The Lord Mayor of London, William Russell, concluded a two-day virtual visit to India on Tuesday, the focus of which was on sustainable finance, fintech and gender diversity. As the global ambassador for the UK's financial and professional services industry, the Lord Mayor held a series of dialogues to build on recent commitments made between Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the 10th Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) around developing a pathway towards sustainable capital flow between the countries.
There is this sea-change going on with the India-UK relationship and the EFD confirmed that, said Russell. We have the expertise here in London to help the fintech scene in India. We are headed in the right direction, we are here to work and collaborate with India, he said.
Among his many virtual engagements was a trip to Gujarat International Finance Tec City (GIFT City) in Gujarat, which he described as incredibly impressive. The connections with the London Stock Exchange will only be further enhanced. The London Stock Exchange can help structure more green infrastructure bonds to invest in the sustainable infrastructure within India, he said.
During the visit, the key representative for the City of London Corporation the governing body of the Square Mile of the financial hub of the UK capital also announced the India cohort winners of the UK-India Fintech Awards. The winning companies, which include the likes of CreditEnable, Skyline Partners, Amartha and Yuva Pay, are in line to receive expert assistance, mentorship and support about scaling-up in and working with the UK. In London, we are getting more and more cashless. That whole payments processing area is just getting more dynamic. This is a great opportunity to get more people with their smartphones involved in the payment process and cashless society. There is so much more that we can add to that, said Russell, in reference to one of the key areas for the bilateral talks in the realm of knowledge sharing in the sphere of payment technologies.
Another focus of the visit was on gender diverse workplaces in financial spaces, along with senior leaders in India from HSBC, NatWest, IndiaFirst Life Insurance and Zest Money. It is something we feel very strongly about here in the City of London, particularly around financial services, he said.
All the facts are there around gender diversity and inclusion companies are better off with good gender diversity and inclusion. And, that is something that we have been pushing, he said. In reference to the fast-approaching end to the Brexit transition period at the end of this year and the ongoing trade negotiations between the UK and the European Union (EU) yet to clinch a new post-Brexit agreement, the Lord Mayor noted: Fingers-crossed, we get a deal. In the City, we have always said that we want a deal. That hasn't changed.
With the transition period coming to an end, trade is a critical part of the next 12-18 months for the UK. We are leaving the EU and we are going to be out there promoting Global Britain. It's an exciting time for us. The UK is the largest net exporter of financial services in the world, with the industry being the biggest contributor towards its trade surplus in services. With the virtual India visit coinciding with the announcement of the very promising results from the University of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine, Russell said there is a clear sense of optimism all around. Hopefully we can make enough and share it around the world because this is a global pandemic and a time to work closely together, he said.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 has focussed our minds, particularly around digitisation it's all happened in nine months rather than over the next two or three years. And, that has worked to our advantage with our relationship with India, he added.