London: London has changed a lot in the 43 years from when Lord Jeffrey Mountevans first began working in the City until his election as Lord Mayor of the Corporation of the City of London in November. He is also director of gas chartering at Clarkson PLC and a member of the Baltic Exchange.
“I think I’ve been very privileged in that time because really I feel I’ve had a ringside seat on the growth of globalisation during that time and that’s been an immensely exciting time for foreign trade – and actually it’s also been a very exciting time for shipping,” he tells Maritime CEO in one of his first interviews with the shipping press.
“There has been tremendous growth in the banking sector, the insurance sector, in fund management, in legal. The growth has been absolutely phenomenal in my career, so that London has become the world’s leading international financial and professional businesses centre.
“My job is to promote and act as an ambassador for London and the UK’s financial and professional business services, of which of course maritime is an important part for me, but it’s part of a bigger picture.”
Although his remit as Lord Mayor is to represent the City’s offering as a base for international business, Lord Mountevans says he intends to represent the UK’s shipping industry however he’s able. Over the 12 months, he will be visiting Shanghai, Hong Kong, India, Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul and Busan and other places in order to spread the word, accompanied by different business delegations.
“Where I can, I will be looking to give a ‘leg up’ to maritime, but I think the width of the offer is unique here, particularly in professional business services and in the appropriate places I will be seeking to meet with local leaders, relevant parties, to promote what we have to offer here,” he says.
The rise and rise of Singapore as a global maritime and trading hub can only serve to make the City of London stronger and more competitive, Lord Mountevans says.
“I think there are a lot of areas where we cooperate with Singapore and other financial centres, but competition is part of life nowadays – and it’s a good thing. It results in the constant raising of the game,” he continues.
“On the maritime side, you may recall that I’ve just chaired the Maritime Growth Study, which has attempted, in my recommendations, to set out a blueprint for a competitive and growing maritime sector in this country – with skills really at the heart of it. Industry and government are currently looking at responses to my report, which I look forward very much to seeing in due course, but I must tell you I’m very upbeat.”
Nevertheless, there is still work to be done, Lord Mountevans notes: “Part of the challenge, for us, is to be more joined up – because we have very healthy individual sectors, particularly in the professional business services. Probably we need to market better, to coordinate better, and those are some of the things that my report seeks to address.”
The Lord Mayor also has a role in promoting the maritime industry closer to home, particularly through the Maritime Growth Study, which was published in September.
“We don’t lack for entrepreneurs in so many sectors – but they haven’t been attracted to shipping. I think partly that is because there is a lack of awareness of maritime – because people travel now so much by air rather than by sea, and the fast pace of life, people (and a lot of our countrymen) are not aware of the sheer scope and scale of the international maritime industry– it’s something which actually I am seeking to address and I think a lot of us in the maritime sector are very keen to address.”
The UK’s maritime industry could go a lot further in promoting British shipowning and entrepreneurship, the Mayor continues – and now might just be a good time to do so.
“There are lots of people out in the world who are successful at shipowning, we need to draw the potential there to the attention of our countrymen,” Lord Mountevans explains. “This is a time when a lot of the shipping markets are actually having quite a hard time of it, so I think that that’s not necessarily the worst time to start. If you can find the right niche and buy when times are bad, in time the market will in due course recover. I would very much like to see the owning side expanded, and it’s something we’ll all be working towards.”
Of London, the Lord Mayor sums up: “We do feel we have such a breadth of offer here on the maritime side that we feel very positive, I think, looking forward.”