The number of financial services jobs on offer in the north of England has increased dramatically over the past couple of years as businesses relocate in a bid to reduce their overheads and stay competitive.
With firms of all sizes in the sector still struggling to get back to pre-recession levels of business, growing numbers are choosing to leave London as they aim to slash their operating costs. In fact, according to the latest statistics compiled by the specialist industry recruiter BrightPool, the number of financial services jobs being advertised in the capital has actually fallen by four per cent over the last two years, with the north of England being the biggest beneficiary of this cost-cutting drive.
Indeed, the figures show that the number of new financial services jobs on offer in the north of the country has soared significantly over the last 24 months. Breaking the figures down, they reveal Liverpool and Manchester to be the real winners as bosses look to escape London's high prices while still being able to enjoy the business benefits that come with operating in a big city.
Liverpool, for instance, has enjoyed a 49 per cent increase in the number of new finance jobs being created and openly advertised, while the number of openings coming up in nearby Manchester has increased by 41 per cent since the summer of 2012.
At the same time, York is a surprise inclusion at the top of the list of job creation hotspots. The picturesque county capital, which is perhaps better known for its historic monuments than its bustling finance sector, has experienced a 43 per cent increase in related vacancies over this same period, meaning there are close to 1,000 positions still to be filled.
In comparison, while neighbouring Leeds has more vacancies on offer, its rate of growth is just 28 per cent in comparison, highlighting the extent to which Yorkshire's employers are increasingly moving away from the big city and towards smaller locations.
Uncertainty over Scotland also good news for the north
Interestingly, it's not just businesses escaping the high costs of London that are driving this recruitment boom in the north.
The latest research also shows that several big financial services firms also put any expansion plans they might have had in Scotland on hold as they waited to see which way the vote on independence would go.
The uncertainty that surrounded the referendum meant that, while destinations such as Glasgow offered cheaper corporate rents, cities south of the border, among them Manchester and Newcastle, were the preferred option over the past 12 months, though now the referendum is over, firms could start looking to Scotland once again.
Talent shortage still an issue
By switching their operations to the north of the country, both national and international financial services firms can enjoy a number of advantages. Above all, corporate rents in the north are, on average, much cheaper than those in London and the south-east in general. Similarly, given the reduced cost of living in the north of the country, talent can be cheaper to recruit, even in big cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, though most talented professionals will still expect competitive wages.
One major problem, facing contractors and end clients focusing their attention on growing in the north of England is that, while the quality is undoubtedly there, statistics show the quantity of top candidates is still an issue.
Indeed, as Angela Hickmore, managing director of BrightMore, explains: "Talent may be cheaper in some cities in the north, but it is also harder to find in sufficient numbers. That can cause recruitment headaches for those businesses locating operations there."
For many employers, the short-term solution to this problem is to look beyond the local talent pool and, if necessary, offer incentives to attract talent from London or even overseas and use these recruits to help get their operations in the north off the ground and established.
Given the added cost of bringing in specialist recruits, talented workers already in the north of England should be in an excellent position to not only land the best jobs, but to also negotiate attractive pay and benefits packages.
North booming in other ways
It's not just finance firms that have woken up to the benefits of looking beyond the M25 and tapping into the concept of having a base in the north of the country. Most famously, the BBC chose to move many of its operations to a new Media City, with the national broadcaster having been joined by many smaller independent arts and media firms in the Salford hub.
Just recently, the government launched the new TechNorth Initiative, geared towards attracting IT investors to the region and helping that industry expand significantly over the next few years.
According to the government's own figures, there are currently around 200,000 IT-related jobs in the north of England, though this figure is expected to double over the years ahead as cities such as Manchester and Sheffield follow the lead of Berlin and other global tech hubs and look beyond traditional industries.