"I'd love to see the Future Growth Fund established within 12 months", says Lord Mayor of London during Yorkshire visit

A multi-billion-pound fund to channel British pension investment into unlisted start-ups could be up and running within 12 months, according to the Lord Mayor of London.

Veteran banker Nicholas Lyons said he was ‘very confident’ his ‘Future Growth Fund’ idea, which would draw up to £50bn from defined contribution pension pots to invest in fast-growing technology and biotech firms, would go ahead, despite criticism. He added that he would like to see it up and running within a year.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post during a three-day visit to Leeds and Sheffield, he said: "I would love to see the Future Growth Fund established within 12 months. That doesn’t mean we’re going to have £50bn in 12 months. We’re on a journey to £50bn by 2030.”

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He added: “In the first couple of years we’re probably not going to be investing more than a couple of billion pounds in the Future Growth Fund, but by 2030 I think we will be investing £7bn-£10bn a year, primarily in UK businesses, but also in other international businesses, because we want to make sure that we’re delivering the best possible returns in this asset class for pension savings.”

Nicholas Lyons, the Lord Mayor of London.Nicholas Lyons, the Lord Mayor of London.
Nicholas Lyons, the Lord Mayor of London.

Earlier this month, nine of the UK’s largest defined contribution pension providers voluntarily pledged to allocate five per cent of assets in their default funds to unlisted equities by 2030, as part of the new Mansion House Compact.

Some City fund management firms have criticised the idea that they could be forced to put investments into riskier assets.

However, Mr Lyons insisted that was not the case. “We’ve always said no,” he said. “This has got to be voluntary. But the fact of it is that we’ve got 65 per cent of the pension market saying they’re going to allocate five per cent of funds. There are lots of other pension companies that are saying to us ‘we’d like to be signatories as well’.”

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He added: "The idea of the Future Growth Fund is that it gives you the scale and the risk diversification and we have to make sure it’s also got the very best expertise so I think it’ll be very non-controversial."

In his role as ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services industry, Mr Lyons spent three days in Yorkshire, discussing its growing financial services industry.

Speaking at the start of his second day in Leeds, he said: “Leeds is a really important centre for financial and professional services. You’ve got the Bank of England, the FCA and UK Infrastructure Bank. The Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology also chose to launch here.”

He added: “The transition that we’re seeing is that a lot of financial institutions with their headquarters in London had regional offices with mid-office and back office roles. Leeds is now getting front office roles, which is really important because it creates high quality jobs.”

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Mr Lyons met Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan and Eve Roodhouse, the council’s chief officer for culture and economy, at Leeds University’s Nexus innovation centre, which brings together start-ups and the academic community.

He said the city’s plans for an Innovation Arc, which aims to bring together some of the city's most significant innovation assets, was “exactly the sort of thing we want to see”.

He added: “The Mansion House Compact really goes to the heart of a lot of the things that a city like Leeds is wanting to accomplish over the next 10 to 20 years.”