Sheffield shows why manufacturing and finance enjoy a glorious synergy

Alan Yarrow
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Today’s Sheffield has diversified far beyond its ever-valuable steel industry (Source: Wikimedia)
My title might be “lord mayor of the City of London”, but really that’s quite misleading. It’s my job to represent the whole of the UK’s financial and professional services industry, wherever it’s based. London may well be the largest single financial services centre in the UK, but 1.7m of the 2.1m people employed by the industry work somewhere other than the City.

I can’t represent them if I don’t meet them. That’s why I visit as many different UK cities as I can throughout my mayoralty. I have already been to Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bournemouth, and on Friday I added Sheffield to that list.

Financial services unlock jobs and growth in local economies up and down the country, and we need to do a better job of promoting that. The City has links with Sheffield dating back to its steel city days, and the Cutlers Company in Hallamshire, which I met last week, has long helped us to foster these bonds. But today’s Sheffield has diversified far beyond its ever-valuable steel industry.

The local financial and professional services industry employs 25,000 people, 10 per cent of Sheffield’s workforce, and indirectly supports tens of thousands more local jobs. It also provides 12 per cent of Sheffield’s regional gross value added (GVA). Massive employers like Aviva, IBM, Nabarro and Nationwide have a significant presence. The UK’s British Business Bank is based there, along with many other financial and professional services institutions that support the area’s other sectors – including steelworks.

This synergy between manufacturing and financial services is great news for the future of Sheffield. Banks are heavily invested in manufacturing, with around £37bn currently lent to manufacturers, and they train staff to understand the management of supply chains and manufacturing cycles so that they can offer clients better support.

Lloyds, for example, has committed to lend £1bn a year to manufacturing businesses, and will track and report its progress. It also contributes £1m a year to support 100 apprentices to attend the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry.

But it’s not just banks. Contributions are being made by law firms, management consultancies, and all the other components of the financial and professional services sector. Sheffield’s long established insurance brokers ECS, for example, now offer “Made in Sheffield Insurance”, specifically designed to reduce costs for the city’s manufacturers.

These are great examples of how a strong financial services industry can contribute to a strong manufacturing industry. Too often, we talk about financial services as an either/or, as if manufacturing and financial services can’t both succeed, or as if one of them is the “real” economy and the other doesn’t really matter.

But as Sheffield shows, this is emphatically not the case. A strong financial services industry is the backbone of a strong manufacturing industry, and close working between the two will help build growth across the economy. Visiting Sheffield showed me some of the practical, helpful steps that institutions are taking to make this happen. These steps will help the City regain its trust and its position at the centre of industry.

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