The North West Finance Awards - the North West is still the country’s biggest hive of industry

MediaCityUK Photographer: Greg Harding

MediaCityUK Photographer: Greg Harding - Credit: Archant

Business schools in Lancashire and the North West are producing a conveyor belt of management and finance professionals, reports Simon Walton

All around us, reminders from the industrial heritage, tell the story of the once productive North West. You could be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that all our industry is all our yesterdays, but the truth of today is just as busy as the bees that adorn Manchester’s town hall.

It’s fair to say that the still standing reminders of 19th century factories and mills will always be more pleasing on the eye than the functional business and industrial parks of the modern age. Yet, largely hidden from sight, the North West is still the country’s biggest hive of industry. Over 300,000 are directly employed in the manufacturing sector alone, according to think tank New Economy. That critical mass is driving demand for a very modern cohort of talented individuals.

‘There are very many more businesses in the North West than in the days of days of huge mills and factories,’ says Simon Speak of financial recruitment specialist AFR Consulting in Lancashire. ‘That’s one of the factors that makes the region such a magnet for management and finance professionals, and demonstrably a factor in attracting international graduates to the region. It’s part of the reason why the North West supports such a proportionately large managerial and financial talent pool, without necessarily having a reputation as a financial services hub.’

The corridors of Salford Business School really do emphasise that international appeal. Along with other regional universities, from Lancaster to Liverpool and others, a united nations of ambitious graduates find their way into British industry, and often right on their doorstep. ‘Manchester has become Britain’s city for shared service centres,’ says Simon Wooding, of recruiters WWB, based in the city. ‘Nationwide and multinational companies locate highly sophisticated back office finance and support functions in Greater Manchester. It makes business sense and there’s a motivated and mobile talent pool right here, offering everything from experienced managers to graduates trained in the very latest practices.’

This year, for the first time, the well-established North West Finance Awards will celebrate that emerging talent, with a graduate showcase, putting some of the most promising students from the region in front of the most ambitious companies in the region. ‘It’s a chance for some lucky students to mix with top decision makers from many different business sectors,’ says recruiter Gareth Boyd of Adele Carr Financial Recruitment, who is looking forward to the October 1 event. He’s seen the same pattern of new talent demand repeated across the Wirral and Cheshire.

‘The scale of industrial operation there rivals the historical images of Trafford Park and Merseyside, but alongside the big names, there are many more smaller businesses, fuelling demand for modern management and finance structures. These are fertile opportunities for young, well trained professionals to begin their financial and managerial careers, right here in the North West.’

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It’s unlikely that many modern industrial and business premises will have the enduring aesthetic appeal of their nineteenth century counterparts, nor will they endure for a hundred years or more. Even so, for the lucky finalists on stage at the North West Finance Awards, and many more students like them, those less decorous buildings in less prominent locations are the hidden treasure, just waiting for their talent to emerge.

Counting up the benefits to the regional economy, the educational establishment, and to those specialist recruiters, is something for which they’ll be well qualified. In the modern economy it’s not bricks and mortar but a highly professional workforce that will be the enduring legacy of the age. w

The North West Finance Awards, supported by Lancashire Life, are at the Macron Stadium, Bolton on October 1,