Thoughts from the 46th floor
It is fitting perhaps that I concluded the last week before the summer break at London’s Canary Warf, Europe’s and indeed the world’s financial center.
London was experiencing somewhat of a heatwave. On the lawns outside the One Canada Square bulding people were taking extended lunch breaks, resting on the lawns and watching the Wimbledon tournament on big screens. But up on the 46th floor we were doing something completely different – the European Banking Authority had a workshop on proportionality, overlooking the vast urban sprawl of the British capital.
The location inspired me to take a longer perspective – looking both back and forward.
This spring has been filled with activities for NFU. We have started implementing the new two-year Work Plan that was adopted last year, taking the first steps towards fulfilling the goals set out in the NFU Policy Platform. Concretely, this has taken on several forms and shapes – here are some.
NFU has provided several consultation replies to EU lawmakers and worked to strengthen our network to key people in the European institutions. The Management Board trip to Brussels in May is a good case in point. There we met with several key stakeholders, culminating in a constructive half-hour with Commissioner Katainen’s cabinet.
We have arranged two separate working group meetings in NFU, discussing both European regulatory affairs and legal issues with a Nordic and European dimension. The coordination of the sectorial social dialogues has continued and is showing good results.
Last but not least, the NFU Conference proved to be a success. It created a space for learning about key developments that spearhead the development in the financial sectors. It provided an arena for exchanging knowledge and experiences among ourselves. The conference also created new ties to important stakeholders in the European debate, notably the savings banks and other employer organisations but also the research community. And the NFU Key Issue Paper on achieving sustainable growth proved to be a crucial building block for the conference and a first step on the way for NFU towards producing more expert knowledge to support our policies.
Looking forward, the challenges are not lacking. The new European Commission has only just begun its work. The priorities are clear – European policies should support growth. For the finance sector, this means developing a Capital Markets Union. NFU must follow the work in the many forms it will take to make sure our priorities are reflected. But another and bigger challenge is the implementation of all the new rules agreed in the last years. We must make sure that our improvements are not lost on the way, at the same time as we need to promote a level playing field. And finally, we need the rules to be proportional: suitable to their purpose and supportive of a diverse and sustainable finance sector that creates growth and jobs.
Coming back to where we started, the European Banking Authority is one of three institutions in Europe that play a key role in deciding how all the new rules should be understood and interpreted. This has great consequences for financial institutions and their employees. NFU needs to be an active voice in the debate, promoting the employee perspective in all its dimensions. One part of that is to explain what we mean by proportionality and why our view is credible. That will be one of many tasks for NFU during autumn.
Lastly, the technological change that affects the financial sectors appears to ever be increasing its pace. The consequences will be profound – but the role and future for finance employees are not set in stone. The answer depends on strategic decisions by management and policymakers and the stage where it all plays out is Nordic and European if not global. And trade unions must have a voice. NFU should be a lever that brings the interests of our member unions into that debate to influence the results. Our internal dialogue and cooperation will be absolutely necessary for this, as will a stronger effort to strengthen NFU’s knowledge base and policy weight.
Leaving the British isles for this time, I look forward to some weeks’ time off to regain much-needed energy. I am hoping to dust off the pile of unread books by my bedside and make it a little lower, hopefully in the shade of a tree somewhere in the countryside.
I wish all our readers a relaxing and happy summer – see you again in August!