My prime professional interests and concerns have always been business and the generation of wealth and prosperity. The majority of my 30-plus years as a fund manager in the City involved my managing pension funds. I was trying to create long-term wealth and safeguard the future of the stakeholders in the funds I managed.
But if you engage in business at a high-profile level, it's pretty well impossible to avoid politics and politicians. The British Influence (BI) lobby group, which has asked me to lead its Prosperity Forum, has political objectives of positioning Britain at the heart of Europe. A big part of that is BI's wish to sustain and develop the European single market.
It's the single market that particularly interests me. I thoroughly approve of it, and believe it can only lead to prosperity – for the reasons I set out below.
Although today my business interests are different from my City days, my objectives remain the same. At Money&Co., we are trying to provide alternative finance for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by bringing them together with individuals who want a better return on their capital than the miserable yields currently on offer at the banks and building societies. Money&Co. lenders have averaged a gross yield of over 8.8 per cent – compare that to the best returns on a deposit account. Even after you've factored in the different type of risk involved (and always read the risk warnings before committing capital) I happen to believe reputable peer-to-peer lenders can offer a great deal to SMEs and lenders alike.
Silence is simply wrong-headed
My father was pro-European, politically engaged, and ran several profitable SMEs, many of which traded profitably in European markets. Today, half of all British trade, worth £450 billion a year, is with the EU and seven of the UK's top ten export markets are our close neighbours.
So imagine my disappointment when last week I read a survey that showed only 47 per cent of the SMEs that form the backbone of the country's economy said they wanted to stay in Europe.
Bigger businesses that once carried the flag for continued EU membership seem silenced. Perhaps they are worried about flack from the media, their shareholders and customers.
This is simply wrong-headed. All leaders, political and commercial, need to champion the great British legacy to Europe – the single market.
The trouble is that the single market is not complete. Today, Europe has free trade in goods but not in services. But services represent 70 per cent of Europe's economies, generate 90 per cent of new jobs, but account for only 20 per cent of intra-EU trade. I would like to see Britain's powerful trading advantage in services let loose on 500 million potential customers.
We need to finish the job and have a single market in digital, financial services, energy and transport sectors into Europe. Estimates vary, but I believe seven additional per cent would be added to UK GDP, leading to a near-doubling of exports to the EU, and an increase in UK production, jobs and wages.
This is why I am delighted to be leading British Influence's Prosperity Forum. We want to give voice to the thousands of SMEs that would benefit substantially if we can complete the single market.
To do that, we have to stay in Europe, and increase our influence there.
I'll have a lot more to say on this issue in the coming months, so watch this space!
BI and the Prosperity Forum will feature in the forthcoming conference focusing on SME funding and the opportunities they afford individuals to lend and invest: "Alternative Funding: New Solutions To Old Problems". Cubism Law, and Crowdfunding intelligence platform, Another Crowd, are also sponsoring the event.
The day-long conference, to be held at the RAC club in London's Pall Mall on 12th October, will examine how in today's world it is possible to:
This useful, practical, cutting-edge conference includes lunch and networking drinks. To claim the last places – with a £25 per cent discount for Money&Co. users – click here.