Institute Of Export
Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli
23 May 2018, Mansion House
“You Never Stop Trading”
Minister, Aldermen, Fellow Masters, Ladies, and Gentlemen.
The City of London, what better place to graduate in trade and export. The Inspector of Ancient Monuments assures me that London’s archaeological evidence proves over 100,000 years of trading. Bloomberg across the road sits above two millennia of Londinium. We convene for this graduation ceremony over a millennium old stocks market. You are at one end of Cheapside, ‘cheap’ being Anglo-Saxon for ‘market’. One New Change at the other end by St Paul’s is its modern shopping mall. Gresham’s Royal Exchange opposite is over 450 years old.
The word ‘monger’ is old Saxon-German for trader or trafficker. Think, ‘drugmonger’. This trading City is therefore full of Ironmongers, Fishmongers, Lightmongers, Costermongers, Cheesemongers, and even Fearmongers. What am I as Master of the World Traders? Perhaps I should be a WorldMonger or GlobeMonger. Pssst, hey buddy, want to buy a planet?
From Adam Smith onwards, thinkers have increasingly recognised that commerce is about much more than just making money. Commerce is about exchange between people. Commerce is about social interactions where people trade ideas, opinions, or merchandise. Good commerce is a positive sum game. Trade reaps economic benefits from specialisation and comparative advantage, creates prosperity, distributes success and wealth, and collectively enriches all of our societies and communities. Trade is a force for good.
This year’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Charles Bowman, promotes the Business of Trust. His research sets out five principles for trust – five good principles for new graduates. Remember the mnemonic C-I-V-I-C:
• Competence and skills – doing what you do well;
• Integrity – being honest, straightforward, and reliable;
• Value to society – recognising and meeting wider societal needs;
• Interests of others – respecting the interests of customers, employees, and investors;
• Clear communication – being transparent, responsive, and accountable.
Trust underpins all trade and investment, firmly based on the City of London’s motto, “Meum Fidem, Meum Pactum” (“my word is my bond”). Trade should be win-win with other people. As the UK increasingly focuses on trade, remember that no-one should ‘export to’, everyone should ‘trade with’.
So CIVIC, I repeat:
• Value to society
• Interests of others
• Clear communication
What I admire about you is that by starting, and finishing, your studies with the Institute of Export you exemplify all five CIVIC principles. You have studied to increase your Competence. Your Integrity in enshrined in your learning. Your Value is inherent in your increased professionalism. You couldn’t trade ethically without taking the interests of others to heart. You have worked hard on communicating your thinking and ideas. You deserve today’s awards.
The Jesuit scholar, Timothy Radcliffe, talks about universities and further education as places where we “learn to talk to strangers.” As you trade with strangers, they become colleagues, and later colleagues become friends.
But education and trade don’t stop here. All of life is learning and trade. In fact, I’ve improved a bit of Shakespeare to get that point across. Indulge me:
All the world’s exchange,
And all the men and women merely traders;
They have their wares and their merchandises,
And one man in his time plies much commerce,
His acts being short changes. [Jacques: As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, lines 139-143]
I run a technology and finance research firm that is about 90% exports, so this year, the World Traders, young and old, Journeymen your age to ancient Liverymen like me, have focused on “Technology & Trade” as our theme. We are studying how technology transforms trade through debates, workshops, and even research into blockchains, published at the House of Commons last month as “The Economic Impact Of Smart Ledgers On World Trade”. You too will continue to learn through life, or stop living. An old quip goes, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Or Seneca the Younger stated, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”
So, as graduates, should you be optimistic or pessimistic? A number of nationalities walk into a bar and are asked, “are you optimistic or pessimistic?”:
• the Englishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Remain”;
• the Scotsman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Referendum”;
• the Irishman says, “pessimistic, Brexit & Border”;
• the American says, “pessimistic, Trump”;
• the Italian says, “pessimistic, elections”;
• the German says, “pessimistic, Euro”;
• the Australian says, “pessimistic, North Korea”;
BUT the World Trader says, “optimistic, pessimism is for better times.”
And you have such great opportunities. The world is changing as never before, socially, technologically, economically, and politically. It may be a bit crowded now, seven billion people is over double the world I was born into, but even that will change as we are looking to demographic numbers reversing direction about 2050. You will have outstanding chances to use your learning. You will never stop learning and trading.
May I ask you, the graduates, to go forth inspired by the motto our Worshipful Company of World Traders traded with Thomas Jefferson from 1801, “COMMERCE AND HONEST FRIENDSHIP WITH ALL.”
May I wish all of you the success you will earn.