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Last updated: 16 Oct 2023 09:00 Posted in: AIA

As a member of TheCityUK, it was a pleasure for AIA to interview Miles Celic to discuss how TheCityUK supports the UK financial sector and attempts to drive growth in challenging economic times, as well as post-Brexit competitiveness and sustainable digital finance.

Can you tell our readers what inspired you to join TheCityUK in 2016? And the journey you took to achieving your goal?

The interplay between business, government and regulators is one I have always found fascinating – getting it right is absolutely critical to national and commercial success. In my previous role, I was actively engaged in TheCityUK’s work as a member. I could see the enormous value it added and significant opportunities to shape policy to benefit the industry and customers. It was a relatively new organisation then, but already well‑regarded and respected by firms, officials and policymakers. It attracts talented and committed people and I was excited to work with them, steering the organisation to deliver key outcomes for members and the wider industry.

How does TheCityUK’s mission support and enhance the UK’s world leading financial/ accounting sector?

TheCityUK is unique in bringing together all parts of the financial and related professional services ecosystem across the whole of the UK under a private sector-led umbrella – from accountants, lawyers and consultants to all parts of financial services. Our purpose is to champion and support the success of that ecosystem, focusing on influencing policy that makes the UK and all the industry’s component parts attractive and competitive. The accounting sector is a critical part of the ecosystem. We convene the most senior representatives from across the sector and the wider industry with senior policymakers and stakeholders to discuss mutually critical issues, share insights and influence policymaking.

Is the City maintaining its competitiveness after Brexit, with increased regulation and innovation by new players?

While London is the UK’s largest financial centre, two-thirds of the industry is based outside London, with thriving hubs across the country’s regions and nations. It is truly a national success story and while Brexit inevitably brought unique challenges, the industry has adapted and continued to thrive, employing nearly 2.5 million people – which is approximately one in every 13 jobs.

Among other things, Brexit brought about a raft of new power for the regulators. The Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 is one of the most important pieces of financial services legislation in recent decades and TheCityUK was actively engaged during its passage through parliament. It sets out clear operating parameters for the regulators, with a new secondary objective for growth and competitiveness and a priority for greater regulatory accountability, transparency and scrutiny, with appropriate measures to track this over time.

The government’s reform agenda is also addressing key aspects of the UK’s long-term competitiveness as an international financial centre. Its implementation will be critical to bolstering the continued attractiveness of the UK as a place to work and develop a career, invest and do business.

And while complacency is never an option, especially given the rapid rise of international financial centres in the East, a recent EY Attractiveness report highlighted that the UK retained its position as Europe’s most attractive destination for financial services investment in 2022, with London continuing to be seen as Europe’s most attractive destination for financial services and foreign direct investment.

How is TheCityUK working with the accountancy sector to drive growth in these challenging times?

The accountancy sector is a unique part of the UK’s unique financial and related professional services ecosystem. Like any other competitive sector, it’s constantly evolving and adapting to remain attractive and competitive, while not losing sight of its longstanding foundations of success. We were well engaged with members on the government’s audit reform proposals, advocating for the UK’s audit and corporate governance regimes to be globally attractive, enhance the UK’s competitiveness and help to stimulate both domestic and foreign direct investment. Equally, government and regulators need to ensure that they strike the right balance.

We have a network of Regional and National Chairs based across the UK in the key financial and related professional services hubs, including in the East Midlands, North East and North West, which are all regions with longstanding reputations and significant centres of excellence for accountancy. They drive our work to champion the industry across the regions and nations, underlining the contribution and enabling role that the industry and its component sectors makes to local economies, as well as its role in driving growth.

Sustainable digital finance is a key focus area for TheCityUK. Can you explain this concept in more detail and outline how you are currently working to promote green finance?

Sustainable digital finance encompasses the blending of technology and environmental, social and governance (ESG) within the financial sector. From artificial intelligence to distributed ledger technology and the internet of things, technology offers unprecedented avenues to drive ESG and sustainability goals. However, the journey toward this synergy needs coordinated action and thoughtful policymaking.

Our recent report on sustainable digital finance, in partnership with Clifford Chance, highlights the need to harmonise these areas and offers a strategic roadmap for policymakers to ensure that the UK not only sustains its leadership in sustainable digital finance, but also aligns with international commitments.

Our recommendations include advocating for an integrated approach to embed ESG considerations into FinTech regulatory initiatives, striking a balance between robust ESG standards and innovation, and championing international alignment while tailoring standards to UK-specific requirements. Flexible regulation is essential to enable swift responses to emerging FinTech developments that drive sustainable finance. We should also be at the forefront of developing and adopting the latest technologies possible to help us advance our sustainable finance agenda and ensure the UK is globally competitive into the future.

Our industry has an absolutely central role to play in the transition to net zero. We’re actively engaged in discussions around the evolution of the UK’s regulatory, legal and tax frameworks in our pursuit of sustainable finance. Our bilateral and global market dialogues seek to further green and sustainable finance and also include the broader spectrum of ESG considerations.

What is next for Miles Celic and TheCityUK?

For me personally, I’ve reached an age where I’ve had to finally accept that the call from the Manchester United scouting department is now rather unlikely. For TheCityUK, it has to continue to make the case for the UK financial and related professional services industry as a major national asset – and one that, properly enabled, can drive growth, innovation and prosperity across the UK. I’m really excited about the changes we’re seeing in the industry, whether that’s through technology, fresh talent or new markets, to pick just three.

There’s uncertainty, of course, whether that’s political, regulatory, international or any other factor. But that’s always there in some form and the mark of a successful industry is how it navigates those and adapts to them.

TheCityUK will continue to be an enthusiastic and committed advocate for our remarkable ecosystem and I look forward to playing my part in that.

Finally, what would be one piece of advice you would give to any aspiring accountants out there?

There are so many routes to accounting as a career and the work that our accounting members take forward in that area is diverse, important and genuinely exciting. Embrace all opportunities that come your way, ask a lot of questions and learn from those around you. Be curious and interested in new ways of working, in innovations and in the emerging technologies, but also remember the necessity for transparency, accuracy and accountability. And make sure to always find enjoyment in what you do!


Author biography

Miles Celic is Chief Executive Officer of TheCityUK, a position he has held since 2016. He is also a member of the Department for Business and Trade Advisory Groups on Financial Services and Professional Advisory Services, a board member of UK Finance and the Financial Services Skills Commission.

"The interplay between business, government and regulators is one I have always found fascinating – getting it right is absolutely critical to national and commercial success."

Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer at TheCityUK