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Cardiff

Cardiff – the growing home of talent

Chris Sutton comments on the future of the Welsh Capital


Cardiff is perhaps best known for its rugby… or its singing. But over the past decade, the capital city of Wales has also steadily built its reputation in the professional and financial services sector. This was acknowledged and rewarded with a high score in the inaugural Global Cities Talent and Competitiveness Index (GCTCI), announced in January 2017.

This survey, assessed 46 cities across the world and ranked Cardiff highly for its talent pool Positioned at number 11, Cardiff was the highest scoring city in the UK, outranking London in 16th, and also beating other global cities such as Berlin (12th) and New York (16th).

I guess this result was no surprise to me – I have lived and worked in Cardiff for over 30 years.. During my time in Cardiff, the city has grown dramatically and become a hub of sporting, cultural and commercial activity. The St Davids shopping centre is a UK ‘top 10’ retail centre and the Millennium Centre is home to the Welsh National Opera.

By far one of the most important developments in Cardiff in recent years is the establishment of the Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone, one of eight set up since 2011 by the Welsh Government, creating the best possible conditions for businesses to thrive. As well as offering a range of financial incentives, including some of the highest levels of grant aid in the UK, the Enterprise Zones (EZs) offer excellent transport links between key locations, competitive property and salary costs, and proximity to a skilled workforce and commercially-focused academics.

Central Cardiff EZ spans over 140 acres, spreading both north and south of the mainline railway, which connects Cardiff Central station with London Paddington. Currently in the process of being electrified, by 2018 the journey time to London by rail will be reduced from the current two hours to around one hour and 40 minutes. Cardiff is home to three universities, each with strong ties to the EZ. The University of South Wales already has its creative campus, The Atrium, in the EZ, and now both Cardiff University and Cardiff Metropolitan are set to join them in the next two years. Cardiff University is seeking to establish a School of Journalism in close proximity to the new 150,000 sq ft BBC Wales’ headquarters, due to open in late 2018. However, even these projects don’t take the star billing. The proposed ‘public sector hub’ recently announced by the Cabinet Office’s Government Property Unit totals a massive 280,000 sq ft, with the potential for a second phase of a similar size.

Such growth brings challenges, not least in terms of connectivity within South Wales. That is why the £1.28 billion City Deal for Cardiff Capital Region is welcome, bringing significant funding to allow the electrification of the Valleys Lines – the railway lines which spread like fingers northwards into the hinterland of Cardiff. The ‘Metro’ project starts in 2018 and is due for completion in 2022.

Highlighted above are major inward investment projects involving academia, BBC Wales and HM Government. But the principal strength of the Enterprise Zone is, I believe, based on the financial and professional services sector.

Leading insurer Admiral Plc has its 210,000 sq ft HQ in the city whilst Motonovo, Julian Hodge Bank, Lloyds Bank, Centrica and cyber-security company Alert Logic are just some of the financial companies to locate here.

Deloitte is a prime example of what can be achieved when doing business in Wales. Back office functions based around risk management have transferred from London to Cardiff over recent years. The competitive employment costs and a highly regarded workforce were key factors – however the response from Cardiff & Vale College in creating a dedicated apprenticeship programme was also, I understand, a key factor.

In my experience, Cardiff has become a city which punches above its weight. Less than two hours from London, it is highly accessible yet it retains the small city features which create a better quality of life for talented students and professionals. It is fantastic that Cardiff has achieved this ranking in the Global Cities Index, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the city.

Chris Sutton of JLL is Chair of Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone.