The City of London’s Financial Giants

The City, London’s financial district, is been home to some of the worlds most prominent financial, trading, insurance, legal and religious institutions and is a part of London that, apart from the architecture, has remained almost intact since the Romans settled in 47 A.D. The Square Mile – which actually measures 1.12 square miles, has a modest resident population of around eleven thousand, although its transient working population swells to well over 330,000 every day.

The overall Gross Value Added (GVA) for London represents around 45% of the overall sector at some £52 billion and the sector as a whole contributed tax revenues of £53.4bn.
Of the total employed in the City, 42% or 135,000 are employed in the financial sector (from 2009).

Classed as one of three key financial centres around the world, London plays host to many of the leading banks as well as the Stock Exchange and whilst The City is home to some, the influential banking and financial institutions have also spread into the Canary Wharf area. Only four of the top five UK banks are based in the City the other is in Edinburgh (RBS).

The top four London banks are: HSBC (Canary Wharf), Lloyds (City), Barclays (Canary Wharf) and Standard Chartered (City). Between them these four have market values of ~£240 bn. and assets of ~£5,500 bn.

Their employment numbers are substantial, however it is difficult to obtain exact numbers of how many are employed specifically within the 135,000 in the City of London. For that reason we look at the whole of the UK; HSBC alone has 85,000 employees in the UK, spread around its major brank and city centre network. Lloyds, in which the British Government holds a minority stake, indicates that it employs in excess of 104,000 (2010 figures). Barclays employs 146,000 (as at 2011) and Standard Chartered, 84,000.

Looking at Operating Income and stated gross margins for 2010, each is a substantial business:
HSBC – £12 bn. profit £8.3 bn.
Lloyds – £281 m, (£258 m)
Barclays – £3 bn. (profit not stated)
Standard Chartered – £3.85 bn. (profit not stated)

What is clear is that the banking sector within the UK, let alone the world has gone through an upheaval that is unprecedented and it may take some time to settle into a stable sector again. The British Government is under increasing pressure to return Lloyds to the private sector once more and is looking at many options including the restructuring of the bank into two separate – corporate and personal banking streams. Given their relative financial strength, HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered have demonstrated their ability to weather the financial maelstrom despite calls within Government to review and deconstruct the so called bonus culture.

Alongside the major banks, the city is home to the main regulatory body of The Bank of England, an institution to whom the key players look for guidance. It sets the level of interest (Bank Base Rate), currently at 0.5% (for a record three-years), and manages and monitors inflation by intervention in specific sectors as and when required. It is also responsible for the total amount of money flowing through the UK economy and regularly reviews this.

Lloyds, the insurance house, is also established in The City, and home to around fifty of the world’s largest insurance businesses with access to assets in excess of £40,000 bn. to support its infrastructure of risk underwriting and provides cover for every sector of business around the Globe. In excess of 20% of its revenue is derived in the UK.

Finally, the London Stock Exchange – often abbreviated to LSE, is one of the half dozen trading platforms around the world that are seen as the metre by which investors judge the health of commerce. It hosts a number of UK based indices – e.g. the FTSE 100, whereby the value of a business is posted daily in terms of its share price and capitalisation. In sheer scale, the level of activity is huge and in 2010 its market capitalisation was claimed to be £2.27 trillion spread across some 3,000 individual business listings.

The History of the London Wall Buildings

The London Wall is a defensive wall built by the Romans in the 2nd or 3rd century from Kentish stone; it formed the foundations for the later City Wall which historically defined the boundaries of the city. The wall protected the city from invasion and contained the Great Fire of London. It underwent some demolition during the 18th and 19th century and many parts were destroyed in the bombings during the Second World War. Today, part of the route of the wall is followed by the road named London Wall, from Aldersgate and east to Bishopsgate.

The remaining sections of the wall have been protected in gardens and museums or incorporated into the construction of modern buildings. The largest and best preserved section of the London Wall stands at Tower Hill, just north of the Tower of London at nearly 11m tall. During the 17th Century, other buildings were put up either side and parts were destroyed during construction. In the 1930s, the buildings which obscured this section of the wall were cleared away and it is currently preserved by English Heritage. It can be easily reached by train as it is situated opposite Tower Hill Station.

At Tower Hill Station itself there is a section of The London Wall preserved in a green space beneath the underpass, encircled by walkways for commuters to view. When the station was built, the site was excavated and on discovering the fragmented remains of the wall, construction was redesigned around it. From Tower Hill station, north along Coopers Row sits the Grange City Hotel one of whose courtyard walls incorporates a section of the Roman wall with medieval additions. Continue reading “The History of the London Wall Buildings”

Commercial Property Value in the UK Weakened in February

The performance of commercial property in the UK weakened this February according to CBRE’s latest Monthly Index. Total returns for commercial property in the UK fell to 0.1% and capital values fell by 0.4%. The downturn in commercial property performance came in spite of the fact that Central London offices have seen an improvement, with returns up from January, from 0.3% up to 0.5%. The weakening of property valuations covered the three main commercial property market sectors, shopping centres, shops and offices located outside of the Central London area.

On a more positive note, Central London offices have seen renewed growth, which is responsible for offsetting the decline of most parts of the commercial property market. Central London office property values saw an increase of 0.1% for the month.

According to the CBRE’s February 2012 UK Monthly Index survey total returns on all property were 0.1% for the month, with capital values down 0.4%. The retail property market suffered the most in February, providing a return of -0.1%, while industrial property returned 0.4% and offices returned 0.2% overall. Office property values for the rest of the country fell to 0.9% in February.

Rental values showed an improvement over the previous month while retail centres, shops and shopping centres suffered weaker returns, at -0.3%.The report went on to say that a third of commercial property investors have said that London is the most attractive property investment in the EU, ahead of Warsaw by more than 20%.

According to the CBRE’s Senior Analyst, Nick Parker, foreign investors are continuing to target and focus on the UK, and London in particular. Mr Parker said “this was because foreign investors are less constrained by a tight domestic debt market.” He also stated ‘Combine this finding with a healthy skew of respondents who said they intend to increase their overall purchasing activity in 2012 compared to last year, and the picture for the commercial property markets in London and the UK looks quite positive.”

References: Property Magazine and CBRE

The Ten Best Companies to Work for in London

There are a large number of companies to work for in London, and many seem to offer extremely attractive contracts and benefits. Choosing between all of the companies in the capital and making sure that you have made the best choice can be rather tough, especially when you consider all the various aspects such as pay, working environment and benefits. What follows is ten of the best companies to work for in London, most of which have won awards for the excellent packages that they offer their employees.

Shine Communications, which has offices in Islington, is a public relations consultancy agency that was established back in 1998. Shine Communications currently employs just over 50 people and recently won the title of the UK’s Best Small Company to Work For. Shine Communications has a reputation for respecting its staff and treating them as individuals, along with asking their opinions on various aspects of the company’s management. The company offers flexible working hours and an early finish on Fridays, as well as plenty of holidays, especially on special occasions such as their birthdays. The company is also noted for their charity work and competitive salary packages.

Electrical cable supplier Eland Cables is known for its fun and friendly working environment, while special team building exercises are run throughout the year. Eland Cables, which has its corporate head office in Kentish Town, also offers flexible working hours, along with a number of schemes in place to help protect the environment.

The Eurostaff Group recruitment consultancy agency regularly rewards its staff for their hard work with treats such as a weekend in Marrakesh. Around 60 people currently work for this caring company, and staff turnover is just 5%. The company offers a comparatively high salary to their staff as well as perks such as mobile phones and performance related pay. The Eurostaff Group also rewards their employees for working hard with incentives such as trips to Las Vegas and Paris. The Eurostaff Group have offices across Europe and a London base in Southwark.

The Softwire software development company boasts a workforce of 58 people. The happiness and wellbeing of Softwire staff is taken seriously, and the company has even developed an app to monitor general happiness and give instant praise. People who care about their working environment are sure to love working at Softwire.

Goodman Masson, established in Barbican, is a recruitment consultancy company that goes to great lengths to ensure that their staff feel secure by helping them financial in a number of ways. Although the starting salary is already very competitive, the company offers extra bonuses such as helping them to save money on their mortgage payments. Staff also have the option to trade some of their salary for extra holiday time, while staff members who want to purchase a car or make any other type of major purchase will be offered a loan.

The Berkeley Partnership management consultancy company, situated in Chancery Lane, show their appreciation for staff who work hard in a number of different ways. The company features 50 employees and 15 partners. Refreshingly, there is no boss as such, as each of the partners take it in turns to manage different divisions of the company. This helps to ensure that staff are treated fairly, which is reflected by the company’s 10% staff turnover rate.

The Karmarama advertising agency, located in Hammersmith, is perhaps best known for their high profile work for charity, which includes a 24-hour table tennis marathon. While the company’s staff are encouraged to work hard, they also play hard, and the advertising agency provides an onsite fitness centre and games room. Staff who perform well also receive excellent bonuses and other rewards.

The SilverDoor Serviced Apartments
property management company, which has offices in Chiswick, believe in treating each of their 54 members of staff as individuals and goes to great lengths to create a personal image and profile for new employees. Team building exercises are regularly organised and SilverDoor Serviced Apartments ensures that the high profits that are generated by the sale and rental of apartments is shared with their employees.

Having fun at work is one of the main concerns at Mind Candy. The average age of employees at this children’s entertainment company is just 30, and staff are encouraged to tackle their workload in a playful and innovative way. Employees spend their days thinking up new ideas for children’s games and putting them into practice, and this a great place to work for people who are young at heart. Mind Candy’s workspace is in Shoreditch.

Europe’s Tallest Skyscraper – London’s Shard Building

The Shard building, which is located in London Bridge, is the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe. Designed by world renowned Renzo Piano, the structure, which is still under construction, will comprise of ninety five floors. The Shard will be home to high quality office suites, upmarket restaurants, luxury residential apartments and the 5 Star Shangri La Hotel. The building will eventually tower 310 metres (1,017 feet) over South East London and will provide impressive 360 degree panoramic views over the City. The viewing galleries are expected to receive one million visitors a year and people will be able to see as far as Hampstead, Heathrow and the North Downs, up to thirty miles on a clear day.

An estimated 8,000 people will eventually live and work within The Shard and architect Renzo Piano, who co-designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris, sees the building as a ‘Vertical City’. The idea for the concept was taken to Piano more than a decade ago by property developer Irvine Sellar. According to E&T Magazine, Mr Piano has said he wanted to create ‘a shard of glass, a spire tower of angled planes of glass that will reflect light and the changing patterns of the sky so that it will change according to the weather and the seasons’.

In addition to the premium office space, cafes, restaurants, apartments and shops the Shard will also house exhibition and performance space. The highly sought after premium office suites will be located on floors 2-28 and will include conferencing facilities. The five fine dining restaurants will be situated on floors 31-33 and the Shangri La Hotel will be located on floors 34-52, which will have two hundred luxury five star suites and is located on floors 34-52. The exclusive apartments will be situated on floors 53-65 and will be the highest residences in the UK. The Observatory, which is located on floors 68-72, will house the viewing decks. In addition to the twenty six floors of office accommodation within The Shard, more than fifty five square feet of office and retail space will be provided, attached to the eastern corner of the building, called London Bridge Place or referred to as ‘the Backpack’.

There has been some criticism of the ambitious project, which began in 2009, which once complete will have cost and estimated £450 million. English Heritage has reportedly said the Shard will obstruct the view of St Paul’s Cathedral as well as the Houses of Parliament. The Shard is due to be completed by May 2012.

Plans for Channel Tunnel Mobile Phone Coverage

It has been reported that passengers using the Channel Tunnel will soon have access to mobile phone coverage in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games. According to reports from The Daily Telegraph newspaper, a technology group established in France has found a way to connect the tunnel to mobile networks. Although a spokesman for Eurotunnel could not confirm this, he did say that a mobile network connection on the Channel Tunnel was being looked into. He told AFP “Customers demand mobile telephones wherever you go these days”.

The Channel Tunnel, which was opened in 1994, links Folkestone to Calais and is the longest undersea tunnel on the globe. Eurostar offers passenger services from London to Paris and Brussels and Eurotunnel provides a vehicle service. The three tunnels are over thirty miles long, most of which runs under the English Channel.

Further Reading on Transportation

London Rail Link
London Underground Workers
Watford Station
London Transport Olympic Games
Survival Guide to Working in London During the Olympics
Business Parking in London

London Fashion Week — A lot of Fuss or Serious Business?

Although some may see London Fashion Week as a vacuous show of vanity it should also be remembered that the fashion industry in London contributes an enormous twenty one billion pounds to the UK economy annually.

Now in its 28th Year, London Fashion Week is a six day event which brings in buyers from across the globe who are expected to place orders topping one million pounds. London Fashion week is also a chance for UK designers to showcase this seasons fashion lines, and can make or break a fashion label.

In addition, the fashion industry in the UK is the creative industry’s largest employer, providing 1.3 million jobs, which accounts for approximately 4.5% of the UK’s workforce.

3 Million Sq Ft of Office Space Lost in London’s West End

According to a report nearly 3 million square feet of London’s West End office space was converted into homes or apartments between 2001 and 2009. The report goes on to say that due to the conversion of West End office space into residential homes, competition by companies looking for new premium office space in the area has increased.

The study, undertaken by H2SO, found that a total over four million square feet of West End office space was converted into homes, leisure facilities, restaurants and other alternative uses. In addition the study showed that the drive to convert office space into residences was largely fuelled by high property values, with homes worth twice that of office buildings in key areas such as St James and Mayfair.

Due to the decline of office space in the heart of the West End a large number of new office buildings and business centres are being developed within the Kings Cross, Paddington and Euston areas, which is good news for companies looking for Grade A office accommodation.

A Third of SME’s in London Trade Solely Online

According to a recent survey one out of three small businesses in London are selling their products exclusively online.

Research undertaken by PeoplePerHour showed than thirty four percent of small businesses in London operate without a bricks-and-mortar presence on the High Street, and only trade via the internet. The survey showed that even the sixty one percent of small businesses who do have a physical store front presence still make half of their sales on the web.

Forty seven percent of SME’s currently do the majority of their business online, while the number of companies selling more than fifty percent of their services or products via the web has increased twenty seven percent.

The number of firms which sell more than half of their products or services online has increased by 27 per cent, with 47 per cent of SMEs now doing the majority of their business on the web. Many small businesses are attracted to online sales due to cost-effectiveness and the reach their online presence can provide.

London Sees Increase in Office Space Occupancy

Businesses are being advised to secure new offices as soon as possible to take advantage of current rental deals on offer. According to DTZ, office occupancy costs have fallen at some of the UK’s corporate business centres, in part due to the recession and the eurozone crisis. However, London is still one of the five most expensive places to rent office space in the world, along with Tokyo, Hong Kong, Zurich and Geneva.

Further good news for London office space providers is that in the second half of last year office space rental showed an increase from the previous six months. During the last three months of 2011, office space take-up in London reached three million square feet. Office space availability in London dropped by nine percent over 2011.

For further information and to read the full report please go to DTZ.

Additional information on commercial property, real estate, Central London’s exclusive office centres, setting up your first office and renting versus buying office space.