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Parties scrapped and bells toll as UK finance sector pays respect

·4-min read
Britain mourns Queen Elizabeth

By Sinead Cruise, Carolyn Cohn and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's financial industry is dialling down activities in the run-up to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth next Monday, cancelling events and paring business, as a nation in mourning prepares to bid farewell to Britain's longest-serving monarch.

Post-summer parties have been scrapped, and policy announcements and meetings have been postponed following the death of the 96-year old head of state on Thursday at her summer residence of Balmoral, in the Scottish Highlands.

The Bank of England set the tone swiftly after the queen's death on Sept. 8, delaying a Sept. 15 meeting of its Monetary Policy Committee, and an expected hike in Britain's base interest rate as part of efforts to arrest runaway inflation.

Speeches by BoE officials, such as from co-insurance chief Anna Sweeney to the Association of British Insurers on Tuesday, have been postponed.

The Financial Conduct Authority's annual meeting, due on Thursday, has also been postponed, along with planned policy announcements for this week.

"Following the announcement of the death of Her Majesty the Queen on 8 September, the FCA, like other public bodies, is now observing a period of mourning," the watchdog said.

"During the period of mourning we will only be publishing updates which are business critical."

Scores of the City's top executives, industry associations and the London Stock Exchange have flocked to social media to express their condolences and to pay tribute to the queen's unprecedented 70-year reign.

HSBC's Chief Executive Noel Quinn signed a book of condolence at the British High Commission in New Delhi, a post on professional networking site LinkedIn showed.

Charlie Nunn, CEO at Lloyds Banking Group, recalled a meeting last October with King Charles III on the same platform, describing the new monarch's "passion and knowledge" and "deep sense of duty" as qualities that would "serve him and our nation well" in his new role.

The UK divisions of European banks have also marked the event. Tiina Lee, UK CEO of Germany's Deutsche Bank, said the late queen was a "a potent symbol of duty and constancy in an ever-changing world". Staff across Britain's financial sector are expected to observe a national holiday, known as a 'bank holiday' in Britain, on Sept. 19, when the queen's funeral is scheduled to take place in London's Westminster Abbey.

London's Stock Exchange will be shut on this day, as will the city's historic insurance market, Lloyd's of London.

Lloyd's held two minutes' silence and rang its so-called Lutine bell on its underwriting floor to mark the queen's death on Thursday evening. The bell was traditionally rung once when a ship was lost at sea.

Lloyd's may also ring the bell twice to welcome King Charles III later this week, a spokesperson said.

The market's chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown and Chief Executive John Neal have also cancelled their attendance at the reinsurance industry's regular conference in Monte Carlo, which began on Sept 10.

Private bank Coutts - which has long counted the royal family as clients and was known as "the Queen's bank" - said it had taken down the Coutts flag that flew above its headquarters on London's Strand near Trafalgar Square as a mark of respect.

A Union Jack flag is instead flying above the building at half-mast, and a book of condolence will be set up inside for clients and staff to write messages, the bank said on its website.

Alison Rose, chief executive of Coutts' parent company NatWest, shared her condolences in a post on LinkedIn, adding that she had been personally inspired by King Charles' "genuine passion for the environment".

British lender Barclays proceeded with its three-day annual financial conference in New York on Monday, with executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citi and Bank of America scheduled to attend.

Addressing delegates, Barclays CEO C.S. Venkatakrishnan, said the bank had noted the queen's passing "with sorrow".

"For somebody to take that leadership position at age 25 and do a great job for 70 years - as anyone who follows leadership knows how difficult it is."

The UK arm of Spain's largest bank, Banco Santander has decided to cancel a drinks reception for members of the media on Tuesday, as a mark of respect. Wealth management firm Evelyn Partners also said it was postponing a similar event it was due to host on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Huw Jones and Iain Withers, and Saeed Azhar in New York, editing by Jonathan Oatis)