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FACE2FACE: Liverpool’s unique position

Napthens’ head of Merseyside, Gareth McIntegart, joined Steve Stuart, chair of the Liverpool City Region LEP’s Financial and Professional Services board, to discuss the future of the sector.

Gareth McIntegart (GM): There has been much talk over the last few years of Northern Powerhouse and Liverpool’s unique position as a world port city.

I feel there has been a more cohesive and strategic approach to Liverpool’s relationship with Manchester for instance, which understandably has a larger professional services sector.

Steve Stuart (SS): Professional services is certainly a major contributor to the economy of the Liverpool City Region; both in terms of jobs and turnover/profitability.

It has changed in that banks and accountants no longer demonstrate the biggest influence and we are looking for more thought leadership from lawyers and wealth managers who have HQ’s in the area.

GM: Our experience reflects that 2017 was another buoyant year for the sector, particularly for M&A and private equity generally across the region with deals such as the acquisition of Armet by Abbey Logistics Group, the Joloda International BIMBO and MBO of Ludlow Wealth Management.

At Napthens we’re particularly pleased with the progress that we’ve made in our strategic plans for achieving a greater foothold in the Liverpool market, particularly given our role in a number of high profile transactions across the region.

SS: Certainly the development of the LEP advisory board for Professional and Business Services shows the importance of the sector.

There is no doubt that the civic pride in the brand of Liverpool is at its highest level for 50 years or more. The creation of the combined authority in recent times plus the Powerhouse initiative, will impact not only Liverpool but the role Liverpool will play in its own development.

GM: The city region LEP talks about its ‘key growth sectors’ of advanced manufacturing, digital and creative, financial and professional services, health and life sciences, low carbon energy, maritime and logistics, visitor economy.

The key is making sure the professional and financial services sector can play its part in supporting the delivery of key objectives for the LEP.

SS: This is important for economic reasons, but also internationalisation, and remaining relevant on the global stage. The third International Festival for Business will be held in June of this year and professional services has a key role in this programme.

Retaining graduate talent from all the universities is one important element, and the sector will lead on new working practices like AI in legal services and graduate apprenticeships as part of the employment model.

GM: We’re both clear in terms of our passion for the city region (not to mention the Reds!) and everything that it has to offer. But what does the Liverpool City Region have to offer that other areas don’t? Focusing on these key areas will allow the sector to continue to grow and play its part.

SS: Liverpool does offer a great quality of life, rounded business careers and the opportunity for fast track career growth.

Furthermore, there’s the opportunity to be part of the resurgence of one of the country’s great city regions, to build on the real breakthroughs made in the past 15 years and continue this important work for many years to come.

GM: So what next? At Napthens we’re very keen to further develop opportunities in Liverpool and play our role in supporting growing and entrepreneurial businesses across the region.

Although Liverpool has a long tradition of leading and long- established law firms, we see decent opportunities for a firm which can offer leaders in their field and an environment which is more suited and committed to supporting the needs of SMEs.

We see this sector as the engine for growth in the local economy.

SS: Our board strategy is to ensure professional services are aligned to what the other sectors require from them. A thriving professional services sector should underpin the rest of the LCR economy and enable great things to happen.

This will necessitate a great deal of cross sector collaboration to maximise success right across the City Region.