The rise of foreign owned City businesses in the UK

Five questions answered.

A new report has revealed that the UK has a large percentage of foreign owned City businesses, indicating that the UK is viewed as a viable investment by overseas firms. We answer five questions on foreign investment in the UK.

What is the current per cent of foreign-owned financial services businesses in the UK?

According to a new report published by MAS, an independent M&A adviser, which was produced in conjunction with UK Trade & Investment, the government’s export agency, 46 per cent of UK financial services companies worth more than £100m are overseas owned.

In 2011 and 2012 the most active acquirers of UK financial services firms were overseas-owned businesses. Eighty per cent of those already had existing UK operations at the time of investing, which suggests they are committed to investing in Britain for the long-term.

Which foreign country is the biggest investor?

America. Over 47 per cent of all foreign investments in the UK are from the US, companies from which see the UK as a spring board into the rest of Europe.

What do these figures say about how overseas businesses view the UK financial market place?

The report says that these figures suggest that the UK financial market is viewed as an attractive market for companies looking to expand their business operations. It is thought this is because the UK is well placed to take advantage of emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, all of whom increased their investment in the UK by 29pc in the last year.

What do the experts says?

Olly Laughton-Scott, founding partner of IMAS, told The Telegraph: “The report reflects how extraordinarily open UK business is to overseas investment. America, with its huge financial services economy, is using the UK as its springboard into Europe. As America expands its interests, it will place more emphasis on the UK.”

He added: “As Asia becomes truly globalised, this will play to London’s strengths; they will come to Britain. China [investment] has grown the most rapidly over the last year and as financial services becomes increasingly globalised, we will see the largest proportion of that investment come to the UK.”

How is the financial services market doing in general?

According to the UK trade minister, Lord Green, who spoke to The Telegraph, the UK remains the number one destination for financial services investment in Europe.

The IMAS also offered a positive outlook by saying that retrenchment that has taken place since the credit crisis seems over and the sharp drop in the number of authorised financial services that occurred in 2008 is slowing considerably. However, some quality people are said to have left the industry due to a new rule change that requires independent advisers to register with the Financial Services Authority.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

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The Tories are the zombie party: with an ageing, falling membership, still they stagger on to victory

One Labour MP in Brighton spotted a baby in a red Babygro and said to me: “There’s our next [Labour] prime minister.”

All football clubs have “ultras” – and, increasingly, political parties do, too: although, in the case of political parties, their loudest and angriest supporters are mostly found on the internet. The SNP got there first: in the early days of email, journalists at the Scotsman used to receive bilious missives complaining about its coverage – or, on occasion, lack of coverage – of what the Scottish National Party was up to. The rest soon followed, with Ukip, the Labour Party and even the crushed Liberal Democrats now boasting a furious electronic horde.

The exception is the Conservative Party. Britain’s table-topping team might have its first majority in 18 years and is widely expected in Westminster to remain in power for another decade. But it doesn’t have any fans. The party’s conference in Manchester, like Labour’s in Brighton, will be full to bursting. But where the Labour shindig is chock-full of members, trade unionists and hangers-on from the charitable sector, the Conservative gathering is a more corporate affair: at the fringes I attended last year, lobbyists outnumbered members by four to one. At one, the journalist Peter Oborne demanded to know how many people in the room were party members. It was standing room only – but just four people put their hands up.

During Grant Shapps’s stint at Conservative headquarters, serious attempts were made to revive membership. Shapps, a figure who is underrated because of his online blunders, and his co-chair Andrew Feldman were able to reverse some of the decline, but they were running just to stand still. Some of the biggest increases in membership came in urban centres where the Tories are not in contention to win a seat.

All this made the 2015 election win the triumph of a husk. A party with a membership in long-term and perhaps irreversible decline, which in many seats had no activists at all, delivered crushing defeats to its opponents across England and Wales.

Like José Mourinho’s sides, which, he once boasted, won “without the ball”, the Conservatives won without members. In Cumbria the party had no ground campaign and two paper candidates. But letters written by the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, were posted to every household where someone was employed making Trident submarines, warning that their jobs would be under threat under a Labour government. This helped the Tories come close to taking out both Labour MPs, John Woodcock in Barrow and Furness and Jamie Reed in Copeland. It was no small feat: Labour has held Barrow since 1992 and has won Copeland at every election it has fought.

The Tories have become the zombies of British politics: still moving though dead from the neck down. And not only moving, but thriving. One Labour MP in Brighton spotted a baby in a red Babygro and said to me: “There’s our next [Labour] prime minister.” His Conservative counterparts also believe that their rivals are out of power for at least a decade.

Yet there are more threats to the zombie Tories than commonly believed. The European referendum will cause endless trouble for their whips over the coming years. And for all there’s a spring in the Conservative step at the moment, the party has a majority of only 12 in the Commons. Parliamentary defeats could easily become commonplace. But now that Labour has elected Jeremy Corbyn – either a more consensual or a more chaotic leader than his predecessors, depending on your perspective – division within parties will become a feature, rather than a quirk, at Westminster. There will be “splits” aplenty on both sides of the House.

The bigger threat to Tory hegemony is the spending cuts to come, and the still vulnerable state of the British economy. In the last parliament, George Osborne’s cuts fell predominantly on the poorest and those working in the public sector. They were accompanied by an extravagant outlay to affluent retirees. As my colleague Helen Lewis wrote last week, over the next five years, cuts will fall on the sharp-elbowed middle classes, not just the vulnerable. Reductions in tax credits, so popular among voters in the abstract, may prove just as toxic as the poll tax and the abolition of the 10p bottom income-tax rate – both of which were popular until they were actually implemented.

Added to that, the British economy has what the economist Stephen King calls “the Titanic problem”: a surplus of icebergs, a deficit of lifeboats. Many of the levers used by Gordon Brown and Mervyn King in the last recession are not available to David Cameron and the chief of the Bank of England, Mark Carney: debt-funded fiscal stimulus is off the table because the public finances are already in the red. Interest rates are already at rock bottom.

Yet against that grim backdrop, the Conservatives retain the two trump cards that allowed them to win in May: questions about Labour’s economic competence, and the personal allure of David Cameron. The public is still convinced that the cuts are the result of “the mess” left by Labour, however unfair that charge may be. If a second crisis strikes, it could still be the Tories who feel the benefit, if they can convince voters that the poor state of the finances is still the result of New Labour excess rather than Cameroon failure.

As for Cameron, in 2015 it was his lead over Ed Miliband as Britons’ preferred prime minister that helped the Conservatives over the line. This time, it is his withdrawal from politics which could hand the Tories a victory even if the economy tanks or cuts become widely unpopular. He could absorb the hatred for the failures and the U-turns, and then hand over to a fresher face. Nicky Morgan or a Sajid Javid, say, could yet repeat John Major’s trick in 1992, breathing life into a seemingly doomed Conservative project. For Labour, the Tory zombie remains frustratingly lively. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.

This article first appeared in the 01 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tide