Why Leeds Is One of the UK’s Leading Hubs for Financial & Professional Services

· Ali Turner · Business

A major hub in the north.

Walker Morris

Leeds City Region is a prime location for financial and professional services companies…

It’s no secret that Leeds City Region is a financial and professional services hub, but what makes it so appealing to businesses in the sector and how can we use our strengths to propel the industry forward? From the ever-growing talent pool to the wonderful diversity of the businesses that call the region home, this is what makes Leeds such a great place to do business.

The second city for professional services

Leeds Building Society Office

When it comes to banking, legal and professional services in the UK, Leeds City Region is second only to London. It’s home to over 30 national and international banks, three of the top five building societies and all three of the UK’s major credit reference agencies. But that’s not all, because we also have 1,560 legal companies, including 28 of the UK’s top 100 law firms.

Together, these industries have a GVA of £20 billion and employ 320,000 people. And that number is set to grow as the region continues to attract key players from across the country. The Bank of England is opening a new Northern Hub here, the newly established UK Infrastructure Bank is headquartered in Leeds and leading independent law firm Brabners is expanding into the region with a new office in the city.

The Big Four all have offices in Leeds

Sovereign Square

The Big Four, which is made of up of PwC UK, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG, audit every company in the FTSE 100 and 91% of companies in the FTSE 250 Index. They’re the big movers and shakers, not just locally, but globally, and they all have offices in Leeds. That’s a big draw for talent and a big vote of confidence in our professional services industry.

“Leeds has long been home to a vibrant professional services community of scale,” Euan West, Office Senior Partner at KPMG in Leeds, told us. “The city is well served by great schools and universities, national and international transport links and a thriving ecosystem of business and organisations from right across the economy. These are three really important factors that drive the industry. Beyond that, Yorkshire is quite simply a fantastic place to live, work and build a career in professional services.”

Diversity is high on the agenda

Stronger Together

The more diverse our workforce, the more perspectives we bring to the conversation and solutions we bring to the table, so it’s easy to see why inclusivity is a priority for the professional services industry. But how can you overcome barriers to entry and attract people from black and ethnic minority communities into the industry? That’s the focus of Stronger Together.

This newly launched network will promote racial diversity, inclusion and equality in Leeds City Region. It’s a collaboration between the Big Four together with six of the city’s leading law firms – Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper UK LLP, Eversheds Sutherland, Pinsent Masons, Squire Patton Boggs and Walker Morris. Together, they’ll tackle the challenges facing the industry through a programme of mentorship, recruitment and education initiatives.

The talent pool is exceptional

Leeds Beckett

Credit: Leeds Beckett University

It’s not just the professional services industry that’s thriving here. We have nine universities with 117,840 students enrolled at any one time. They produce 49,480 graduates a year and a massive 56% of them of stay in Leeds. Even better, 70% of graduates who leave to study elsewhere, come back to live and work in the region when their studies are complete.

And if we narrow it down a little further, the numbers become even more compelling. Leeds City Region produces 3,700 law graduates every year, that’s roughly 15% of the UK total, giving local businesses easy access to an ever-growing pool of talent. But that’s not all. The University of Law, which is one of the largest providers of legal education in the UK, has its own tech research academy and innovation centre to help redefine the study and practice of law.

The location is spot on

City Square

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

Leeds is smack bang wallop in the middle of the UK. The capital is just two hours away by train, with Edinburgh three hours in the other direction, and Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle are just as easy to reach. The city is incredibly well connected, both by road and rail, which means it’s the perfect location for professional services businesses.

And it gets better. You see, life is good up north. The Yorkshire countryside is right on your doorstep and things are cheaper up here. In the current landscape, that’s more important than ever. It means your money goes further (office rents average at £34 per square foot here compared to £70 per foot in London) and so does your team’s (the cost of living in Leeds is 57.50% cheaper than London). Everyone wins.

Innovation will fuel growth

Tru Narrative

Professional services isn’t the only industry that Leeds excels in. Indeed, the region is a growing tech hub, which means the potential for innovation is boundless. Our FinTech creds speak for themselves – iwoca, Contis, TruNarrative, WorldPay and Nostrum Group have all set up shop here, and they’re accompanied by 24 exciting start-ups and scale-ups.

But Leeds City Region also has the potential to become a major hub for legal tech. Law firms have been slow to embrace digital transformation, so a new initiative has been launched to bring together industry leaders and tech entrepreneurs to fuel innovation. ‘LegalTech in Leeds’ will be delivered by Whitecap Consulting and aims to drive digital adoption, as well as improving access to legal services for both businesses and consumers.