WHERE IN LONDON DO YOU LIVE/WORK?
This year as Lord Mayor, I am living and, indeed, working in the same building, which is Mansion House in the heart of the City of London, which is an extraordinary place to live and to work. Home is Fulham but the bulk of the year is spent here in Mansion House. It’s an extraordinary building, the first Lord Mayor moved in in 1752 and it is amazing that it is still being used for pretty much everything it was built for in the first half of the 1700s. It’s a place for entertainment, and an office and a home for the Lord Mayor. Pretty much the only thing that we don’t do now is provide a court facility. Until the late 1960s or early ’70s, the Lord Mayor presided over a magistrate’s court here almost on a daily basis. So apart from that, the building is still doing what it was built for.
WHAT’S YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF LONDON?
I first visited London when I was probably nine or 10 with my parents in the late 1970s. I remember London being incredibly busy; so many people and everybody rushing around. I have all the classic memories of the Tower of London, visiting Madame Tussauds and seeing Piccadilly Circus with all the neon signs – even then it was amazingly impressive. But probably the thing I was most fascinated by as a child was the tube. And I remember on that first visit, they still had smoking carriages on the tube which, when you think about that now, seems beyond comprehension.
WHEN DID YOU MOVE TO LONDON?
I grew up in Dublin and I moved to London in 1989 as a young Irish law graduate planning to get two, maybe three years of City experience. I was intending to practice as a barrister on the commercial side of the bar in Ireland. I just wanted a couple of years’ commercial experience in London, seeing the city. And here I am 30 something years later as the Lord Mayor of London.
WHAT MAKES LONDON SPECIAL TO YOU?
It’s diverse in so many ways. Fundamentally it’s all about the people, which brings incredible diversity to the place, whether it’s the restaurants, the culture – there’s wider things that make London such a great place. It’s also a very green city. It’s only when you travel the world and you see cities that are much less green than London that you realise just how lucky we are to have so many green spaces, even right here in the Square Mile. We may not be very big, but there’s lots of lovely little green patches all over the City. Also, I’m a banking finance lawyer by profession and London is at the centre of the commercial world from the point of view of the law. You’re really at the heart of international finance, international trade and commerce. It’s such an exciting place to work.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE LONDON IN THREE WORDS?
World’s greatest city.
WHAT ARE SOME YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES IN THE CITY OF LONDON ITSELF?
I love the gardens around St Paul’s. I think St Paul’s Cathedral is an extraordinary building and we are so lucky to still have it, that it survived the Blitz and is almost entirely intact. And I think the gardens surrounding the Cathedral are a lovely place to go. Our dog, India, loves the gardens around St Paul’s – it’s the best bit of green space around the City from her point of view! We also have some amazing buildings, ancient buildings, like the Livery Halls and Mansion House and some wonderful modern buildings. I love the Bloomberg building and I think Lloyd’s of London is an iconic building.
WHAT’S YOUR USUAL MORNING ROUTINE?
For the Lord Mayor, there is not really a usual morning routine. If there is it tends to revolve around breakfast, either here or somewhere outside. Sometimes I find myself at the end of the day, not even having stepped outside the building. No single day in this place is the same as the previous one. Which is one of the things that makes this role the extraordinary office that it is.
HOW DO YOU KEEP A GOOD WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
It’s little things like trying to build in breaks during the day, trying to go outside for a walk, get a sandwich and get a bit of fresh air. Things like that break up the day and help you stop and slow down. I also think that probably the biggest thing that you can do to keep yourself in good mental shape, which helps your physical wellbeing, of course, is to get a good night’s sleep. And that can be really difficult, particularly working in high-stress occupations, as so many people are in the City. It can be really difficult to get any sleep at all, but it is the one thing, I think, that really makes a difference to mental and physical wellbeing that we can all, to an extent, do something to control.
The first Lord Mayor moved into Mansion House in 1752 and it is amazing that it is still being used for pretty much everything it was built for
WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ IN THE PAST SIX MONTHS?
We got away for a couple of weeks at the end of August and I read a few good books. The one that’s had me thinking quite a lot since is The Price of Time by Edward Chancellor. It’s about the role that interest plays in the financial world. There’s a bit of an historical survey, looking back on the way interest has been treated down the centuries but the book then turns into a study, almost an extended criticism, of monetary policy over the last 25 years, which sounds a little bit dry, but actually is absolutely fascinating.
WHAT’S THE BEST PIEVE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
I remember a piece of advice that a great Irish lawyer, Peter Sutherland, was told by his father, which is, ‘If you’re on the playing field and the ball lands at your feet, kick it’. It’s all about taking opportunities in life. When people ask me how I ended up in this role, frankly, I think it’s come down to saying yes to interesting propositions and being prepared to say yes and to give that ball a kick and see where it leads.
FINALLY, WHAT THOUGHT ALWAYS PUTS YOU IN A GOOD MOOD?
My wife and I have just come back from a holiday on the Amalfi Coast. When everything is feeling pretty bleak and we’re in the depths of winter, if I can imagine myself back on the Amalfi Coast in the summer in Italy that has me smiling straight away.
This year’s City Giving Day, in partnership with the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, takes place on 27 September. This simple but impactful initiative enables City companies and employees to celebrate and showcase their philanthropic and volunteering achievements and encourage others to get involved. The Royal Exchange will be hosting a charity rowing event on the day. Find out more and sign up by visiting The Lord Mayor’s Appeal website.