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The new Lord Mayor of the City of London has said that the UK’s capital has focused too much on marketing itself as a financial services hub.
Michael Mainelli, an economist and former accountant, will take office on Friday as the figurehead of the City of London Corporation, the local government of the Square Mile.
“We have as many scientists, engineers and technicians as we have bankers and insurers in the City — and always have,” Mainelli said in an interview.
“We just let, in my opinion, the marketing go a little bit too far on the City of London as a finance centre. It is — but it’s also a science centre, it’s also a media centre,” he added.
Mainelli’s first public engagement after he formally takes office in a “silent ceremony” on Friday will be Saturday’s lord mayor’s show, an annual jamboree in which a miles-long procession of floats and bands snakes through the capital’s streets. At the show, the lord mayor rides in a ceremonial golden coach built in 1757.
His tenure will focus on a theme of “Connect to Prosper”, which will aim to bring together leaders from business, science and academia.
Among the initiatives he will champion is a project to create a market for “space debris removal bonds”, a financial product similar to those available for oil rigs, which guarantees that the cost of decommissioning will be met.
Mainelli said he would like to convince the G20 to require that such bonds be purchased as a precondition to space launches to tackle the problem of space junk.
Mainelli’s plan to put a spotlight on skills in areas such as science signals a change of emphasis from some of his predecessors, including the City’s outgoing leader Nicholas Lyons.
Lyons, chair of FTSE 100 pensions group Phoenix, was instrumental in driving talks over the past year that led to the Mansion House compact. Ten of the UK’s largest pension providers signed the deal, pledging to invest up to 5 per cent of the assets in their default funds into unlisted equities by 2030.
The deal, backed by the UK government, is intended to increase returns for pensioners and make more capital available to high-growth companies.
Mainelli said that in his year as lord mayor — a role that involves about 100 days of travel promoting London internationally — he would spend more time in Europe than his recent predecessors.
“We’re pivoting back to Europe . . . just saying to our European brethren ‘we’re here, we’re open, and no hard feelings’.
“We burnt a lot of bridges over the years, sometimes unwittingly or unknowingly, so it’s going to be easy to make up ground,” he said, adding that the shift was also related to his own background as the son of an Italian father and Irish mother. His wife is German.
US-born Mainelli also plans to travel to China, Japan, India and the US, where the corporation is preparing to open two new offices next month. The New York and Washington outposts are intended to help promote the UK and to influence policy discussions in the US, an initiative driven by the corporation’s policy chair Chris Hayward.
Mainelli is a co-founder of Z/Yen, a think-tank and consultancy focusing on finance and technology. He also worked at accountancy BDO and as a civil servant at a ministry of defence agency.
As Lord Mayor — an unpaid role — Mainelli will live in the Mansion House, close to the Bank of England. He was elected as the 695th holder of the position by the City of London Corporation’s Court of Aldermen — a group of Square Mile grandees. He was one of the corporation’s two sheriffs from 2019 to 2021.