A joint report from lobby group TheCityUK, EY, and the City of London Corporation today urged the government to introduce short-term visas for business people so they can come to London to help the City innovate.
“To stay competitive, we must have the best global talent,” said Miles Celic, head of TheCityUK. “Without it, we will not be able to innovate in key growth areas like FinTech or green finance, nor build out our international trading networks.”
A survey of City of London firms found many are struggling to attract talent from overseas and are facing high costs when they can lure workers. New paperwork required by the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system means applicants who can be lured to the City cost more to bring over.
“It is crucial that the UK’s new immigration framework is truly innovative and flexible, and crucially, that it allows firms to compete for international talent,” said EY’s Seema Farazi, who worked on the report.
Immigration is a hot topic in the City given the international nature of the finance workforce. The report found that around 1 in 5 UK finance workers are from outside the country and 42% of fintech workers are foreign born.
“The UK’s ability to access deep pools of highly skilled and talented workers is at the heart of its competitive advantage,” said Catherine McGuinnes, City of London’s policy chief. “To preserve this position in financial and professional services, we should continue to welcome highly skilled immigration while at the same time supporting the domestic talent pipeline.”
Claire Tunley, CEO of the Financial Services Skills Commission, said: “Access to talent is vital for the UK to remain one of the most attractive financial centres in the world.”
The call comes as the government’s once iron-willed resistance to short-term visas wilts in the face of supply chain issues and staffing shortfalls. Officials have this week announced plans for 10,500 short-term visas for truck drivers and food industry workers after shortages led to a run on petrol stations and warnings of shortages in the run up to Christmas.
While visas could help to ease some of the issues in the financial sector, barrier remain. The report said London’s reputation as “a top destination for international talent has diminished in the last four years”. Overseas job applicants are demanding higher pay to compensate. That is unlikely to ease under any immigration system.