which means global investors can buy shares in Chinese companies via London. It’s business as usual.
Liam Fox MP, the former UK trade minister, summed it up when he said earlier this year that, once the dust settles, the City of London will emerge “fitter, stronger and more dynamic than ever”. The message is clear: London is wide open for business.
Samuel Johnson doesn’t need to turn in his grave just yet.