Let’s start with some general positives about Manchester and the North West to whet your appetite.
Manchester has been proclaimed the best UK city to live in for the second year running. This is according to the Economist Intelligence Unit which assesses cities internationally in its Global Liveability Survey and looks at environment, infrastructure, education, stability and culture.
The average cost of an apartment in the city centre has been estimated by Manchester’s inward investment agency, Midas, at around £128,000. The equivalent in London it estimates at around £527,000 (2013 figures). The average house price has been estimated at over a third lower than London, with London at £365,000 and Manchester at £104,000.
Free metroshuttle buses link main rail stations, car parks, shopping and business areas. There are trams in the city centre and commuting from the suburbs is cheaper and quicker than London - and less stressful.
In education, Greater Manchester has 29 of the top selective, private and state schools and 38 of the top primary schools in the UK, according to the Sunday Times.
Manchester, and the North West is as a whole, is a key player in former chancellor George Osborne’s northern powerhouse vision and in 2017 will elect its first Greater Manchester mayor who will have political power and central government money to invest.
The picture is equally bright when you turn from the general to the specifics of the job market in financial services in Manchester and the surrounding area.
The financial and professional services sector (FPS) is thriving and Manchester is seen by many as the key centre outside London. According to Midas, the FPS sector employs 250,000 people in the city, rising to a total of 420,000 being employed in the wider North West. The sector has grown by 40% over last decade and is expected to create an additional 50,000 jobs by 2020.
Greater Manchester’s total gross value added (GVA) in 2014 was £55bn and the financial and professional services sector accounted for £11.2bn or just over 20% of this economic activity. (Midas)
KPMG have ranked Manchester as Europe’s most cost-competitive business location (in cities with a population over 2 million) since 2010.
At the heart of the FPS sector in Manchester is Spinningfields, in the heart of the city. It is a major regeneration project which was given urgent impetus 20 years ago after the 1996 Manchester bombing. It is home to over 165 financial and commercial services organisations and is a mixture of luxury shops, fashionable restaurants and bars with both a thriving business and residential sector.
Up the road, in Salford, the FPS sector is growing equally fast. It is based around Salford Quays and Media City and is only a short distance from the centre of Manchester and Spinningfields itself. The sector is Salford’s largest and fastest growing sector. The sector has grown by over 60 percent in ten years and over a third of the businesses operating in Salford are in the FPS sector. The sector includes BUPA, HSBC, Bibby and Venture Finance, and is predicted to provide half of Salford’s job growth in the future.
There is a wide variety in the make-up of disciplines in the sector which is most certainly contributing to its current success and to the optimism about its future. Many consider the sector, which includes accountancy and law as well as banking, financial services and insurance, as the true rival to London.
In banking, there are over 60 banks based in Manchester and the wider North West, including the Cooperative Bank and Williams and Glyn with their headquarters here, Barclays with over 4,000 staff and BNY Mellon which has been based in Manchester for many years. Over half the banks are foreign owned with a number of investment banks using Manchester as their European operations centre. Cutting edge work in financial technology is also growing in the region.
In insurance, the sector employs 25,000 people and there are a large number of life insurance companies, non-life and mutuals. Major employers include Cooperative Insurance, Aon, MMC, AXA, Swinton and RSA. Towergate and Stream Group have also developed their presence in Manchester.
In the wider North West, Think Money is in Trafford Park, Sesame is based in Altrincham, and, the city of Chester, an hour away from Manchester, has its own successful financial services hub which includes the Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the head office of GBG, the award-winning, global specialist in identity data intelligence.
At Broadgate Search, we are seeing this growth trend ourselves. A growing number of company clients are looking to make a move to Manchester and the North West. A lot of our clients are now starting to build out and locate their compliance functions in the North West. In our experience, business costs are lower, the wider business infrastructure is already in place and the quality of life on offer for staff is good.
Currently, we estimate that roughly 50 percent of Broadgate’s team North vacancies are North-West based. The market is extremely buoyant and the number of roles we have on offer in governance, risk and compliance across financial services in Manchester and the wider North West continues to expand.
The future for Manchester’s financial services sector, for the growth of business opportunities and for new, exciting and challenging job opportunities, is, we believe, excellent.