Business Maverick

Business Maverick

New Lord Mayor eyes exotic trading floors for London’s growth

New Lord Mayor eyes exotic trading floors for London’s growth
Michael Mainelli, London's new Lord Mayor. (Photo: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg)

London’s new Lord Mayor, who will take the reins on Saturday, is looking to turn the City into a hub for trading the exotic asset classes of the future. 

Michael Mainelli, who will be installed as 695th Lord Mayor, is hoping the nascent push will lure business travellers and help revive footfall in the city. To start, he says, the City could look to develop the markets for bonds guaranteeing the removal of millions of bits of space debris or trading the hydrogen that will power economies in the future. 

“We created the carbon markets here in the nineties, and guess what, the business gravitated here,” Mainelli said in an interview. “I want to do that in hydrogen trading, I want to do it in space debris removal bonds.”

The Lord Mayor of the City of London serves as an ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services industries all over the world. As the first-ever American-born City of London Mayor, and with Irish and Italian heritage, Mainelli already has a slew of trips planned across Europe, China, Japan, and the US. 

Mainelli, who was elected to his one-year term in September, is the founder of Z/Yen, a commercial think-tank with 25 full-time staff that focus on finance and technology.

Science, technology

Mainelli is taking the reins as London officials and top finance executives are seeking to repair the City’s battered reputation after years of political turmoil. 

He plans on leveraging London’s expertise in science, engineering and technology to boost business in the Square Mile. In that way, his plans align closely with those of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government, which aims to make Britain a global science and technology superpower by 2030. 

Mainelli is under no illusions about the challenges facing the UK. For instance, he said, it can be hard for foreign workers to get visas or open a bank account. He also worries the government will tighten rules that could inhibit immigrants from coming to the UK at all.

“The biggest risk to me is if we start closing our borders in any way,” he said. “If we start doing that, then our reputation goes down and people begin to feel that they’re not welcome.”

Mainelli’s tenure as Lord Mayor of London will see him follow in the footsteps of nearly 700 men and just two women. The Lord Mayor also leads the City of London Corporation, the governing body for the Square Mile. 

Finance ambassador 

Mainelli will represent the City’s financial and professional services firms on the world stage. Such firms employ more than 7% of the UK’s workforce and more than 10% of the country’s tax base.  

Finance firms have been among the biggest advocates for returning staffers to their towers across London in the aftermath of the pandemic. Such policies have been known to unfairly impact female workers, nearly three-quarters of whom have said they’ll look for a new job if their flexible- and remote-work options are taken away, according to IWG Plc, an office workspace provider.

Mainelli, for his part, said he believes the City should be doing more to lure international business travellers back to its hotels and conference centres. 

That’s where the ideas for establishing London as a centre for space debris removal bonds and hydrogen trading come in. 

Companies have launched thousands of satellites to circle the planet that will collect and transmit data, provide broadband internet, facilitate military communications and observe weather patterns. That means that there are now millions of pieces of debris smaller than 11cm in size —  things like screws, bolts or even flecks of paint. 

Just like US laws requiring mining companies to purchase bonds guaranteeing some of the cost of reclamation as a condition for getting a permit to start digging, Mainelli wants to see the same done for companies launching satellites into outer space and he hopes London can be the centre for such activity. 

And by establishing itself as a hub for hydrogen trading, the City would benefit from countries’ newfound reliance on hydrogen as they move away from fossil fuels. 

Either move would likely require conferences and other meetings of international standards setting bodies to set up. To Mainelli, that would put more money into City coffers without forcing workers back to their desks for the sake of being there. 

“Why should they put on a suit and spend an hour and a half on a sweaty train? What, so they can buy a sandwich at Pret to save the economy?” he said. “No. If we can get more business travellers to come here, that vastly outweighs and make our city, frankly, a lot richer.”

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