City Matters recently sat down with new Lord Mayor Vincent Keaveny to talk plans for 2022, making an impact, climate change and more.
How have you settled into your new role?
My feet have not touched the ground! It’s been fantastic.
I have a very supportive team around me as I begin my role. It has been very busy but I’m already getting stuck in.
It’s really nice to be doing the things that I have been talking about for the last two years. I had a little bit longer to prepare for the position than most because of the pandemic. In ordinary circumstances, I would’ve become mayor in November 2020, but that gave me a little bit longer to think about things. Now it’s time to get on with it and put my plans into fruition.
Have you started on any of these plans in your first weeks in office?
One of the things that I’m already working on is the socioeconomic diversity task force. This is to look at the progression of the financial services sector and those coming into the sector from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. We had a full meeting with the advisory body at Mansion House, which was incredibly positive and we have the support from the government too, which is great. It’s nice to get started on a project and see real progress only a few weeks into the role.
Can you talk us through some other plans you have for the next 12 months?
We have so much happening even in the next couple of months – it is so busy.
I have just come back from Northern Ireland, where I attended a meeting for the board of trade. The Secretary for International Trade invited me to sit on the board and advise the Secretary of State. Since then, I have published a fantastic report on digital trade which talks about my further plans over the next year. Travelling to Northern Ireland also gave me the opportunity to reconnect with some of the businesses and also the Lord Mayor of Belfast and the Lord Mayor of Derry.
All being well with travel restrictions, I am off to Spain and Portugal this week and have a full calendar of engagements in the run-up to Christmas.
Is our relationship with Europe something you would like to strengthen?
One interesting change since we left the EU is that you’ll now see the Lord Mayor engaging more directly with Europe. Our relationship with Europe has changed, but one of the things we as a nation will be doing much more actively is selling our financial services.
For the last 10 years, our relationship has been focussed on regulatory and policy level contacts. This will continue, and we’re still talking to the European regulators and focussing on those issues, but now we can get back to selling to Europe in a way we haven’t had to think about in a long time.
You’ll see that, during my time as Lord Mayor and certainly in the future, we will be leading trade delegations to Europe in the same way that we would for the US and India.
Do you think your career as a lawyer will be beneficial with trade negotiations?
From a personal perspective, it does help. Some of the things you do as a senior lawyer and partner in a law firm include running big transactions, managing teams and setting objectives. A lot of those skills are directly transferable to my role as Lord Mayor.
The Lord Mayor’s Show was a great success this year. How was it for you?
It was amazing – I did not stop smiling all day! I was worried that the turnout may be low because of the pandemic, and I know people are in different places when it comes to social distancing.
That said, we saw a fantastic crowd and the atmosphere was incredible. It was actually one of the biggest crowds that I can remember. There was a really positive feel on the streets. I know we had a couple of issues surrounding Extinction Rebellion, but the overall feeling was wonderful.
Talking of Extinction Rebellion, what are some of the things that you are hoping to do moving forward with making the City of London more environmentally friendly?
Some great work has already been done over the last several years regarding climate action. However, it is certainly something I feel very strongly about and I know that I need to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.
I’m particularly keen to talk about private finance and how we can engage this with the climate change agenda. At the end of the day, if we’re going to make any progress, it’s going to require money. We need private finance to invest, and turning it from a commitment is my next big challenge. The next year will be all about mobilisation and getting investments flowing.
Are you excited to make your own impact on the City of London as the Lord Mayor?
I hope that the task force for social mobility I have put in place will make a difference. I know that it won’t change the challenges overnight, but I hope that I will have helped put the framework in place to see an impact. In five years time, I would like to look back and say that the change started in 2022.
Similarly, I would like to see an impact on the skills agenda, which is my other focus. I would like the great work to continue. I want it to land as well as possible as we have a skills gap that needs to be addressed.
Finally, I want to put impact investment front and centre of the City’s offering over the next year.