Danny Lopez looks a little young to be the consul general of the New York City-based British Consulate, which encompasses New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Fairfield County, Conn. Maybe his youthful appearance can be explained by his running (he’ll be participating in the New York City Marathon in November). Maybe it’s because he is not a career diplomat, but had a varied career in the United Kingdom’s public and private sectors before taking on the head role of both promoting the U.K.’s economic profile across the United States and supporting Britain’s local citizenry in those areas.
Or maybe it’s because he’s only had the job for a few weeks.
“My team and I will have the responsibility of strengthening links with politicians and officials, media, local communities, and culture, deepening the already strong bond between the U.K. and the U.S.,” he said in East Hampton on Sunday morning.
Mr. Lopez was on the South Fork this weekend courtesy of Peter Brown of the international public relations firm Brown Lloyd James, who threw a Saturday night party at his house in East Hampton to welcome Mr. Lopez to his new post.
“It was an amazing reception,” Mr. Lopez said. “Everyone was really warm and welcoming.”
Mr. Lopez took office as British consul general on Aug. 1, in the midst of burgeoning London riots, and a global financial market that could pass as a ride at Disneyland.
“It’s a trying time,” he said. “It’s been a trying time for London and the world.”
He echoed the words of Theresa May, Britain’s home secretary, describing the riots that have rocked pockets of London and other British cities as “sheer criminality and nothing else.”
“It’s the copycat effect,” he said, adding that “It could happen anywhere.”
However, he agrees with Prime Minister David Cameron. “It brought out the very worst in Britain, but it also brought out the best,” he said.“The spirit of community that has emerged is such a positive.”
“Now the challenge is really understanding what happened, helping those affected, and making sure it never happens again.”
He also stressed that although the riots have been “horrendous . . . it hasn’t been the case that people couldn’t get home [from the States] or go to work.”
From 2009 to 2011, Mr. Lopez worked for the London Development Agency, the mayor of London’s economic development arm, as group director for business support and promotion. During this time, he was responsible for creating London and Partners, the U.K. capital’s promotional agency for business, visitors, and students, and was its inaugural chief executive officer.
For the three years prior to that, Mr. Lopez was managing director of marketing and communications at U.K. Trade and Investment, where he delivered a new marketing strategy to promote and showcase the British economy internationally.
It is the first time the British foreign secretary has appointed someone who has not spent his or her life in politics. Mr. Lopez chalks it up to “a realization by the foreign secretary and prime minister that commercial diplomacy has to be at the top of the agenda, and to make sure we continue to attract investments in the U.K., especially in the key sectors.”
One of those sectors is information and communications technologies. Mr. Lopez spoke enthusiastically of Tech City in London’s East End, which he said “has emerged as the Silicon Valley of the U.K.”
“Within the past year and a half, it’s grown from 30 companies to 500,” he said. “Now the big guys are going in — Google, Facebook, and so on.” He described the area as being “an exciting community for exchanging ideas,” with Internet cafes, ultra-hip shops and clubs, and tons of office spaces for Britain’s brainiacs.
Mr. Lopez also focused on the anticipation of the 2012 summer Olympics and paralympic games in London, as well as Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, which officially begins on Feb. 6, 2012, but is most likely to bring celebrations beginning around the United Kingdom on New Year’s Day.
While working for Barclays Bank, where he held a number of senior international positions, Mr. Lopez had an opportunity to spend time in New York City and Miami, where he lived from 2002 to 2004. But his fiancée, Susan Grieve of Australia, had only spent “four days here in her entire life” before moving to their apartment in the Turtle Bay area of Manhattan.
Mr. Lopez had traveled extensively in his childhood as well. Born in Lancashire in northern England to an English mother and a Spanish father, his family moved to Zaragoza, Spain, where Mr. Lopez was raised before “moving back to the U.K. for university,” he said.
But Mr. Lopez spends most of his time looking ahead. “There’s always been a great affinity between England and the U.S.,” he said (not counting, of course, the Revolutionary War). He pointed to the fact that there are one million Brits getting their paychecks from American companies located in the U.S., and equally, one million Americans employed by British companies, living across the pond.
His mission, he said, is threefold. First, it’s to “really increase the trade agenda” between Britain and the U.S. Although his role as consul general extends to the tri-state area, his role in increasing trade between the U.S. and U.K. is nationwide. He mentioned that companies and investors can come to him for an in-depth “study of analyis of various companies in the U.K — at heavily subsidized rates.”
Second, Mr. Lopez wants “to make sure that Britain is really visible” in his bailiwick — through culture, science, and community, with public appearances or keynote speeches offered by Britons who have risen to the top of their fields.
And last, Mr. Lopez said, his immediate task is to reinforce the idea that, “despite what everyone is seeing over the past few weeks, Britain is open for business and welcoming visitors.”