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Top bankers placing their money on the UK’s second city

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Top banking leaders say Birmingham’s strong economy, attractive workforce and impressive transport network make it the ideal location for inward investors.

The comments from bosses at HSBC, Al Rayan, Lloyds and Secure Trust banks reflect Birmingham’s position as the largest UK city economy outside London with a GVA (gross added value) of £28,2bn, while the wider West Midlands GVA has grown by more than 20% in the last five years.

Ian Stuart, chief executive of HSBC UK, said:

“We chose to locate the head office of HSBC UK in Birmingham because it’s a dynamic and entrepreneurial city, offering an attractive home for businesses and people at the heart of the UK.

“Our commercial banking teams in the region are helping a fantastic range of businesses – from start-ups to multinationals – to grow, supporting many in taking their products and services overseas.

“The West Midlands offers ambitious businesses growth opportunities, support and talent, and we look forward to playing our part in supporting the region’s continued growth.”

Sultan Choudhury, chief executive of Al Rayan Bank, said:

“Al Rayan has been headquartered in Birmingham since it was founded in 2004. It remains the perfect location for our operational headquarters because it provides a fertile environment for businesses to prosper, building upon its great history as the city of a thousand trades.

“Birmingham lies at the centre of the Midlands Engine, contributing tens of billions to the UK economy. It is the largest city outside of London, and one of the fastest growing in the UK with a broad base of industries including the shared services industry, manufacturing and the professional and financial services.”

The comments support how more than 29,500 businesses were founded in Birmingham alone across 2016 and 2017, with the city topping the list for the highest number of start-ups outside of London for five consecutive years.

Meanwhile, more than 170 new foreign direct investment (FDI) projects were recorded in the West Midlands during the 2017/18 year, creating more than 9,400 jobs – the highest number created in any area outside London.

Dene Jones, regional director for the Midlands at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:

“In the past few years, Birmingham and the West Midlands – has experienced a boom in investment that has brought with it new jobs and opportunities for local businesses.

“Major global companies are choosing Greater Birmingham which highlights how the region – famous worldwide for its industrial heritage – is now seen to be at the forefront of new and emerging sectors too.”

Paul Lynam, chief executive of Secure Trust Bank, said:

“Our headquarters are already in Greater Birmingham. The region’s strong and growing economy offers great opportunities, which is why our Commercial Finance business also recently established a new regional base here.”

The bankers also praised the availability of a young and skilled workforce, with Birmingham ranked as the youngest major city in Europe and supplying nearly 7,000 graduates trained in business, professional and financial services a year. This includes 1,760 in Business Studies – more than any UK city outside London according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Mr Stuart, of HSBC, said:

“There are a number of factors that are attracting businesses to the region – it boasts world-class universities, one of the youngest populations in Europe, and a skilled and diverse workforce.”

Mr Choudhury, of Al Rayan Bank, said:

“The city provides the talent we need. Over 50,000 people are employed in financial services in Birmingham alone, which means that the skilled talent pool can keep pace with the rapid growth of the Al Rayan Bank.”

Mr Jones, of Lloyds, said:

“The region is home to a burgeoning talent pool. The region has always been renowned as a hub for innovation, with engineers and technology students graduating from world-class universities, meaning firms can benefit from new skilled workers.

“But lately we’re also seeing an increasing number of financial services and technology businesses eyeing Greater Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region. Birmingham is also home to a thriving business community which is set to be enhanced by new infrastructure projects and international events such as the Commonwealth Games in 2022.”

Mr Lynam, of Secure Trust Bank, said:

“The Greater Birmingham region’s established, respected and diverse business and academic communities give us access to a high-quality pool of talent which is absolutely essential to our future success.”

Greater Birmingham’s improved transport links were also highlighted by the bankers as one of the major attractions of the region to inward investment, with Mr Stuart of HSBC describing it as “an excellent transport network”.

Mr Choudhury, of Al Rayan Bank, said:

“Birmingham has superb transport links. You can access central London in just over 80 minutes and its ever-expanding airport now offers daily direct services to Doha through Qatar Airways as well as to many other global cities.”

Mr Jones, of Lloyds, said:

“Birmingham is already well linked to major cities across the UK, and the new high-speed rail line will drastically improve connectivity further – bringing the region within 38 minutes of the capital and within an hour of both Leeds and Manchester.”

And Mr Lynam, of Secure Trust Bank, said:

“Our central location with strong transport links enables us to draw on talent from a much wider geographical location than would be possible if we were located elsewhere in the UK.”

Neil Rami, chief executive of the West Midlands Growth Company, said:

“The fact that top bosses at some of the UK’s largest and most diverse banks rate Greater Birmingham so highly is really encouraging for the future of business in this region.

“These are exciting times for a city region where growth is strong and foreign investment is outpacing all other UK regions. We have all the finance and innovation needed to further establish our position as place for successful investment, with the leadership, determination and talent to deliver.

“There is now real momentum behind Greater Birmingham’s growth and strength both economically and demographically, with the city region quickly becoming home to the industries of tomorrow.

“Greater Birmingham has so much to offer inward investors who can confidently invest in what has become the UK’s most liveable, investable and competitive region.”