Financial Centres Outside London

While London is the UK’s main financial hub and ‘The City’ is often used as a shorthand description of the UK financial services sector, many other cities also have booming financial centres. Boosted by sponsorship and development programmes between regional government agencies, major companies, universities and business schools, these regional centres make an important contribution to the UK’s strength in global financial services.


Scotland’s distinguished history in financial services dates back over 300 years. It is the second largest financial hub in the UK after London and the fourth largest financial centre in Europe, when measured in terms of equity assets. Scotland is particularly recognised for its strengths in banking, life assurance and pensions, investment management and asset servicing. It also has vibrant general insurance and corporate finance and broking services sectors, and a strong community of professional advisers. The industry is of major importance to the Scottish economy, accounting for £7 billion (over 7%) of Scotland’s GDP and providing one in ten Scottish jobs.

Scotland is home to the headquarters of four clearing banks, including the world’s fifth largest bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland. Many other international banks and two of the UK’s largest banks also have sizeable operations in Scotland. Companies in this sector employ an estimated 40,000 people. Four major insurance companies are headquartered in Scotland and it is the operating base for several other major insurance institutions such as Aviva and Prudential. Companies in this sector employ approximately 20,000 people in Scotland, and many thousands more in the rest of the world.

Fund management is of great importance to the insurance sector. Between them the member companies of Scottish Financial Enterprise, the representative body for the country’s financial services industry, manage around £726 billion internationally (inclusive of funds managed by investment management subsidiaries). There is a strong presence in the institutional, retail and private client markets, and expertise in all aspects of general insurance, life assurance and pensions. Pension fund business is particularly active; other areas include annuities, health insurance and investment products, such as unit trusts and open-ended investment companies. Against a backdrop of global consolidation, the quality of local investment management talent has led to robust development of boutique investment firms in Scotland. This sector employs around 3,300 people locally and 13,000 worldwide.

In recent years, Scotland has become a major European centre for asset servicing. Activities include securities servicing, investment accounting, performance measurement trustee and depositary services and treasury services, retail fund administration, shareholder services and compliance and client management. This sector employs 3,800 people with over £685 billion of funds under administration.


Wales has a buoyant and growing financial services sector, comprising more than 1,800 companies employing around 35,600 people and contributing 5% to Welsh GDP. Banks and building societies dominate the sector in Wales, employing 62% of the workforce. Insurance and pension companies account for 21% of employment; the remainder are mainly insurance brokers, independent financial advisers and investment managers. Wales has one of the EU’s highest staff retention rates. Around half of all students in Welsh universities graduate in finance, business or law-related degrees. Wales has steadily attracted many UK and global financial services companies since the 1990s. More recently, innovative internetbased businesses, and have each established their main contact centres in Wales.


Leeds serves one of the largest economic concentrations in any region outside London and the south east. Employment in financial and related business services reached over 124,000 in 2008 and the sector accounts for 31% of the city’s GDP. After London, Leeds is the largest legal centre in the UK and a major base for accountancy, banking, insurance, building society finance, stockbroking, corporate and retail financial services and venture capital, with over 30 national and international banks. In addition to its preeminence as a centre for corporate financial services, Leeds has become the location of choice for some of the country’s top household names in banking and insurance services. It is the leading UK city for telephone delivered banking and related financial services, with over 30 call centres employing around 20,000 people. A highly popular destination for students, the University of Leeds receives the most applications of any UK university and boasts a world-class business school.

West Midlands and the North-West

As the UK’s largest centre for business and financial services outside London, England’s north-west boasts a dynamic range of financial, legal, property and consultancy firms employing over 240,000 people across a wide range of activities including insurance, retail finance, wealth management, corporate finance, banking, law and accountancy. These activities generate over 11.5% of the region’s total gross value added (GVA). The Manchester city region accounts for 7% of all financial services output and 10% of all employment in the UK, while in the north-west as a whole, business and financial services employ 11% of the workforce.

Firms have developed expertise in several fast-growing areas, including AIM listings, venture capital investment, public-private partnerships, private wealth management and maritime and environmental law. Over 60 banks have operations in Manchester, 40 of which are overseas-owned, making it the largest regional corporate finance and stockbroking centre in England.

The Republic of Ireland (Éire)

Since joining the EU in 1973, the Republic of Ireland has developed a strong and important financial services sector, contributing over 10% to annual GDP. Over 50,000 people are directly employed in the sector, with a further 25,000 employees employed indirectly in various support services. The International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin alone employs around 17,500 people. Ireland is the only English speaking common law jurisdiction within the Eurozone with its population of some 400 million people. Ireland offers a low corporate tax rate with an excellent tax treaty network, attracts substantial foreign direct investment, has good availability of highly qualified staff (including specialists in complex structured finance deals) and a modern infrastructure, including excellent air transport links to Europe and North America. This makes the country a very attractive jurisdiction in which to locate financial services, mainly within three sectors:

Banking: asset finance, treasury and securitisation. Over 450 international financial companies are located in Ireland, including half of the world’s top 50 banks. Banking employs almost 40,000 staff engaged in a wide range of retail and wholesale activities. About €100 billion is invested in asset-backed securities (ABS) and there is substantial provision of sophisticated banking products and innovative financing solutions.

Investment and mutual funds: Ireland is a leading location for domicile, listing, management, administration, custody and trustee-related activities, servicing over €600 billion in assets. It is the largest domicile in Europe for offshore funds, the largest administration centre for exchange traded and hedge funds and it has the largest stock exchange listing for investment funds.

Insurance and reinsurance: Ireland has the fourth largest reinsurance market in the world and is a major player across a range of insurance markets.