Financial and related professional services are an engine of growth and act as an enabler for the economy in every region and nation of the UK, creating jobs, generating investment and growing prosperity. The industry supports 2.5 million jobs with two thirds of those based outside London. Employment in the industry grew for almost a decade until 2020 and these jobs are highly skilled and significantly more productive than many other sectors.
In the latest iteration of our annual ‘Enabling growth across the UK’ report, which evaluates the industry’s economic contribution to the regions and nations of the UK, we have identified three areas where policymakers can do more to drive long-term growth across the country and unlock more potential from the industry to support that agenda.
1. Embracing devolution
The recent expansion of the metro mayor model to multiple regions very much aligns with our advocacy for greater devolution. The government’s recently announced deeper devolution deals for the West Midlands and Greater Manchester should be replicated, and the powers granted to each region should be made consistent in order to maximise the impact of devolution. Such consistency would enable businesses to engage effectively with local leadership, avoiding the disparities that currently exist. We believe this approach is essential to creating long-term sustainable growth and a thriving business environment.
As devolved leadership matures, investing in the capacity building of local authorities, and sharing knowledge and best practice are key to ensuring those authorities have the tools and capabilities needed to drive growth in the right areas.
Effective devolution also relies on seamless collaboration between business and devolved governments. TheCityUK’s Regional and National Chairs network across the country is instrumental in supporting this collaboration for financial and related professional services firms. They not only facilitate meaningful interactions, but also act as a conduit between industry and policymakers.
2. Skills planning
Continuing to attract, develop and retain the right talent and skills is critical to financial and related professional services firms. This is where local leaders are best placed to support local skill requirements, identifying the specific skills needed and gaps in their areas, especially in growing sectors like FinTech or LawTech. We have also long advocated for local skills planning to have greater employment involvement. Only with local skills planning and local government-industry partnerships, can the industry ensure a vibrant future, driven by a highly skilled workforce.
Leveraging local educational institutions and business leaders and cultivating connections between young talent and the industry will be increasingly important. Partnerships between the industry and leading universities support innovation and knowledge exchange. Technical and vocational education, such as apprenticeships, also have a critical role in developing a skilled workforce.
3. Coordinated approach to attract investment
Policymakers should seek to leverage the role of devolved leaders and metro mayors as focal points for investment attraction. Considerable efforts have been made in drawing investment to regions outside London. However, a more coordinated approach to attracting overseas investment is needed, especially in regions without the resources and expertise to establish their own investment promotion agencies, such as the West Midlands Growth Company or MIDAS in Manchester.
To support this, robust digital and transport infrastructure is vital to enhancing connectivity in thriving regional hubs and improving productivity. Sustainable infrastructure improvements also align with the UK’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions, opening new avenues for investment and growth.
The opening of government departmental offices across the regions sets a promising precedent. Continuing this expansion will be key to strengthening the relationship between government bodies, regulators, and the regional financial services centres, further promoting coordinated efforts toward securing long-term investments.
The financial and related professional services industry plays a vital role in spreading opportunity across the country. We look forward to working with national and local government to take forward these recommendations so that our industry can make an even greater contribution to growth and prosperity.
To learn more about the contribution the industry makes across the UK’s regions and nations, don’t miss the opportunity to join our 2023 National Conference on 23 November in Manchester. Find out more and register to attend here.