Prudential’s recent announcement that it is considering moving its headquarters to Hong Kong is worrying news for the UK economy. It could represent the beginning of a transition for major financial organisations that underpin our economy, to move away from the City and seek more hospitable pastures. This could have serious repercussions for the UK.
As many business in the UK grapple for an escape from one of the worst economic crises the country has ever seen, there is another enemy at the gate. The strains of brain drain threatens to destroy the very essence of what will get this country back on track – innovation.
With over ten years as a CEO in the advertising industry I know full well how important strong leaders and reliable, talented staff are when leading a business out of a crisis. Never has this country been more in need of fresh and quality people to inject vigour and innovation into the country to drag it out of the mess it finds itself in.
However, I am seeing a worrying trend spreading across the UK. Top talent, tired of economic pressures and a stagnated economy, are being attracted by the new ventures, opportunities and financial reward of boom areas such as the Middle East, China and increasingly India, where economic growth far surpasses the UK. The opportunities emerging are very attractive and with such a dark cloud hanging ominously over British business it is not surprising.
In addition, with such a poor climate for graduates, some of the best out there are snapping up opportunities abroad where there are more jobs and wealth to be had.
I see this happening in the advertising industry as well. The traditional hub in Soho is becoming stagnant – it’s not bringing the right talent in and existing industry aces are being enticed abroad. It will be game over unless we move fast. It is time for a major shake-up.
Traditional business hubs are in need of a complete overhaul if they are going to return to prosperity. To that effect, I have decided to move my company from the traditional media hub of Soho to new grounds in Knightsbridge. It's time for a change, time to break free of old ties and move my marketing agency away from the old, staid image.
This thinking must happen across the UK - and in the City particularly. To renew the reputation of banking and finanicial services, these firms should move away from the Square Mile. If the City was a brand (like Apple) its reputation would be rotten to the core. Only by physically separating itself will businesses emerge from the gloom and start moving forwards.
This shift could also go some way towards attracting top talent again - people who wouldn't want to work in the 'City' but are qualified nonetheless. A change of location could also show that the industry itself is evolving, becoming one in which bright graduates want to work, where talent and fresh ideas won’t be wasted or ignored.
Brain drain is a genuine threat to an already ruptured economy and if we do not act now we face making a salvageable crisis unsalvageable.
Tim Hipperson is chief executive of marketing company G2 Joshua