Long known for it's role in the Industrial Revolution, Birmingham morphed into a city of cars and concrete. Now it is reinventing itself as a leading European centre for finance, business services and technology.
Once seen as a back office location supporting London operations, Birmingham is increasingly being considered as a viable alternative to the capital. The city has already attracted the UK headquarters of HSBC and a sizeable presence from Deutsche Bank, but it is the arrival of investment banking giant Goldman Sachs which has put it firmly under the spotlight.
After a two year evaluation of possible software sites, Golman's final choice was Birmingham, above cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. Jo Hannaford, head of business services explained -
The analysis kept bringing us back to Birmingham. It feels like a very safe decision. It makes perfect sense.
Neil Rami of West Midlands Growth Company said that whilst Goldman's move has attracted a lot of attention, it is part of an ongoing pattern, with a growing number of professional services firms following the banks.
Pinsent Masons and DLA Piper are just two of the law firms to increase their presence in Birmingham. Sandra Wallace of DLA Piper chose to stay on in the city after her promotion to Co-Managing Partner, first for the UK, then for the firm's European operations.
Not only is the cost of doing business much lower than in the capital, there is a strong talent pool. Universities in the West Midlands produce around 70,000 graduates each year, over half of whom choose to remain in the region.
Buoyed by the approval of HS2, the City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority are determined to take the fullest advantage, making sure that sufficient high quality office space becomes available. The redevelopment of the Paradise/Arena Central district, home to HSBC and KMPG, continues at pace, with huge developments at Smithfield and Curzon HS2 scheduled for the coming years.
Back to Jo Hannaford at Golman Sachs -
We were one of the first into Warsaw and now Google, JP Morgan and others are there. Birmingham could be the same.