Despite uncertainty within the UK financial sector over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, demand for finance professionals across the wider country remains strong.
Vacancies for contractors to work in the sector increased by 22% in May 2018 and demand for permanent talent has risen 8%, according to a survey by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies.
This positivity, it notes, comes despite job loss predictions of 75,000 in the City of London post-Brexit.
However, job growth does not have to hinge on the Square Mile and Canary Wharf. As TheCityUK’s CEO Miles Celic says in its report, Enabling growth across the UK 2018, “London is core, but many cities and areas across the UK are important financial centres in their own right. Of the nearly 2.3 million people in employment in the sector, around two thirds work outside of London.”
According to Savills Investment Management’s Dynamic Cities Index – which ranks cities on innovation, inspiration, inclusion, interconnection, investment and infrastructure – five of the top 20 European cities are in the UK, more than in any other country.
Major UK centres with more than 30,000 employed in financial and related professional services include Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. Plus, TheCityUK says, there are several key clusters of different financial and related professional services activities around the country.
After London, Watford has the biggest accounting cluster (12,000 jobs) and Edinburgh is the largest centre for banking. “A strong London is good for the regional economies, but it is a symbiotic relationship. Major firms from around the globe come to the capital and many expand their operations across the country helping to create a deeper talent pool of skilled workers that benefits local and national firms.”
TheCityUK report highlights how the sector is a significant contributor to the UK economy. Financial and related professional services contributed £174bn to the UK economy in 2016 while, in terms of tax receipts, the contribution of the legal and accounting sector to the UK public finances in 2015/16 was £15.5bn.
But there is no room for complacency. If the UK is to maintain its position as a global industry leader, and if clusters and specialist centres are to thrive, the support must be there, it says. TheCityUK offers 15 policy recommendations in relation to this.
Among them are improved knowledge transfer and information sharing, an accelerated devolution of powers – “providing regions and cities with the ability to make local decisions where this delivers the best results” – better infrastructure, expanded capabilities of the UK financial sector, and flexible access to talent.
“It is crucial the UK unilaterally and immediately reforms and enhances the [immigration] system currently in place,” it urged, adding that the country must also place focus on eliminating “unintended regional biases”.