Sandy Begbie: Pandemic has changed the financial services sector at an unparalleled pace

Sandy Begbie: Pandemic has changed the financial services sector at an unparalleled pace

Sandy Begbie

Sandy Begbie, CEO of Scottish Financial Enterprise, discusses the challenges faced by the financial services sector.

Over the last decade, the financial services sector has faced many challenges. From the reputational damage of the 2008 financial crisis through to adapting to a new post-Brexit trading environment, major macroeconomic and geopolitical events draw attention to the responsibility placed on the shoulders of those who handle finances.

While the world of finance is constantly evolving to respond to the challenges of the day, the onset of the pandemic has changed everything at an unparalleled pace.

The response from the financial services sector is a sign that it has learned much from the mistakes of the past. While our member firms accept that more can and must be done, the focus has been on putting customers, colleagues and communities first, which reflects a genuine impetus within the industry to be a force for good in times of crisis. Public discourse is now firmly focused on how we rebuild our economy and address the pressing climate emergency.

It is in this context that Scottish Financial Enterprise recently launched its new strategy for the financial and professional services sector in Scotland. The immediate task of both government and business is to facilitate and support sustainable economic recovery. The role of financial services is crucial.

Scotland’s financial services industry is robust and diverse, with household name life and pensions companies and asset managers, cutting edge fintechs, and some of the biggest names in global finance.

To capitalise fully on the strength of Scotland’sfinancialservicessectortoaidtherecovery, we have called on the Scottish Government to convene a dedicated quarterly cross-sector forum of key business groups, co-chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Economy, focused on developing clear public policy actions that can accelerate Scotland’s economic recovery.

In November this year, Scotland will be in the global spotlight as Glasgow hosts COP26. The summit provides a valuable opportunity for Scotland’s financial services industry to showcase its green credentials to the world.

We have put forward a range of proposals to ensure that financial services in Scotland inspires global leadership in green finance in the year of COP26, including a plan to establish Scotland as a global centre for green finance.

In order to maximise the potential opportunity of financial services in Scotland, the sector must attract the best people from all backgrounds. We have put forward proposals that will enable financial services firms to recruit, develop and retain diverse, high performing skills within the industry, including plans to promote upskilling and reskilling of the current talent base, and to improve diversity and inclusion through better engagement with education.

Toachievetheseobjectives, collaboration across the industry and with both governments is essential. We need to forge new partnerships that will enable us to tackle these issues with the drive and determination they require.

Whiledisagreementsbetweenscottishanduk governments are inevitable, I’ve been encouraged that this sentiment of collaboration has been echoed by both the Prime Minister and First Minister and in this spirit, was delighted that ministers representing both governments welcomed our strategy when it launched last month.

It is essential this sentiment of collaboration translates into action for the benefit of society.

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