The March 29 deadline for Brexit is looming closer, and the prospect of a “no deal” Brexit is stoking apprehensions about its impact on trade ties with India. Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair of the City of London Corporation, London’s financial district, who works very closely with the financial services sector, and is the political leader of the City of London, spoke to BusinessLine about such concerns and other topics like the economic and trade ties between the UK and India, Brexit, FinTech, and regtech. Excerpts:
How will the Brexit and the feared no-deal situation impact trade ties with India? Will that be a deterrent factor for Indian businesses?
We are in this period of great uncertainty and that is making people pause before they make decisions...they are making surethey make arrangements to deal with whatever happens. But, that’s a very short term situation and we are very confident that in the long term, London remains a strong global financial center with plenty of opportunities. People here raise it just as a matter of curiosity in the meetings, rather than as a deterrent to add to business. In the long term, the fundamentals are absolutely strong and if anything, Brexit is even more impetus for us to build on these fundamentals for future trade.
Are there any measures the City is taking to reassure Indian financial firms worried about Brexit?
For Indian business and other overseas businesses, we have been working on immigration...people tell us that applying for a visa is stressful, inefficient and precarious. The government has received our report to streamline the visa process, they are considering them, and have given us positive signals regarding our proposals. That will impact Indian systems a lot because last year, over 60,000 work visas were issued. India continues to receive more UK work visas than the rest of the world combined.
We expect to see a change so that Indian citizens are not treated less favourably than EU citizens and despite signals we may be sending because of Brexit, we’re not closing our borders. We welcome people with skills. We hope the government will listen to us and make the process easier too.
How do you see the potential of India’s FinTech sector and India and UK working closely on this?
It’s a great time for FinTech in the City. But, we have scale, which you dont have, and we’ve been been using FinTech in interesting ways for inclusion...So if you have a FinTech here that wants to expand into the global financial sector, they may want to come to London to do that. We may have FinTechs that may want to come the other way...and working together to share our different practices, for example, at how to develop a regulatory sandbox like the UK has operated, and to deal with issues of scale that India has been tackling, is an oppurtunity to learn from each other.
Can regtech become a truly destructive element for the financial industry?
A global sandbox is being planned with Hong Kong, Australia, the US and Abu Dhabi. We canwork with India on a similar model.FinTech can be too narrow a term, so I think of it as an encompassing of things like payments, insuretech, suptech and regtech.