As the nights draw in and winter officially takes hold, many of us find our thoughts drifting off to sunnier climes.
Saying this as I head to India for a few days may well sound like gloating, but in truth my visit is strictly business – in particular, UK-India business.
I’ll be speaking at an event in Mumbai, hosted by JP Morgan, to explore how Britain and India can build stronger business ties for the long-term good of both economies.
This has a particular resonance for Yorkshire, because the region could be in pole position to benefit as more Indian firms invest in and do business via the UK.
It’s impossible to ignore the deep historic ties between the UK and India. For centuries we have developed deep cultural, political and social bonds, as any cricket enthusiast will testify, but what we’ve seen over recent years is a growing economic bond between us.
A recent PwC report found that the UK is one of the biggest European investors in India, with UK companies responsible for nearly 40 per cent of European M&A deals there since 2006.
These links are growing and strengthening at an increasing pace, demonstrated by the recently created India-UK Financial Dialogue.
This partnership, announced by the City Minister, Andrea Leadsom MP, and led in the UK by the Chairman of TheCityUK, marks a commitment to deepening financial cooperation between the two countries and to the UK sharing its expertise to help India prosper from its growing economic success. So what is it that Britain can offer India? At the heart of the answer is our status as the leading international financial centre, a position driven not just by London, but also by regional powerhouses like Yorkshire.
Britain is a hugely attractive destination for Indian businesses. We are a business gateway to the world, with the right time zone, plus the universally adopted business language and legal environment second to none. Britain can also help Indian companies go global listing on the stock exchange and receiving the best professional and legal advice to internationalise their firms. The UK is also a place where investors can access capital for infrastructure development projects.
The UK’s unique blend of financial and related professional services expertise offers a one-stop-shop for Indian firms looking for a Western springboard. Yorkshire could benefit enormously from this as Indian firms set up UK hubs and call upon the services of financial and professional services firms.
Stronger ties with India will also mean increased levels of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the UK. Yorkshire needs to make sure it is at the front of that queue. In the UK, the financial and related professional services industry attracts more FDI than any other industry.
When you consider that Yorkshire boasts the UK’s second largest professional services centre, the Bank of England’s only base outside London in Leeds, it’s clear that it is in prime position to reap the economic benefits.
Likewise, the Indian market can be a real opportunity for financial and professional services firms based in Yorkshire. As the Indian economy continues to develop and urbanisation expands the middle classes, the demand for bank accounts and insurance will grow.
A parting thought: PwC and KPMG, major employers with great presence in Leeds, also have substantial operations in Mumbai. It’s a reminder that while Yorkshire and the subcontinent might seem like poles apart, in other ways they are much closer than we think.