Thank you, John. As a former public company CFO, it’s certainly a relief to know that you’re introducing rather than interrogating me today.
And thank you to everyone here at the Funds Congress for having me this morning.
I was, of course, delighted to be asked to speak at London’s largest asset management conference.
And even better that I can be with you today in person, given this is the first time Funds Congress has met physically since 2020.
What a lot has changed since then. But what hasn’t changed is the vital importance the asset management industry holds for the UK and the global economy.
An engine for UK growth and long-term economic prosperity. A world leader in portfolio management and sustainable finance. The second largest asset management centre in the world with a market share higher than France, Germany and Switzerland combined. And an innovative spirit coupled with a diversity of expertise unrivalled anywhere to boot.
Growth: The role of the asset management
Before I come on to what we can achieve together, let us consider where we are today.
A major source of high value jobs in the UK – employing 42,000 people directly and supporting many tens of thousands in adjacent services.
A unique lynchpin of the UK financial services ecosystem, existing at the heart of many concentric circles of value in the industry across the UK.
But more importantly, the performance that you deliver to help lift up the standard of living of millions, tens of millions are benefitting today as they save for a pension through auto-enrolment.
You generate close to 1% of the UK’s GDP.
And 3.6% of total UK service exports.
But that data doesn’t do justice to your impact today, let alone what we could achieve.
And while we have the legacy to lead in this space, we can’t be complacent.
As the Chancellor outlined in his Bloomberg Growth speech, we want the UK to be among the most prosperous countries in Europe.
We want to spur economic growth.
And we have a plan to get there.
I want to pay particular attention to the role of enterprise.
Within this, I want to highlight reward for risk, access to capital and smarter regulation.
Because enterprises need funding, just as all our long-term priorities do.
It’s why we’ve been working hard to better facilitate investment in long-term assets that will be a crucial ingredient in the UK’s economic success over the years ahead.
Because we all know that there are global and domestic priorities we need to tackle. It’s why we’re a leader in green finance, it’s why we are working to level up, it’s why we want to be the next Silicon Valley – but these priorities need to be funded.
Currently, the UK has the fourth largest pensions market in the world.
If we can unlock just a fraction of Defined Contribution pensions schemes’ capital for investment into productive finance assets, ordinary pension savers could retire with more security and money to enjoy.
And simultaneously, we would increase the supply of private finance for innovative companies, and productive assets.
When talking about productive UK assets I mean infrastructure, I mean growth, I mean venture capital.
It’s why the launch of the Long-Term Asset Fund – or LTAF – is such an important step in unleashing long-term investment.
At the beginning of December, I spoke about how, together, we have created the LTAF to help unlock access to long-term illiquid assets.
Our conclusion is that it will lead to a significant boost to the productive capacity of the UK economy – including much-needed infrastructure and decarbonisation products.
Because we know that client demand for illiquid investments is increasing. So it’s welcome that additional work such as the Productive Finance Working Group’s guides to illiquid investments is helping to set direction for DC pension schemes.
And I’m excited to hear of firms that are formally submitting their LTAF applications to the FCA.
It may sound like a niche, technical area to get animated over. But it’s far from it. It has the power to be transformative for our sector, the economy and society as a whole.
The work on LTAFs is best understood alongside the wider work to review the UK’s funds regime.
Here our ambition is to further build on the UK’s world-leading position in asset management by making the UK a much more attractive place for funds to domicile.
And by ensuring the investors can access a suitably wide range of fund vehicles, so they can pursue the exciting investment strategies of tomorrow from the UK.
With your support and expertise we will continue striving to make this a reality. We will make the taxation of funds more efficient. We will expand the range of investment products available in the UK. And we will facilitate the kind of innovation which helps investors and the wider economy.
My responsibility is to ensure the UK financial services industry is the very best that it can be.
On making sure we have agile and effective regulation.
The Edinburgh Reforms take forward the government’s ambition for the UK to be the world’s most innovative, open and competitive global financial centre.
To drive growth and competitiveness in this crucial sector, while retaining our commitment to high international standards.
The Chancellor has committed to move rapidly to review retained EU law over the next year to identify reforms which have the greatest potential to unlock growth in key areas, including in financial services.
The Edinburgh Reforms themselves, of course, do not directly impact many of you here today. But what they show is our direction of travel: to use our new freedoms to tailor regulation to our industries and untether parts of our economy that have been held back.
To what end? To becoming the most innovative, productive, well-oiled financial services sector in the world that delivers for communities across all four nations of the UK.
I want to harness your strengths, unlocking institutional investment so that we can channel money to where it can do the most good: infrastructure, technology and innovation, the journey to net zero.
I want our country to be the best country in the world for businesses to invest, grow and flourish.
And I need your help in directing ever-more investment to these cutting edge-firms and long-term priorities.
On the subject of long-term priorities, could anything be more important than our country’s security?
It is my view that our security and freedom might just rely on our willingness to invest in defence over the long-term. So, I ask, as a sector, are we undervaluing defence and if so, what can each of us do about it?
And the truth is we need to think long-term. We live in a globally competitive landscape. Our competitors are not taking a break.
Our Financial Services and Markets Bill, therefore, has competitiveness baked into it, aiming to enhance the UK’s position as a global leader in financial services.
The Bill introduces secondary statutory objectives for the PRA and the FCA to provide for a greater focus on growth and international competitiveness.
If we are to realise that ambition, we need to also ensure that UK financial services are at the forefront of technological advancements. To unlock the untapped potential new technology can bring to every town and city, and to grow the economy.
It’s already enabling us to embrace green finance – on which we want to lead the world – and exploit the great opportunities provided by AI, Quantum Computing.
And the asset management industry has the unique capability to harness the opportunities of innovative technologies, and one development I’d like to highlight is on digital assets – those made possible by the rise in blockchain technology.
We are establishing a framework for regulating cryptoassets and stablecoins.
This includes ensuring that the Treasury has the powers to regulate cryptoassets within the existing financial services framework which could cover those relating to the trading and investment of cryptoassets.
Just last week, we published a consultation setting out comprehensive proposals for regulating the sector.
At the end of last year, we made regulations to expand the Investment Manager Exemption tax rules to include transactions in cryptoassets, to remove disincentives to UK fund managers investing on behalf of overseas investors from including cryptoassets in their portfolios.
This will provide greater tax certainty for UK fund managers and foreign investors and put the UK at the forefront of the developing global cryptoasset fund management sector.
Finally, I cannot speak about the global context without acknowledging ESG and the importance of sustainable investment.
I want the UK to be the best place in the world for sustainable finance and we have taken world-leading action to green the financial system.
London was recently ranked as the world’s leading hub for sustainable finance for the third consecutive time.
And I’m very proud that so many asset managers are signatories to the Financial Reporting Council’s Stewardship Code and members of the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative – reflecting the importance the Government places on responsible and productive stewardship of capital.
I’ll end by repeating my thanks to you all for having me at the Funds Congress.
It’s an exciting time for asset management and we’re depending on this trusted industry to invest in the future of the UK.
I know we will work closely as we continue to promote growth and enable a competitive, thriving financial services sector. Thank you.