London vs Leeds: Where to progress your finance career in the UK?

Mellani Georgiou our consultant managing the role
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COVID-19 caused unprecedented disruption to the UK’s finance and accountancy sector, causing intense changes to how the industry operates. The businesses we work with are suggesting a greater utilisation of technology, resulting from a profound rethinking on work-life balance, and this has led to increased job satisfaction in many cases. Furthermore, economists are forecasting a stronger than expected economic recovery post-pandemic, and is predicted to be the fastest growing European economy over the next five years.  

We are also seeing an increased level of sponsorship opportunities available to those with accountancy qualifications from outside of the UK. This means there are numerous finance career opportunities available to you!

London was one of the hardest hit areas of the UK during the pandemic. This is due to a large proportion of the country’s leisure and hospitality sector being concentrated in the city. With that being said, the easing of lockdown has turbocharged the market for finance jobs, with vacancy postings in Q3 more than double last year’s level. And this isn’t the only sign highlighting the capital is slowly getting back to business. Businesses in The City are reporting that London’s finance workers are flocking back to the office. This, combined with the fact hospitality is reporting trade has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, means there has never been a more exciting time to move to London and enlist the help of a finance recruitment agency.

However, whilst many (including our London-based consultants) will argue that the only place to base your finance career is London, you should also consider the Northern Powerhouse, home of the humble Yorkshire pudding - the city of Leeds! 

During the pandemic, the Leeds finance and accounting job market remained fairly steady. This is primarily due to the thriving industries there, which were very resilient and even depended on throughout the pandemic. Essential businesses like Quorn, Hermes, Morrisons and Asda actually grew during the pandemic. And these are not the only big brand names in Leeds. There is also a huge community of brands who have made Leeds the financial epicentre of their operations, including GHD, Burberry, Jet2 and Channel 4. Plus, either side of these thriving multinational businesses is a bubbling group of hungry SMEs and the domineering presence of the Big 4 accounting firms. 

We are also seeing an increased level of sponsorship opportunities available to those with accountancy qualifications from outside of the UK. This means there are numerous opportunities available to you!"

What makes Leeds so attractive to employers and finance professionals? 

Stephanie Teale, Principal Consultant and self-proclaimed Queen of Leeds, gives her top reasons to look for finance jobs in Leeds: 

  • Leeds has a reputation as one of the best places to shop in the UK. People come from all around the country to spend their money on everything, from high-end luxury goods to handmade local wares
  • You are only a short drive away from the Yorkshire Dales national park 
  • Leeds is home to some of the best nightlife venues in the UK. From lively clubs to rooftop bars, there is never a dull moment 

  • Another thing that makes Leeds a great place to live is that it is close to other great cities like Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield

  • Yorkshire folk are world-famous for their friendliness! 

However, there are further practical benefits for moving to Leeds rather than London. The cost of renting is up to 144% higher in London. Groceries are around 16% more expensive in London, and restaurant prices are 19% higher in the capital. Overall, Numbeo estimates that the cost of living in London is 62% higher than in Leeds.

Between the outstanding quality of opportunities for work, the vibrancy of city life and the lower cost of living, it’s a no-brainer that Leeds is the place to start your finance career in the UK, right? 

However, there is a reason London is the finance centre of the world… 

London has long been at the centre of trade and finances, as its geographical position between Asia and New York means it is perfectly situated for international trade. Moreover, the financial services sector is a major part of the British economy, making up 5.5% of GDP. Here are some of the benefits of pursuing finance jobs in London:

  • Around 30% of London’s inhabitants were born outside of the UK, making it a melting pot of different traditions and cultures

  • London has a rich and storied history, documented in numerous museums, libraries and art galleries. London wasn’t the third most visited city in 2019 without reason 

  • With so many international companies, London is intimately connected to the rest of the world, even post-Brexit

  • London is home to a variety of industries, but the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and the historic streets of the Square Mile dominate. In between the headquarters of Deloitte, Salesforce and Barclays, you can find an unprecedented collection of banks, insurance firms, and consultancies 

  • London is on the cutting edge of innovation. The rise of FinTechs and tech start-ups means there are exciting opportunities with businesses of all sizes 

whilst we have discussed that it is significantly more expensive to live in London, salaries and employee benefits packages go a long way to compensate workers, and are much more comparable to the salaries seen in Melbourne and Toronto."

And whilst we have discussed that it is significantly more expensive to live in London, salaries and employee benefits packages go a long way to compensate workers, and are much more comparable to the salaries seen in Melbourne and Toronto. In London, a recently qualified management accountant working in the commercial sector can expect to earn between £50,000 and £55,000, not including bonuses and benefits. Whereas in Leeds, a recently qualified management accountant in the same sector could expect to earn £35,000 to £45,000 before benefits.*

So what does this mean for you and your career? 

Ultimately, both Leeds and London are excellent places to start your career in UK finance. You have to make a decision based on your priorities and ambitions. And whilst the COVID-19 pandemic might not be over yet, trends and past behaviour suggest that accountancy still offers a safe career and the finance industry in both London and Leeds

As the UK and Ireland’s premier finance and accountancy recruitment specialist, we have unparalleled access to a broad range of finance and accounting roles to fit your personality and skills. Our consultants have in-depth knowledge of trends, packages, and can effectively consult on your career journey. 

If you would like to discuss any of the above and understand what a finance recruitment agency can offer you, please reach out to me. Alternatively, if you are looking to start your UK finance and accountancy career, check out our latest finance and accounting vacancies

*For more information on salary benchmarking, please download our Market Insight and Salary Trend Report, which includes extensive market analysis and detailed salary directors for the UK and Ireland. 

10/11/21
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