MONDAY 31 OCT 2022 10:59 AM


The challenge of restoring London's reputation, amid soaring inflation and market turmoil, is a communications one. Ian Henderson, chief creative officer at Selbey Labs, considers how decisive messaging and engagement can make for a more positive outlook for the city.

The London stock market is on course for its worst year in a decade as listings stall amid market turmoil. Only eight initial public offerings took place on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) between July and September this year, a drop of 76% compared with the same period last year.  Britain's £261 billion financial sector is one of its biggest and brightest industries. Its reputation for being robust, credible and predictable has been the cornerstone of the City's international reach. These pillars have taken a knock in recent weeks, but is the seeming clamber to write off the current reputation of the LSE a little short sighted? 

The UK has evidently experienced a steep slump, heightening talks that London might be falling behind its global counterparts. However, listings activity has fallen globally in 2022, London isn’t an anomaly on this front. 

Longer term outlooks obviously remain more challenging for the time being, and as such the influence of confidence and sentiment on markets increases dramatically. The last three years have been a perfect storm of macro issues - a pandemic, the battle of UK independence and now the ever-evolving cost of living crisis to name but a few. But no one has had it easy.  Since the start of the pandemic, every country and global financial hub has struggled to find a level footing at times.

Against this backdrop the UK and specifically the LSE has shown remarkable resilience. Of course, it has been a difficult year already, and this has obviously been exacerbated by the demise of the Johnson government and the briefest of Truss administrations. This alone began with an unprecedented market storm, costing the country £65 billion in gilt support alone, a huge U-turn, graphs seesawing daily and just 44 days in administration for Truss herself. All of which saw Government communications very heavily criticised. But London should not simply be banished and avoided, it has too much going for it.

What next: decisive comms, the communication mix and restoring reputation

There is no doubt that the Square Mile needs to do all it can to attempt to support the reputation of London in the short to medium term. In this regard, never has there been a more vital time for decisive comms. However, it is also important to recognise that whilst this is a very real dip, activity will rebound.

Yes, we are still in a period of flux, but London has a vast amount to offer that adds to its reputation as a global centre of financial excellence. The City has the infrastructure and networks that some other markets have yet to match. Banks, accountancy firms, insurers are here, supported by reputation management experts, PR agencies and thriving creative industries. These factors alone present opportunities that are out of reach for other markets. This is all underpinned by a solid regulatory framework, a universal language and worldwide accessibility. Added to this is the retail, hospitality and cultural mix that make people want to do business in London. It is a destination city and the appeal this adds should not be underestimated.

Market drops such as the one we are currently experiencing also create a different wave of communications needs and opportunities for clients and this very unique situation is no different. Clients will need to strengthen how they engage with the investment community and financial media, this in turn will support the eventual rebounding of the LSE. 

Transaction-based communications will no doubt continue to be slow in the immediate term, but it could also come back with a boom sooner than expected. It is worth noting that there will also be companies that have gone public in the last twelve months that don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as others but are still being marked as struggling. 

So, there are opportunities, and there are glimmers of hope that shouldn’t be ignored. Right now, it is ultimately about who is well-positioned to benefit in this environment and can use the right communications mix to maximize that position – but London will bounce back.