The head of one of the UK’s largest insurers and investors warned that the City of London is struggling far more than the country’s other office districts in luring workers back to their desks.

Since lockdown restrictions were eased, other centers were showing greater signs of life than the capital’s main financial district, according to Nigel Wilson, chief executive officer of Legal & General Group Plc. He said employers will have to step up efforts in the “next few years” to refill their offices.

“The challenge for us that we have in the UK is how do we get people back to working in the City,” Wilson said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “If you travel around the rest of the country, there is a lot more economic activity going on in the core areas within those cities.”

L&G has made regional regeneration a key part of its investment thesis, and hasn’t been “long” central London office buildings for many years, Wilson said. He was speaking following half-year results, which saw the firm’s return on equity jump 22% versus 6.3% a year earlier thanks to investments in real assets.

Activity in the City and rival district Canary Wharf recently inched up after having been little changed in recent weeks amid the summer holiday season, according to the Pret Index, which measures transactions at Pret A Manger stores. Still, it signals there’s a long way to go before the areas return to pre-pandemic levels.

Firms in the UK and globally are grappling with what the future of the office holds, with many allowing staff to work from home several days a week. HSBC Holdings Plc this week said it had reduced its global office footprint by about 10% and is on track to cut it by about a fifth by the end of this year.

–With assistance from Anna Edwards.

Photograph: Commuters emerge from Bank Underground station in the City of London, UK, on Thursday, July 1, 2021. With the vast majority of the Square Mile’s 500,000 office staff working from home during the pandemic, once-bustling streets have been largely deserted. Photo credit: Tom Skipp/Bloomberg.

Topics London