How to... navigate the changing face of the City

Posted: 12/07/2019

HowTo_City of LondonWhat’s changed? 
In case you hadn’t noticed, the City looks a very different place today compared with even a decade ago. There are few pinstripes and, 30 years after the Big Bang, barrow boys are not what they were. Today’s City of London is a more vibrant, diverse and interesting environment than it was.

Forget the old boys’ network 
Diversity and inclusion are the new rallying calls, with the might of the City institutions behind them. Notwithstanding the gender pay gap, sexist banter and bullying are no longer acceptable in polite company. The Lord Mayor’s Appeal runs an annual campaign – An Inclusive City – in an attempt to dispel the white alpha male culture. And Dame Helena Morrissey, Head of Personal Investing at L&G, is among those championing the cause of greater diversity, arguing that “everything really does have to change ... for the future success of the industry, not just to be nice”.

Wellbeing is a thing 
The stigma around mental health problems hasn’t disappeared, but at least people are talking about it. The City Mental Health Alliance has done a lot to promote more progressive policies in the Square Mile and numerous leaders have acknowledged their own issues – for example, via the Inside Out website. Stress, anxiety and depression are more widely acknowledged, and many City employers now offer mindfulness and yoga sessions, as well as mental health first aiders. 

Lycra alert  
Physical exercise in the City previously consisted of sinking pints and jostling to get a sweaty place on the Waterloo & City Line. Today, shops such as The Running Works, Runners Need and Sweatshop are dotted all over EC1 and EC2. And if you hear someone going on about their 10k, they’re not moaning about their bonus. Beware of being trampled underfoot by that skinny dude sprinting towards you along Throgmorton Street. 

Green is the new grey 
Ethical funds are channelling the zeitgeist, and the City is doing its best to clean up its own act. The City of London Corporation (CLC) has promised to make pedestrians a priority, to bring in a 15mph speed limit and to champion a Zero Emission Zone. As Chris Hayward, CLC’s Planning and Transportation Chairman, says: “We know that the way the vast majority of people get to the City is different to elsewhere across the world, with 93% of commuters arriving by public transport, walking or cycling.” The Corporation has also launched a Plastic Free City campaign, with a focus on coffee cups, bottles and straws – too many of which get tossed in the Thames. 

Edifice complex is on the march 
2019 has been dubbed ‘the year of the tall building’ and nowhere will that be more apparent than in London’s financial district. When it completes this year, 22 Bishopsgate will become the City’s tallest office building; three towers of 50-plus storeys are to be built at Canary Wharf; and by 2025 there’ll be the 73-storey 1 Undershaft and 305m-high viewing platform the Tulip next to the Gherkin. No wonder City workers are expected to reach for the sky.

Prepare to hot desk 
Co-working space providers such as WeWork, Regus and Club Workspace have been moving in on the City, alongside tech incubators and shared buildings; flexibility is all the rage. That reflects the changing make-up of City companies. An extra 1,200 start-ups a year started calling the City of London home in the six years to 2016, according to the CLC, with the total number of businesses housed in the Square Mile soaring by 41%.

Undo those buttons 
If there’s one tangible sign of the changing face of the City, it’s more relaxed dress codes. ‘Smart casual’ is the new orthodoxy at many City companies, which for men can encompass everything from chinos to shorts during a summer heatwave. Wolf of Wall Street braces are definitely out. And women are dressing down, often in a less masculine way; those power shoulder pads are so yesterday, while trainers and a dress make a more edgy combination. 

Think the unthinkable 
The City has become just a teeny bit (dare we say it) cool. The Ned, with its rooftop pool, is the ultimate private members club, and restaurants such as City Social make the area a high-profile dining destination. Meanwhile, Sculpture in the City and The Other Art Fair events show each year how well the Square Mile can do art. Even hipsters running fintech businesses or cryptocurrency positions have been known to venture out from Shoreditch. There’s a lot of money to be made, but it doesn’t have to be boring.

This article was first published in the 2019 City Edition of Businesslife magazine

Add a Comment

  • *
  • *
  • *
  • *
  • Submit

Want to know when we publish new content?

All you need to do is sign up for our newsletter.You'll receive a daily summary email of new items which have been published.

Please be advised that the volume of Business News articles which we publish is fairly high and you should expect to receive an email most days.

You can update your preferences at any time by registering for a account and visiting the 'Your Profile' page.


It's easy to stay current with

Just sign up for our email updates!

Yes please! No thanks!