Anthony Hilton: Why financial services is not in the driving seat


Visiting the headquarters of the Prudential precipitated the alarming thought the Pru is alone among Britain’s insurance companies in still looking like a successful global player.

Separately this week there was a celebration of the spectacular success at Jaguar Land rover. It was noted the UK exports more cars than it has in the past 30 years. New ownership from Tata at Jaguar and BMW at the Oxford plant which produces the Mini have turned things around.

It is fashionable to use this success to throw a cruel light on the shortcomings of  industry management a generation ago when British-owned firms squandered market  positions and slithered into decline.

What no one comments upon is management squandered far more powerful positions in financial services. It is commonplace to say financial services is one industry where Britain has a global edge; what is less frequently mentioned is that a  generation ago Britain had more big banks and insurance companies than anyone else and should have been in a position to turn this into world dominance.

This wonderful legacy was squandered by the failings of woeful management. Whatever success the financial services industry enjoys today is in large part due to foreign ownership and management, just as it is with cars.