City tradition is the launchpad for building back better

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As the City elects its two new Sheriffs this week, it's an opportunity to reflect on how tradition is a key instrument in the future of its community.

On 24th June, Midsummer’s Day, the livery of the City of London will elect two new Sheriffs. It is a tradition and a fundamental part of City governance that dates back to the Saxons in one form or another, and remains as important today as ever. As well as their duties at the Old Bailey, these two Sheriffs join the Lord Mayor as part of the ‘Civic Team’ in promoting the City around the world. 

Rather than the usual situation  - that of a nominee from the Court of Alderman (Who one might expect to subsequently go on to become Lord Mayor) together with a Non-Aldermanic Sheriff (Who emerges from the body of the Livery) coming forward for the vote at Common Hall  -  2021 sees the fortunately rare situation of two Aldermanic Sheriffs nominees being requested by the Court of Aldermen for the support of the Livery. Nicholas Lyons, Alderman for the Ward of Tower and Alison Gowman, Alderman for the Ward of Dowgate are uncontested nominees.

One of the great strengths of the City of London, and the UK as a whole, is the balance it strikes between progression and continuity. The election of two Sheriffs in the City of London is one such pillar of continuity. It is a role enshrined in heritage but yet integral to marketing the City, its business community and its financial and professional role on the global stage. In the wake of both Covid and Brexit, that re-marketing role is arguably far more important today than it has ever been.

About the new Sheriffs

The two candidates for the next term are as admirable as any have ever been.

Alderman Gowman is a highly respected consultant at DLA Piper UK LLP. Her City career has seen her work as a Senior Partner specialising in real estate. She has worked in investment and development with specialisations in insolvency and waste management, particularly working with many international businesses entering the UK market. She is an ardent advocate for ensuring the City of London plays a proactive role in improving London’s environmental credentials, serving as Deputy Chair of the Green Finance Institute and she is the driving force behind the City of London Corporation’s own Climate Action Strategy.

Nick Lyons is equally accomplished. Having worked in the City of London for over 35 years, he has extensive experience in commercial, investment and international banking, as well as the insurance and reinsurance industry. He is also committed to the community in the City, holding a vice-chairmanship of a prominent school, trusteeships of a children’s hospice association, an educational trust and local community memorial trust, and is co-founder of the Board of Patrons of the East Anglian Art Fund - amongst other prestigious positions. 

Most notably however, both individuals are proactive and passionate about life and work in the City, and have a vision for its future. Following the (extended) tenure of outgoing Sheriffs, Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli and Mr Christopher Hayward CC, who have done a superb job during an impossible time, it will be wonderful to see the impact both Alison and Nick are able to have over the coming year.

What the City’s trying to achieve 

The role of the Sheriffs is ultimately to support the Lord Mayor to market the City overseas, through a combination of creating an attractive and positive environment here, and making sure that the benefits of working here or with the City, are widely known.

In today’s market, there are some very clear indicators of what that means:

  • Showing the City to be safe and open for business

  • Showcasing the richness of the City’s historic, current and future access to the best financial and professional services available on the global stage

  • Addressing social issues and inequalities in the City, from mental health to job opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds

  • Demonstrating environment responsibility

With an estimated 7,500 jobs already leaving the City for Europe, our greater collective awareness and reverence for health and wellbeing, as well as the changing shape of the way we work and the impact of Covid-19 and ongoing lockdowns over the past 18 months, all provide challenges and opportunities to do better. Meeting those needs hinges on listening to, communicating with, and bringing people together to provide real, tangible and sustainable solutions to the concerns of both businesses and individuals, and marketing those solutions and their impact to the world.

While the election this year is a little quieter than usual due to the ongoing need for caution and Covid-secure measures, the significance of the moment remains no less promising, no less reassuring and no less important. The City of London has stood the test of time. It is thanks to its historic infrastructure that it is able to bend and flex and adapt to the needs of the day, with new individuals bringing new ideas, new vision and new energy year on year, whilst remaining grounded by strong foundations.

As we seek to ‘come back better’, we need strong, civic leadership. I have no doubt that Alison Gowman and Nick Lyons will do an excellent job, paving the way for a positive, productive future in the City of London. 

Image credit: Christoph Braun, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons