Fastest 50: Times change... and so does the world of business

As Ward Hadaway celebrates a decade in Leeds as part of its 30th anniversary, partner Philip Jordan shares his thoughts on that milestone and on this year's Yorkshire Fastest 50.

Ward Hadaway has relocated its office to 5 Wellington Place.
Ward Hadaway has relocated its office to 5 Wellington Place.

As Ward Hadaway has become more established within Yorkshire’s legal sector over the past 10 years, the client sectors we now operate in have evolved too. Recent years have seen a considerable proliferation in working with fast-growing digitally-focused SME businesses, as well as technological advancement across other sectors, such as manufacturing and the supply chain.

The growth in the legal sector in Leeds means that it is now a major centre outside of London for both the legal and financial sectors, and Ward Hadaway itself has observed a number of changing dynamics over the past decade in the area.

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Within our employment law team, we have seen a rise in enquiries and growing momentum for more information on immigration, for a whole range of reasons, including the city’s location as a growing hub for the fintech sector, attracting people from across the world.

Philip Jordan.

Ward Hadaway is also part of a city-wide modernisation plan which has brought with it a new and clearer structure. We have seen the relocation of our offices in Leeds from Wellington Street to 5 Wellington Place. This is part of a significant movement of the professional services sector in the city centre over the past decade. The development where Ward Hadaway is now based also continues to grow and HMRC and the Department of Pay and Pensions have committed to take substantial space in two new buildings under construction in the same development.

This shift has been planned by the local authority and, in achieving that, it has made the city centre more available for leisure, retail and entertainment development.

Times have changed since we arrived in Leeds in 2008 and will inevitably continue to do so over the next decade. Which leads us to ask, which Fastest 50 companies will we be eulogising in another decade? What other sectors will we see in our Fastest 50 of the future? Will “big data” and automation still be hot topics?

Figures compiled and verified using publicly available information from Companies House reveal that the 50 companies that make up this list of fast-growing, profitable, privately-owned businesses have a combined turnover of £1.5bn, having increased that total by £635m over the past three years.

Philip Jordan.

This is quite some feat bearing in mind that we remain in a period of uncertainty with Brexit.

The profitable and sustained growth which the figures represent is what the Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 is all about.

It is this kind of growth which safeguards jobs, attracts investment and boosts business confidence across the region.

Being part of a successful, growing Northern economy is vital to the success of Yorkshire because it’s the place in which we all live and work. It also sends a positive message to those outside of the region about Yorkshire as a place to come and do business.

This is certainly the case with the large and overall winner of the 2018 Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 Awards, Pure Retirement. The Leeds-based specialist mortgage lender serves the equity release market to help people plan for retirement.

The business, which helps home owners to unlock the value tied up in their property by converting it into a tax-free lump sum, has capitalised on the equity release market to deliver record growth of 104.8 per cent.

The runners-up to Pure Retirement in the fastest-growing large business category include last year’s overall winner, Hisense UK, a subsidiary of China-based Hisense Company, one of the world’s largest electronics goods manufacturers.

Sigma took third place. The Castleford company provides supply, consolidation, management and re-use of fixtures and fittings as well as shop fitting and project management for retailers. It also appeared in last year’s Fastest 50 list.

The winner of the fastest-growing medium-sized business award is events company Production Park, based in South Kirkby, Wakefield.

Production Park offers 300,000 sq ft of studio space for the creative sector. While Yorkshire has always been best known for its industrial past, it has a growing reputation as the destination of choice for the technology, media and communications sector.

The company specialises in providing everything under one roof to enable big ideas, big productions and big creations to be nurtured and developed in Yorkshire.

Runners-up in this category include Peter Ward Homes and Team17.

It’s no surprise with Yorkshire’s digital sector thriving that this year’s fastest-growing small business is once again Azzure IT.

Having made its mark in the IT world, Azzure is rated by no less an authority than Microsoft as its leading Gold Partner in the UK. The Sheffield-based company is a specialist provider of Microsoft Dynamics solutions with more than 20 years’ experience implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.

The company has also founded an academy which teaches skills in development, customer support, consultancy and office-based sales. It works with local universities, schools and colleges to raise awareness about IT and the importance of having such skills.

Azzure’s presence adds to the wealth of tech talent in Yorkshire as witnessed by the appearance in this year’s Fastest 50 of companies including computer games studio Team17.

Runners-up in the Fastest Growing Small Business Category were Consult Search & Selection and Priestley Homes.

It is encouraging to see so many property-related businesses making their presence felt in this year’s list, including RN Wooler & Co and Priestley Homes.

As we leave the EU, the UK needs to attract investment to build the offices, houses and industrial facilities we need to support economic growth.

Signs of healthy activity levels can be seen by the number of recruitment companies in this year’s Yorkshire Fastest 50 list such as Castle Employment, Caval, Consult Search & Selection and Logical Personnel Solutions.

As someone Hull born and bred, it is particularly pleasing for me to see Atlas Leisure Homes among the ranks of Yorkshire’s fastest-growing companies. It has been designing leisure homes for as long as Ward Hadaway has been in business!

Yorkshire’s long history as a centre of housebuilding excellence is also represented with independent housebuilder Peter Ward Homes in the final 50.

This mix of traditional manufacturing and supply chain strengths alongside the newer tech and fintech industries bodes well for the future of the region and should stand us in good stead, whatever surprises await us in the next decade.

Philip Jordan is a partner in the Leeds office at Ward Hadaway. He can be contacted at [email protected] or on 0113 205 6646.