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Financial Services key part of the Northern Powerhouse, says City minister

Visiting the North West, Harriett Baldwin showcases the crucial role that the financial services sector plays in creating the Northern Powerhouse.

In a speech delivered at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the Economic Secretary highlighted the important role that financial services in the North West play in rebalancing the economy.

The North West has a fantastic and growing reputation for financial services. It hosts a booming cluster of financial, accounting, legal and management consulting firms with its offer of a highly-skilled talent pool and low-cost base.

The industry directly employs 98,000 people, with a further 137,000 working in associated professional services. In 2014 it added over £8 billion to the region’s economy.

Giants of international banking, Bank of America and BNY Mellon, have chosen to base significant operations in Chester and Manchester, while historic companies like Rathbones and the Co-operative Bank trace their roots back to the North West. The region also continues its excellence in the associated professional services sector, hosting major names like PwC, EY and Deloitte.

The Economic Secretary visited Chester to showcase how smaller cities in the North play an essential role in the success of the UK’s economy.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin, said:

The financial services industry in the North West is going from strength to strength and is crucial to the success of the Northern Powerhouse. It makes an important contribution to the local economy and employs around 98,000 people with a further 137,000 in related professional services.

Chester is quickly emerging as a great destination for financial and insurance services firms to set-up, with the sector is crucial adding over £800 million to Cheshire West and Chester’s economy in 2014.

The Economic Secretary warned that this success could be put at risk by a vote to leave the EU on 23 June. She said:

A vote to stay in Europe will protect jobs in the North West, promote economic growth and ensure that the regional financial services sector continues to grow.

Let’s make the right choice on the 23rd of June. Let’s stay in.

The thriving and competitive financial services sector in the North West plays a vital role serving the wider economy, including providing finance to the businesses that need it most.

The government want to ensure the businesses in Chester have the support that they need to grow which is why, for example, the government are investing over £160 million to make major improvements to the M62.

Welcoming the Economic Secretary’s visit, Stephen Miller, Managing Director, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Chester, said:

Having significantly increased the scale of our business in Chester over recent years, it is very clear to us that greater connectivity, better physical and digital infrastructure and further corporate investment are vital components of sustained economic development in the North West. The success of the Northern Powerhouse initiative is therefore critical to the region achieving its full economic potential.

While in Chester, the Economic Secretary, who is responsible for women in the economy, also talked to senior female staff at Bank of America Merrill Lynch about the barriers that women can face in rising to senior positions.

The government believes that removing the barriers which prevent women from fully realising their potential in the labour market is a crucial part of improving the UK’s long-term economic performance. Particularly as the OECD have estimated that equalising the role of men and women in the labour market could increase GDP by 10% by 2030.

In March the government launched the Women in Finance Charter, which asks financial services firms to commit to improve gender diversity in their own firms by implementing four recommendations from the Gadhia review ‘Empowering Productivity: harnessing the talents of women in financial services’.

The Charter has already has 18 high-profile signatories, which together employ more than 150,000 staff in the UK financial services sector, including Barclays, RBS, Legal and General, Columbia Threadneedle, Lloyds of London, Lloyds Banking Group, Capital Credit Union and HSBC.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin said:

Achieving gender balance at all levels across financial services firms is a personal priority of mine. Removing the barriers which prevent women from fully realising their potential in the labour market is a crucial part of improving the UK’s long-term economic performance.

It is fantastic that a number of leading financial services firms have already committed to sign up to our new ‘Women in finance charter’ and I encourage all firms across the sector to follow suit.