Why regional centres will remain a priority for business success

Regional centres will remain a key priority for the financial services sector in a post-pandemic world as businesses seek to recruit and retain top talent, according to the Lord Mayor of London.

William Russell, Lord Mayor of the City of London, spent two days in Yorkshire visiting businesses and policy leaders. Picture: UNP Ltd England UK
William Russell, Lord Mayor of the City of London, spent two days in Yorkshire visiting businesses and policy leaders. Picture: UNP Ltd England UK

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post during a visit to Leeds and Sheffield last week, William Russell, Lord Mayor of the City of London, said he believed businesses will continue to see a regional presence as essential for fostering collaboration and creativity as they make the transition to hybrid working.

The financial and professional services sector, including fintech, employs 2.3m people in the UK, of which two thirds are located outside London.

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“We feel very strongly that the ecosystem is UK-wide and not just centred on London,” Mr Russell said.

Lord Mayor of the City of London William Russell. Picture: UNP Ltd England UK

“With the digital world and the way the world has changed, people don’t have to come to London any more. There’s a huge amount of talent in Yorkshire and a lot of that talent’s staying here, which is great. We’re looking at what we can do to help.”

He added: “A lot of the finance is going to come from institutions in London but they’re keen to invest around the whole of the UK so it’s an exciting time.”

In his role as ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services industry, Mr Russell spent two days discussing Yorkshire’s growing fintech and legaltech cluster.

The area is primed to develop as a leading location for fintech, legaltech and insuretech, and is home to the UK’s first fintech accelerator outside of London.

Mr Russell said the retention of talent from Yorkshire’s university base was a key strength of the region.

During his visit, he met the newly-elected Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, along with other Yorkshire firms and policy leaders to identify ways Leeds and Sheffield can capitalise on their success and use London as a launchpad for national growth.

“The Lord Mayor takes delegations around the world and we’re looking for delegates to come on these trips,” he said.

“The new Lord Mayor Vincent Keaveny will do more trips when he comes in in November and it’s amazing how effective they are. It’s an opportunity for businesses in the region to meet investors and new markets.”

He added: “Investors from within the UK and particularly from America are investing in a lot of our fintech businesses. We’re at the head of the pack for investors who want to move quickly.”

As outlined by the Government in the independent Kalifa Review earlier this year, the fintech sector is expected to have a vital role in driving economic growth and supporting the UK’s strong sustainable recovery. Legal services tech (legaltech), like fintech, is an emerging sector with enormous potential to scale in the area.

Leeds is one of the UK’s largest business centres and around a quarter of a million people are employed in the financial and professional sector in the city region with an output valued at £13bn per year.

Mr Russell, who said he has done over 2,500 Zoom calls since the start of the pandemic, believes it will be a ‘challenge’ to get employees back into cities but he expects that two thirds of workers will return to the office in the short term. “I think the hybrid version of working is here to stay,” he said. “Working from home doesn’t create a corporate culture, it doesn’t generate ideas and creativity.”

He added: “The challenge for the leaders is how do you manage the group (of employees) that’s coming in so they are collaborative together? There’s going to be more emphasis on what happens in office and I think it may ultimately be a better experience for people.”

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James Mitchinson