Alison Wright is Director General of British Invisibles. She is a member of the Advisory Panel of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research European Financial Programme, a member of the Advisory Council, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Council Member of British Consultants Bureau, a member of the ONS Advisory Committee and a trustee of the BBC Marshall Plan of the Mind.

Net overseas earnings of the financial sector continue to rise

UK-based financial institutions - largely in the City of London - earn a remarkable net surplus of some £20 billion. This is double the figure 10 years ago and demonstrates the dynamic growth of the financial sector over the past decade. British Invisibles (BI) promotes these export s and increases the earnings. Earnings from invisible export s and overseas assets make a vital contribution to Britain's economy. In 1994, they accounted for one-half of current account inflows and represented 18% of GDP, a higher proportion than for any other G7 country. A growing proportion of the UK's workforce is employed in banking, finance, insurance and business services, increasing from 9% in 1984, to 13% in 1994.

The financial sector is the largest contributor to the balance of payments

The financial sector, including receipts from services and overseas assets, is the largest positive contributor to the balance of payments. Overseas earnings arise from services provided by banks; insurance institutions, including companies, brokers and Lloyds; securities dealers; commodity traders; money market brokers; fund managers; the Baltic Exchange; Lloyd's Register of Shipping and trading in gold.

London is the world's leading international financial centre

London is the world's leading centre for many financial markets; the recent decision by Deutsche Bank to integrate all its investment banking operations in London is a clear demonstration of international recognition of London as a world class financial centre Edinburgh and other cities in the United Kingdom also have significant strength.

London is the world's largest international banking centre, accounting for nearly 17 % of world cross-border lending, ahead of Tokyo and New York. Five hundred and forty foreign banks from over 70 countries are represented in London (more than in any other centre in the world).

According to the latest official international survey estimates, London's daily turnover in foreign exchange trading averages $464 billion, more than the combined turnover of New York and Tokyo.

London is also the leading international securities market and has the largest share of international insurance business. Most recent figures show net premium income of£ 10.5 billion -equal to 28 % of marine risk and 38% of aviation risk. It is the centre of the Eurobound markets. London's share of the international bond market in December 1994 was estimated at 60 % in the primary market and 75 % in the secondary market. London also dominates the foreign c9uity markets, accounting for 59 % of world turnover in foreign equities in 1994 (New York accounted for 36 %).

London is the main European centre for exchange-traded and over-the-counter derivatives and commodity trading. Its share of the world market in exchange traded financial futures and options increased from 7 % in 1988, to 17 % in 1994 and ranks second to the USA. London is the world's second largest fund management centre, after Tokyo, with over $750 billion of institutional equity holdings.

Maritime activity is also important. London is the largest centre for marine insurance, ship and cargo broking, arbitration, ship classification and professional consultancy. The Baltic Exchange is the world's largest shipbroking market.

London is the global clearing centre for gold and silver, forward trading, derivatives and precious metal financing. A recent survey conducted by the Bank of England estimated daily turnover among market makers al $3 billion a day, illustrating London's pre-eminent position in over-the-counter gold and silver trading.

Open markets and skilled professionals aid growth

The growth of the financial markets in the UK has been based on openness, liberal policies and competition. The removal of barriers to trade in financial instruments and the openness of the London market to practitioners from all over the world has continued to strengthen London's position over the last 10 years. In addition, the legal and regulatory y framework allows new developments to flourish. London has other advantages too -a time zone which links Tokyo and New York, the benefits of English as the predominant language of international finance, highly efficient telecommunications, international air connections and ample office accommodation and a well-developed physical infrastructure. The taxation system also increasingly takes account of the requirements of rapidly evolving international financial business.

The expertise of London's financial markets is enhanced by a wide range of highly skilled professionals including lawyers, accountants, actuaries, consultants and IT specialists. This concentration of financial and other specialists gives London a capacity for innovation and flexibility essential for success in today's highly competitive overseas markets.

World trade in services is growing faster than visible trade

A country's capacity to export services successfully is vital as trade in services worldwide is growing at a faster rate than visible trade, reflecting the continuing shift from manufacturing to service industries in developed countries, and the growth of service industries in developing countries. The signing of the General Agreement on Trade In Services (GATS) at the end of July 1995 under the auspices of the new World Tracie Organisation should accelerate the growth of financial and business services worldwide.