Tom Keatinge, an expert in finance and security at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, believes the UK government should be doing more to both exploit the skills of its financial services sector and to protect market intelligence within the City.
“People who worked in banking in the late 1980s will tell you that between Friday and Monday when the Berlin wall came down, people they thought were West Germans working on trading floors and in M&A departments just disappeared,” Keatinge said. “They were actually working for [East Germany’s] Stasi, gathering information about the financial activity in the City of London. You can be sure the same thing is happening now with the Chinese.”
Defence officials could also be preparing better to tackle future threats, Keatinge added, suggesting that a standing threat finance team could have spent the past few years mapping which banks, money exchange houses and financiers in the Middle East are sympathetic to the Taliban.
“We avoid pressurising those nodes when we’re trying to negotiate with the Taliban but if you need to, you can come down on them like a hammer and put them out of business,” he said.