Five Minutes with Damian Nussbaum, Executive Director for Innovation & Growth in the City of London Corporation

3rd October 2023
Marek Dobrowolski
Partner & Head of Practice

Marek Dobrowolski, Berwick Partners lead for Regeneration, Place and Social Housing recently spent time with Damian Nussbaum, The Director of Innovation and Growth at the City of London Corporation.

Someone many of those working in inward investment, trade promotion and economic development will know well, Damian joined the Corporation a little over 8 years ago. Damian was happy to discuss his own career within economic development and what enticed him about joining what is a unique organisation. They also discussed in particular the  work that the City of London Corporation does to promote the City, and the Finance and Professional Services sector, on behalf of the whole UK, domestically and internationally.

The Corporation of London is a very unique organisation. Would you talk about your own career journey and experiences and what led and attracted you to your current role at the Corporation of London?

It’s an unusual, but extraordinarily broad and deep organisation, because it covers everything – from:  looking after over 11,000 acres of green spaces such as Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest; the Barbican Arts Centre; the Guildhall School of Music and Drama; the animal reception centre at Heathrow – to, City Bridge Trust which is London’s largest independent charitable funder. And of course, the areas that I oversee, including financial and professional services right across the UK.

I came into the Corporation eight years ago. I came out of government; I’d never heard of the Corporation of London before I came. It was actually some very helpful recruitment agents who told me what it was and why it played such a role. And it’s sometimes, I think, a quiet role, but it has a really strong influence. And that influence is all about the long-term interests of the UK.

What inspires you most about working with the Corporation of London? How do you see your role contributing to the city’s continued success and growth?

It’s about growth. It’s about jobs. And it’s about how we can make the biggest difference possible to people’s lives right across the UK. So, although we have London – indeed, the City of London – in our title, actually we’re not just about London, let alone the square mile.

We’re about the whole of the UK. And we’re about how the UK maximises what is one of its Olympic level industries, so that it’s driving economic growth across the UK, and it’s internationally competitive.

The relationship between the Corporation and the City seems integral. Could you explain how the two entities collaborate to create a conducive environment for business, while also preserving London’s historic and cultural identity?

One of the questions people sometimes ask is what the relationship is between the Corporation and the square mile, the Corporation and the whole country. Actually, it’s really interesting the way we work in three concentric circles: we work across the square mile – I’m responsible in the square mile, actually, for some of the cultural work we do.

For instance in our Climate Action Strategy, which is really ambitious, we do a lot of work across London. In fact, we’re the biggest charitable giver across London. And of course, we do our financial and professional services work across the UK.

The concept of a “global city” is evolving. What do you feel are the major factors that the Corporation needs to be live to, to continue to contribute to positioning the city as a dynamic, forward-looking global hub that remains relevant and competitive?

The great point about the City of London Corporation is that we’re not government, we’re not a company – we’re somewhere in between. We’re able to focus on the areas that make the biggest difference. We can choose where we devote time, resource and energy, we can convene and catalyse. So that is a real shift and we’ve done that in some critical areas, such as net zero – where we’ve set up the Net Zero Delivery Summit, which is a key moment, to check if we are actually seeing businesses delivering what it said it will deliver, and how we can unlock some of the funding that we want to see flowing.

We’re able to focus on things like the State of the Sector report, which we run jointly with the Treasury and is announced every year, just around the time of the Chancellor’s speech. The report is to see what’s working and what’s not working about financial services and professional services in the UK, and we make sure that we are bringing out what the industry wants to change over the following year.

We can also spot new areas such as tech, where we spotted that there was a fantastic opportunity for some kind of new body; this came out of the Kalifa review, and we supported Ron Kalifa on that review, along with Innovate Finance.

Out of that review, one of the recommendations was for a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology. We worked out the proposal, we worked with government to fund it and we’ve helped to set it up. So that ability to work from the initial seed of an idea, work with a fantastic UK leader like Ron Khalifa, and then see the results of that whole process; it’s incredibly satisfying.

The Corporation plays a pivotal role in inward investment and trade, we’re about to work with you on the appointment of a Director to lead on this. How do these initiatives contribute to the UK’s  global competitiveness do you feel?

We want every part of the UK to flourish. We work with a number of our key partners, such as Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – and also other cities. We’re looking to see where partnership can encourage more investment, and more trade, that is at the heart of this job.

In this, what we need is someone who’s got the depth of knowledge and expertise, and a real passion for being able to make a difference. So that when they’re coming in, to do the job every day, they’re really excited about inspiring the team, and some of the key things that we’re able to achieve.

Sustainability and responsible investing are gaining prominence. How is the Corporation integrating these principles into your economic strategy  to ensure long-term economic and environmental viability run in parallel?

All of us can see that growth has been pretty weak over the last few years; we can see that this has an impact in terms of what we can spend on public services, what people are taking home from their jobs.

We want to see how financial and professional services can play that maximum role in driving growth. And we think the report that we’re going to be launching will be a really important contribution to that.

Finally, I know this is an incredibly important and exciting moment in time for the Corporation. Could you share a glimpse of the upcoming initiatives and strategies that the Corporation of London has in the pipeline to further enhance economic development and promote trade and investment in the city?

In terms of what we’ve got coming up, probably the biggest report that we’ve done for a good while is the Vision for Economic Growth. That’s all about how financial and professional services can be making a maximum contribution to growth across the UK, across the next parliament; it’s probably the biggest challenge that we’ve got.

There are some ideas in there, that the role of Director of Trade & Investment is going to be absolutely at the heart of delivering; particularly around a hub for supporting and knowledge building for all of those who are driving trade and investment across the UK. We want to be a key part of the team, upping the level of impact and working alongside all of those who are already doing a fantastic job.

Categories: Regeneration Place & Social Housing