Never The 'Next London'

Never the 'Next London'.. Always the One and Only Manchester

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Big Ben and Manchester St.Peters Square

Never the 'Next London'.. Always the One and Only Manchester

​Never the 'Next London'.. Always the One and Only Manchester

Broadgate’s new Manchester home – No2 (left) houses EY, whilst No1 (right) houses KPMG – and Broadgate Search.

"In the North West it rains and rains. And yet we managed to produce the best music, the Industrial Revolution, the trade union movement, the Communist Manifesto and even the goddam computer. Down South, where the Sun never sets, you took all our money and what did you produce? Chas and f*****g Dave." Tony Wilson, 2007

My colleague Matt Carter’s brilliant article on Manchester in 2016 attracted one of two types of comment (and there were over 500 in total); those beaming with pride about Manchester… and those that were too bloody proud of Manchester to let us get away with including a picture of Salford instead. 

The great thing is, just as Matt had started to observe a couple of years ago, several of Broadgate’s clients are now starting to take pride in ‘Greater Manchester’ as well. Therefore, I feel that now is a good time to reflect on Matt’s piece, particularly since Broadgate has now opened its office in Manchester – dedicated to the vast area beyond Watford Gap that Londoners like to call ‘the North’ – to build on the great work Matt has undertaken for our clients in the northern regions thus far.

Regardless of how you feel about HS2 and the last Tory government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ blueprint, we can count numerous prominent businesses in the Banking, Financial & Professional Services sectors either consolidating their presence in the region – or simply relocating here altogether.

Notable recent consolidations in the Greater Manchester area include:

  • Three of the ‘big four’ global consultancy giants investing in new multi-million pounds, state-of-the-art premises at landmark Manchester addresses (EY from 100 Barbirolli Square to No2 St Peter’s Square, KPMG from John Dalton Street to No1 St Peter’s Square, and PwC from 101 Barbirolli Square to No1 Spinningfields);

  • Banking behemoth Barclays submitting proposals for 600,000 sq. ft. of office space at Manchester Piccadilly’s Mayfield Depot development, or possibly alternatively at Manchester Airport Group’s North Campus, in addition to their existing Piccadilly Place site and sprawling technology centre of excellence at Radbroke Hall, Knutsford;

  • Swinton Insurance relocating over 1,000 employees from the City Centre to their 10-floor riverside Embankment development in Salford Quays;

  • Investment services provider AJ Bell relocating from Old Trafford to a new 93,000 sq. ft. office in Exchange Quay, having posted record revenue figures in 2017.

In addition, companies opting to relocate entirely to the Greater Manchester region include:

  • Telecoms titan TalkTalk condensing their Irlam and Warrington workforces into 100,000 sq. ft of space in the old Colgate-Palmolive Soapworks in Salford Quays;

  • Comparison site opening interim premises on Spring Gardens in the City Centre, whilst seeking a permanent additional site to complement Ewloe and London;

  • Rapidly-growing E-commerce and FMCG ‘unicorn’ The Hut Group weighing up a site around the Airport to improve efficiencies across the business.

It is this wider mix of businesses that help to boost the Financial & Professional Services sector, for example the mercurial rise of The Hut Group, and their objective to exploit key growth areas that hold specific interest to themselves: technology and logistics.

Investments into technology businesses in the region reached a total value of £207.6m in the third quarter of 2017 – which was more than double the value of the previous three months (£101.5m in Q2 2017) and represented almost four times the value achieved in the same period last year (Q3 2016).

Logistics too have benefited with the introduction of Manchester’s direct air link with China – the first such link outside of London. UK export values from Manchester Airport have increased 265 per cent to £200m per month, visitor spend into the region has reached £140m, and Manchester’s inward investment pipeline has doubled in the last 12 months.

Thankfully, as one of our key recruitment sectors, Broadgate has observed a huge boost in the Banking sector in the Greater Manchester area as well. The ‘rise of the Challenger Bank’ has seen the area become a breeding ground for some notable movers and shakers:

  • Aldermore Bank – who were founded in 2009, floated on the Stock Exchange in 2015 and currently have sites in both the City Centre and Wilmslow;

  • Amicus Finance – who, like Aldermore, were founded in 2009 but only set up in Manchester in 2016, moving their regional offices from Preston in the process;

  • Think Money Group – who relocated from Salford to Trafford Park a few years ago and now houses more than 1,000 employees at its ‘Think Park’ campus; and

  • Together Money – who reside in Cheadle and focus on mortgage lending to the non-mainstream parts of the market; they are understood to have applied for a banking licence.

Standard of living is key to attracting the Banking sector’s future leaders, and The Millennial City Ranking – aimed to pinpoint the global cities that digitally intuitive and entrepreneurial millennials are most commonly choosing to make their home – placed Manchester in the Top 10 out of a total of 110 entrants around the globe. They calculated this by assessing four particularly key concerns of millennials:

  • abundance of work opportunities;

  • affordability to live;

  • openness and tolerance in society; and

  • finally, of course, having fun!

One of those leading the way with job opportunities is the BBC, who recently created 200 digital jobs at Media City UK. In addition to this, TechNation recently reported that, between 2011 and 2015, the Greater Manchester area saw the creation of 898 new start-up companies. In the new age of digital entrepreneurialism, Millennials have such a diverse range of opportunities available to them – anything from Banking graduate schemes, to setting up their own FinTechs and going it alone.

Affordability to live remains a key factor in many Millennials’ decision to lay down roots. The average house price in Greater Manchester now stands at £186,630 (according to the Office of National Statistics). This might only be 38.5% of the average house price in Greater London (£484,500), however, the average Greater Manchester salary amounts to more than half that of London’s (£26,325 compared to £50,575), meaning a Millennial in the North West still gets much more bang for their buck.

Manchester has always been a pioneer when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion, with its world-famous Gay Village being a focal point of the City’s nightlife since the start of the 90’s, the annual Pride festival, and the LGBT Foundation, it its various guises, has called Manchester its home for more than 40 years.

And finally, Mancunians (both native and adopted) like to have fun – although, despite what most lazy London-based restaurant groups think when rolling out to Manchester, the Hacienda shut a while ago – and not everything has to start with a gratuitous Tony Wilson quote…

We might not yet have a Michelin Star in the area – but we do have the two best football teams in the country (according to the current Premier League table), and Time Out’s popular City Life Index recently placed Manchester at #7 on their list of most exciting places to live in the world – ahead of such esteemed peers such as Lisbon (#8) and Barcelona (#10). It even happens to be gloriously sunny as I write this, so even the weather isn’t that bad sometimes.

Weather aside, however, it can still sometimes be grim up North. Having used the Tube during my time working from Broadgate’s London office, I have to say it’s the one of the best transport systems in the world. 

On the other hand, Greater Manchester’s much-maligned Metrolink system – and its infamous Cornbrook points failures - needs some work before the city’s infrastructure can truly be considered as world-class; recent attempts to emulate London’s Oyster system with a pilot scheme rather messily titled ‘My Get Me There’ has been met with bemusement by Greater Manchester’s commuters.

Which leads me to ask the question that Matt alluded to within his last piece - is Greater Manchester truly at its best when it tries to emulate London?

In some senses, the jury is still out; Greater Manchester elected its first mayor, Andy Burnham, to mirror a position that has existed in London since 2000; and yet might be well beyond 2020 before we can ultimately tell whether having a cheerleader for local issues could work any more effectively in Greater Manchester than it does in Greater London.

Much of Burnham’s success will rest upon the improvement to infrastructure as discussed, but also to buildings – particularly given Manchester is also now emulating London in its race to build upwards. There are currently plans for up to 18 brand new skyscrapers in and around the City Centre – many already under construction, such as the Owen Street development to the south of the city centre, which will eventually see the iconic Beetham Tower usurped as the city’s tallest. 

But sadly, also much like London, there appears to be a lack of willingness to build affordable social housing – many citing the attractiveness of foreign investment in getting these schemes off the ground - and ultimately making them profitable for those who build them. Burnham has already experienced defeat for the ‘little man’ during his tenure – seeing the electrification of several key northern railway links shelved by UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in favour of London’s Crossrail 2.

However, on a more positive note, the jewel in the crown of Manchester’s latest developments is expected to be the completion of the Co-operative Group’s £800m, 20-acre NOMA (NOrth MAnchester) development, which is expected to surpass Media City UK as the largest development of its type outside – yes – London.

The long-term goal, as has been realised from projects such as Media City UK and the Airport Hub before it – is that further businesses, Financial Services or otherwise, will opt to invest in projects like NoMa as more than 4 million sq. ft. of office space is to be made available in total.

As a result, perhaps we’ll see more London-based companies grace ‘us northerners’ with their presence; whilst overheads remain lower, the Greater Manchester area will not just continue to be a viable option, but it will simply be the most attractive one available.

Broadgate Search has a new home in the ‘one and only’ Manchester – and we have little doubt that some more of our clients in the Banking, Financial and Professional Services sectors will follow.

Just please don’t stencil another Tony Wilson quote on the wall.