President October 2018

Flying high

UK–Japan collaboration going from strength to strength

Twenty-five years ago, a British Airways 747 flew me direct from London Heathrow to Osaka on my first visit to Japan. Back then, destination Osaka meant arrival at Itami International Airport—still a favourite today for domestic travellers to Japan’s second-largest city.

Although the route was discontinued a few years later, British Airways has now delighted inter­national travellers with plans to resurrect the route (page 11). Flying four times weekly to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, a new Dreamliner service will commence on 31 March 2019. Perfect timing for UK-based fans travelling to the Rugby World Cup 2019, and for those keen to see why the Economist Intelligence Unit now ranks Osaka as the world’s third-most liveable city.

Endeavour and achievement

It’s a cliché that time flies, but all the same hard to believe that when this edition of BCCJ ACUMEN reaches readers, we will be just days from the 2018 British Business Awards. This is the premier event in the calendar of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan, celebrating the best examples of endeavour and achievement in UK–Japan business.

One of the most important sectors of strength from a UK perspective is of course financial services. It is interesting, therefore, to reflect on the findings of the most recent edition of Z/Yen’s respected Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), which evaluates and ranks the competitiveness of the world’s major financial centres. Published last month, the 24th edition shows both London and Tokyo slipping one place overall to second and sixth, respectively.

Of the five financial sectors analysed, London remains number one in banking, insurance, as well as govern­ment and regulatory; second in professional services; and third in invest­ment manage­ment. Tokyo was fifth across all sectors. In terms of competitiveness, London is first for business environment, and second for human capital, financial sector development and reputation.

That said, the GFCI highlights Brexit as a continued source of uncertainty, together with fears concerning restrictions on the movement of talented staff. On this latter point though, there was welcome confirmation last month from UK Prime Minister Theresa May that EU citizens living and working in the UK before Brexit will have their rights protected. In addition, the govern­ment’s six-person Migration Advisory Committee (including four of the UK’s leading female economists) called for a lifting of the cap on skilled EU migrants post-Brexit.

Capital cooperation

Going forward, both London and Tokyo will need to make concerted efforts to maintain their present global financial centre rankings. There is no room for complacency, and we welcome further collaboration between the two.

In that respect, it was encouraging to witness last month’s visit to Tokyo by Economic Secretary to the UK Treasury John Glen. As the government minister responsible for financial services and the City of London, this provided a valuable opportunity to promote cooperation in growth areas such as green finance, Islamic finance and fintech.

Opportunities for future UK–Japan collabora­tion and the advancement of the financial services sector are numerous. To that end, buried in the GFCI is a reminder of the increasing importance of air travel infrastructure and direct flights—yet another reason to welcome the return of Britain’s flag carrier to Osaka.