London's new lord mayor seeking more China deals

By Cecily Liu in London | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-28 07:57

The City of London's new lord mayor will push for the United Kingdom's main financial district to do more business with China.

Charles Bowman, who became the 690th lord mayor of the City of London on Nov 10, said he would like to leave two "China legacies" during his year in office.

"I'm really keen to grow financial and professional services engagement between China and the UK, and promote London as a natural western hub for the Belt and Road Initiative," Bowman said.

His call follows China's decision to provide foreign financial companies with unprecedented access to its markets.

The lord mayor of London represents the capital's financial district and is also leader of the City of London Corporation. The role differs from the much more powerful mayor of London, who is elected and oversees the whole of Greater London.

Bowman has already felt China's strong presence in the financial district. Three elaborate floats staged by Chinese groups took part in the Lord Mayor's Show on Nov 11 to celebrate the start of his year in office.

And, two days later, Prime Minister Theresa May said during the Lord Mayor's Banquet that she was committed to "maintaining the 'golden era' relationship with China".

The "golden era" was a phrase coined during President Xi Jinping's 2015 state visit to the UK. It describes the fresh impetus for bilateral investment and trade. So far, $18 billion of Chinese investment has gone into non-financial sectors in the UK, which is more than China has invested in any other European country.

Further growth is imminent, especially because many UK banks and asset managers are now making plans to invest in China, in light of announcements by the Chinese government on Nov 10 stating that the country is allowing foreign financial companies to own up to a 51 percent majority stake in financial joint ventures.

Bowman said other areas of tremendous opportunity for UK companies include London's continued growth as an offshore renminbi hub and the growing number of Chinese financial institutions establishing subsidiaries in the City of London.

He traveled to China three times prior to taking up his role as lord mayor. He supported former Lord Mayor Jeffrey Mountevans' visit to Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Hong Kong last year, and attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in May, and the China Wealth Forum in June.

"I came back inspired," Bowman said, recalling Xi's talk about his vision for the Belt and Road Initiative.

"I recognized all that we in the UK can do to support that vision," he said, adding that he hopes the City's whole spectrum of financial businesses can get involved-including law, finance, engineering consulting, accounting, project management and more.

Bowman, who has built a successful career as a partner at the accounting firm PwC, has witnessed London's financial center change throughout the decades. He said one major change was the fast expansion of Chinese institutions and the emergence of Chinese talents, both playing an important role in the Square Mile's diversity and international engagement.

The City of London now hosts around 30 Chinese companies, including banks, security firms, insurance companies and investment funds. The Bank of China's UK chief executive, Sun Yu, is chairman of the Association of Foreign Banks, which demonstrates the significant role Chinese financial companies play in London, Bowman added.

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