“Three cheers for His Majesty, The King,” Vincent Keaveny, Lord Mayor of London, proclaimed on the steps of the Royal Exchange for the ascension of King Charles III on 10 September.
Keaveny is the 693rd person to have held the Lord Mayor title. With its beginnings tracing back to the 12th century, the role has changed alongside London. The Lord Mayor has served as an ambassador for the UK financial sector over the years, but this September the role’s ancient responsibilities were once again put in the spotlight.
On that Saturday, in front of huge crowds and televised to the nation — the first time a proclamation had been filmed — Keaveny stood at the heart of the City to wish the new King well.
Keaveny, who made his career as a lawyer, was a bit nervous.
“I was very focused on getting it right,” he tells Financial News. “You get through those events concentrating on what you do next.”
The night before, Keavney and the rest of City’s officials practised in the dark to make sure everything would go smoothly for the real deal. He, like many people in the UK, had to make an adjustment during the ceremony.
“I’ve never concentrated more on two words, His and King.”
With Queen Elizabeth II’s reign of 70 years, Keaveny is the only living Lord Mayor to have participated in the ceremony.
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The last Lord Mayor to have made a similar proclamation was in 1952, when an Australian and World War I hero, Sir Leslie Boyce, did so for the Queen.
“The last man to be responsible for that ceremony was a great war veteran. The span of that history itself is pretty amazing,” Keaveny says.
The City’s Ambassador
On top of a new monarch, his time in the role has coincided with the largest land war in Europe since 1945, market volatility brought about by ex-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget and three prime ministers.
Keaveny says recent events like the mini-budget have demonstrated the importance of the fundamentals, like rule of law and a deep talent pool that has made London a global financial centre.
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“I was in India when the mini-budget was announced and subsequently the Gulf States and was able to convey positive messages about the long-term stability of London,” he says.
“When you are the 693rd Lord Mayor, you can talk about institutional stability and do so credibly… There is not much the Office of Lord Mayor has not seen: wars, financial crashes, plagues and revolutions. Over the centuries, there’s not much people have not talked about in this office.”
Keaveny adds his optimism is buoyed by the fact London was an investment hub for fintech and innovation, with money flowing into the sector topping $37bn in 2021.
“We are seen as the world leaders in fintech and world and thought leaders in green and sustainable finance, the key markets of the future… People are looking to London for leadership. We can be very optimistic about the future of the City of London.”
He did caution, however, that keeping London’s leadership role in these future markets required support from the government through competitive tax rates and a visa scheme that can attract top talent.
More immediately, the City is also looking to help Ukraine. Keaveny travelled to Warsaw in May to see how the Polish capital was welcoming hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.
“I’ve been involved in discussions more recently about what we will be doing over the course of the next year to assist Ukraine’s recovery,” Keaveny says. “The financing of the reconstruction of Ukraine is going to be a big focus for the City over the next six to 18 months.”
693rd to 694th
As his term comes to a close, Keaveny will go back to his regular job, a partner at law firm DLA Piper. But it won’t be straight back into the office for him, as he plans to take a break to decompress.
On his return, he will take on a more client-facing role. Keaveny says a lot of the work he has done as Lord Mayor will transfer over.
“Many of the priorities at DLA Piper around tech, innovation and sustainable finance have also been priorities for me as Lord Mayor,” he says.
He will also continue to chair Progress Together, a membership body launched back in May to improve social mobility in finance. Its founding members include firms such as AXA, EY and Man Group.
“I’m looking forward to building that membership and beginning to work in delivering some real change in relation to social mobility in our financial services sector in the years to come,” he says.
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Keaveny however, is not looking forward to commuting back into the office, having been spoiled by his current one.
“Walking down the stairs in the morning from the private apartment here in Mansion House down into the office, it’s pretty much the best commute you could ever have.”
On 11 November he makes way for the next Lord Mayor, Nicholas Lyons, who is currently the chair of insurer Phoenix Group. As has been done for over 800 years, the outgoing and incoming Lord Mayor will take part in a “silent ceremony” at Guildhall. Keaveny will take off his hat, a sign his term has come to an end, and Lyons will don his.
Keaveny’s advice to the incoming Lord Mayor is “enjoy every minute of it. The year goes so quickly.”
Reflecting on the end of his term, he says his work as Lord Mayor feels like giving back to the City.
“I came to London as a young lawyer from Ireland. London has been great for me, it’s given me a great career. I’ve learnt a huge amount and in some ways this has been a fantastic opportunity to give a little bit back and to help shape the future of the city.
“For anybody who spent a good chunk of their career working in financial or professional services, it is an incredible opportunity to make a difference… It’s been the privilege of my life.”
Master of Letters, Trinity College Dublin
Bachelor of Civil Law, University College Dublin
Lord Mayor of the City of London
Sheriff of the City of London
Partner, DLA Piper
Alderman, Ward of Farringdon Within
Partner, Baker & McKenzie
Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright
To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Jeremy Chan