Remarketing The City of London: doing what we do best and marketing it to the world

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If we think of the City of London as a business which we are marketing to the world, we need to rebuild trust and show how we are making the City safe.

Over the past 12 months there has been a lot of speculation as to what the world, and in particular the City of London, will look like post lockdown. We have marvelled at the power of Zoom, acknowledged that working from home does have a role to play and thanked our lucky stars for digitisation. However, now that the vaccine is allowing us to look forward more realistically, it’s imperative that those of us in the City get serious not just with the jobs at hand, but also with the great common responsibility for promoting who we are and what we do around the world.

Invariably, 542,000 people work in the City of London. Yet it has only 3,500 parking spaces and 9,000 residents. It is a commuter centre, it’s a financial services centre, it’s full of talent and collectively we are serious and experienced market makers. Around the world, people both look to us and come to us because of our expertise. Now is the time to remind them of that, to show that we’re open for business, to remarket our skills and attributes and to do so whilst highlighting how and why individuals can feel safe and supported here in a post Covid world. 

The core and then more

The core of what we do remains the same. The City of London is the world’s most international and connected financial centre, providing unrivalled access to global markets. It has a diverse pool of professionals, is home to more bank head offices than anywhere else and is home to the European headquarters of 40% of the world’s top companies - amongst other things.

Those attributes, and more, remain valid, important and evolving - because we have the talent to ensure that’s the case. First and foremost, we need to ensure that core messaging is strong - that we identify, highlight and continue to market the things that we are already doing well. Then we need to look at the ‘more’. In this climate, central to that is showing how we are creating an environment in which business can be conducted safely.

So often you will hear marketers referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as a pyramid. At the core, is safety and security. This encompasses a number of things, including order, predictability and control in our lives, and they are filled by a combination of family, society and work. Clearly, in this environment, health and wellbeing, as well as job security, ranks front and centre of that need. Recently this has experienced a deep threat and we need to show that we are doing things to mitigate that - and there is much to talk about.

For example, the City Corporation launched a COVID Compliant Accreditation Scheme, which offers businesses in the food, hospitality, retail, leisure and close-contact services sectors a free verification assessment from our Environmental Health Officers. It has also launched a five-year Recovery Plan covering urgent, mid and long-term objectives to ensure people feel safe and able to return to the City as well as to support its social and economic recovery. 

The task force responsible said its goal is to: “ensure the Square Mile is the world’s most innovative, inclusive and sustainable business ecosystem, an attractive place to invest, work, live and visit”.

They aim to do that by addressing the needs of today as well as “invest[ing] in the infrastructure of tomorrow”.

Being mindful about unresolved issues

While we do all we can to be Covid-secure, economically successful and sustainable (in a variety of respects), we also have to be as open and mindful as we can about the things that are currently unresolved and/or evolving. 

The topic of transparency has come up before and it is a difficult one to get right for businesses, business leaders and civil servants. However, with so much information available, not to be explicit about the things that we don’t yet know is a recipe for trouble. One such area is going to be in the challenges of navigating personal choice around vaccination. The dust has not yet settled on the topic of vaccine passports for example, and if someone chooses to opt out of the vaccine but wants to come back to the office, how can their decision and rights be respected at the same time as honouring the legal duty of care we owe to other employees? What does that reality look like? 

Turning ‘Why would I?’ Into ‘Why wouldn’t I?’

The bottom line on all of this is that if we think of the City of London as a business which we are marketing to the world, we need to make sure we rebuild trust. Trust in the safety of the way the City operates, trust in the commercial infrastructure, trust in the bodies and individuals who safeguard our wellbeing and critically trust in our future relevance to the global economy.

That rebuilding of trust came out of the financial crisis and can only happen through a combination of belief based on evidence. That means that Covid secure measures, environmentally sustainable measures - all these things need to be taken seriously by all involved and not simply have lip service paid to them in some chest beating display of virtue signalling

As a management principle, I have always advocated for a policy of removing the reasons for people to object. If we want to be a centre for green finance then we need to remove the excuses to ignore this and make it easier for people to understand and access (something that the Livery Climate Action Strategy is working towards). The same goes for creating work spaces that are safe, ensuring workplace equality, education standards and more. If we want the best talent and world leading companies to stay here then the question they need to be able to unequivocally answer for themselves isn’t ‘Why would I?’, but ‘Why wouldn’t I?’. 

The City of London has an abundance of reasons for people to want to be here - we need to show the world why it’s going to stay that way.