London may be the country’s banking hub, yet there are 15 places across the UK and several unexpectedly finance-friendly towns that offer surprisingly good career prospects.
A new study found that Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester offer the next best opportunities for a career in finance after London. Meanwhile, big districts like Cornwall, Bradford and Wiltshire disappoint in terms of pursuing a finance career, barely competing with much smaller places, like Stockport, Solihull, Elmbridge, and Windsor and Maidenhead.
The research, carried out by UK trading company CMC Markets, analysed the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, published in March 2022, for finance enterprises in 342 UK districts, excluding London, and the latest available population statistics. It found that 63% of British firms offering financial services alone, excluding insurance and pension funding, are located outside London.
Edinburgh tops the list for best places outside London for a career in finance, with around 310 firms and 527,620 residents calling it their home. It is also the only other place outside London that hosts large firms with over a thousand employees each. With a population of 1,144,900, Birmingham ranks second for finance enterprises, with around 265 firms located here, although none hire more than 250 staff.
Surprisingly, although Leeds is the third biggest city in the UK, it is outrun by Manchester, which hosts around 265 finance firms – 15 more than Leeds. In fact, Manchester has more medium to large finance companies than Leeds, despite having 32% less residents.
The wildcards of the ranking include Trafford, Milton Keynes, Stockport, Solihull, Elmbridge, and Windsor and Maidenhead. With relatively small populations of just 235,100 and 287,000 respectively, Trafford and Milton Keynes make the top 15 places outside London for a career in finance, with 130 and 110 specialised firms located here. This positions them ahead of much more populous districts like Bradford (546,400 residents and 95 finance firms), Wiltshire (510,400 residents and 85 finance firms) and Cornwall (570,300 residents and 80 finance firms).
Stockport, Solihull, Elmbridge, and Windsor and Maidenhead are four more honourable mentions. While much bigger cities may host more micro and small finance firms, counting up to 49 employees, Stockport and Solihull stand out for the number of firms that are classed as medium (up to 249 employees) or large (over 250 workers). Meanwhile, Elmbridge and the district of Windsor and Maidenhead beat the odds and, despite populations of just 138,800 and 153,500, respectively, they each host around 80 finance firms, placing them at #24 and #25 nationally.
At the other extremity, with zero to two registered firms offering financial services, are Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Na h-Eileanan Siar, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and the Isles of Scilly.
Michael Hewson, Chief Market Analyst at CMC Markets commented on the findings: “We were pleased to find out that these finance-friendly places are not necessarily the most populous cities in the UK. London is extremely competitive and the lifestyle is not everyone’s cup of tea, so it is refreshing to know where the best places to pursue a career in finance are that are way off the beaten path.
“Take Elmbridge and the district of Windsor and Maidenhead, for instance. They are both home to a significantly larger proportion of high earners, creating a striking demand for financial services, compared to other places in the UK. Their proximity to London makes them ideal for financial advisors looking to offer a more curated yet competitive approach.”