View from City Road: Launch pad planned for bright ideas

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Does the City really need another think tank? Yes, according to Sir Kit McMahon, the former Midland Bank chairman, and Dr Andrew Hilton, former senior project officer of the World Bank. Yesterday they launched the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, a ginger group aimed at tracking and stimulating innovative trends and ideas in the financial services industry.

The thinking is to bridge the gap between people with bright ideas on how financial institutions can improve their businesses and the practitioners themselves. Dr Hilton says the accent is firmly on being 'provocative and heterodox'.

Some of the ideas he mentioned yesterday were certainly unusual, for instance the Arab European Bank, aimed at forestalling Arab banking immigration into France, and a project to create fine art futures.

Plans for the CSFI itself were first hatched two years ago during a lunch meeting between Dr Hilton and David Lascelles, the Financial Times's natural resources editor and former banking editor. Dr Hilton is acting as part-time, unpaid director of the new body and Mr Lascelles is chairman. There will be no specially built, marble-clad head office.

While Sir Kit disavowed any political alignment for the centre, he compared its potential to that of the Adam Smith Institute, which started with two Americans setting up in London and asking anyone with right-wing ideas to send them.

There does seem to be one major stumbling block for the centre that the Adam Smith Institute never faced, however. While anyone on the right would be only too glad to share their ideas in the pursuit of political change, commercial ideas are a different matter. If someone has a new idea on how to make money, they will surely wish to keep it to themselves.