Think of Goldman Sachs and you’re probably thinking of Wall Street or the City of London, where the banking giant is one of the biggest employers and most influential players.
However, you might not necessarily have associated it with Birmingham. Until now.
The bank announced in April this year that it was planning to open an office in the UK’s second largest city, and this week it officially delivered on its promise.
It now occupies one floor of a WeWork office in a Grade II listed building on Birmingham’s elegant Colmore Row, traditionally the heart of the city’s business district, with an option to occupy more space. Eventually, as the operation escalates, Goldman expects to find a permanent home in the city.
At the head of the operation, Gurjit Jagpal, whose 25-year career at Goldman has taken him to New York and Singapore, but who now finds himself in the city where he grew up and where his parents still live.
Most recently, he worked as Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Accelerate, the bank’s incubator arm, which seeks to develop new products and services.
This will be a key part of what the Birmingham office does, but there will also be other professional functions based there, including legal, audit and human resources.
Goldman envisioned 10 cities across the UK for the new office, but relocated to Birmingham for a number of reasons, according to Richard Gnodde, managing director of Goldman Sachs International, which encompasses the bank’s non-U.S. Operations. .
He told Sky News: “It’s all about talent for us. We wanted to diversify our talent away from London in the UK, we looked up and down the country, and talent was the main focus – where can you find a talent pool – and Birmingham has it.
“The universities here are great, there are many engineering companies here, there are financial institutions here, so we are confident that we can build a strong workforce. “
This message is backed up by huge digital advertisements that no recent visitor to Birmingham New Street station will have missed. They read “We are here because you are here” and follow it up with “Goldman Sachs”. We hire’.
The city’s recruiting drive has been so successful that the Birmingham office already has the number of staff it was targeting for the end of the year – 70 new hires and 30 existing staff who have moved from London.
Mr Gnodde said: “We seeded the office with 30 existing Goldman employees, just to make sure we got off on the right foot from a cultural standpoint, making sure the business and operation stay connected. [to London], and we’ve hired almost 70 externally, so we’re around 100 now and we’ll be looking to continue to develop it.
“In the short term we’ll probably get to a few hundred and then we’ll see where it goes, there’s no limit to how big it could get. It really depends on how it evolves, skills. that we’re developing here – and it won’t just be a UK operation, necessarily.
“The real potential will be that if it can become a center of excellence for some global functions, then the scale can be quite large.”
Mr. Gnodde said engineering talent would be important to the success of the operation.
He continued, “We are working in an industry where quantitative skills are paramount, building trading platforms and systems is really, really important. If you look at the traditional businesses in this part of the country, they have ‘a solid engineering base – which is one of the things that encouraged us to come here. “
Other attractions of Birmingham for Goldman include the high concentration of people in and around the city working in digital businesses and the fact that Birmingham has one of the youngest and most diverse populations in the UK.
This was certainly evident at the reception held last night at the Grand Hotel in Birmingham, where local businessmen and some of Goldman’s new employees mingled over champagne and canapes. The composition of the public was notably younger, more feminine and very clearly less white than traditional business meetings.
Addressing the guests, delighted Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, whose team were instrumental in the courtesy of Goldman, addressed the guests.
Pointing out that Goldman would join other big names such as HSBC UK and Deutsche Bank – which employs more than 1,500 people in the city – in Birmingham, Mr Street said professional and financial services now account for 35% of local GDP. Of that, he added, 60% of that activity was invoiced internationally – making the sector a major source of export.
Mr Street told Sky News: “It’s just a remarkable story for us because, in a sense, they [Goldman] are the poster child of the financial services industry. There was a competition to see where this base would be located and it’s an incredible vote of confidence for the city and the region. “
He said that with the growing strength of the FinTech industry at the local level, Birmingham was building a strong financial services cluster. But he stressed that the region remains proud of its heritage and continued strength in engineering, and said he is confident that at least one of Britain’s giga-factories planned to build batteries for electric vehicles will be based in the West Midlands. He said Coventry was the place he hoped to be chosen.
This adds to a promising outlook for a region that was, according to the Office for National Statistics, the part of the UK that hit its economy the most during the pandemic.
In the second quarter of 2020, at the height of the lockdown, the economy in England contracted by 19%, but the West Midlands, which includes Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, saw their economy contract by 24.7% .
It was also the hardest-hit English region in the July-September quarter of last year and was, along with the East Midlands, one of only two English regions to experience economic contraction in the past three month of 2020.
But there is a noticeable surge in optimism in Birmingham and nowhere as much as in the Grand Hotel itself.
The 141-year-old building had been abandoned and in a state of disrepair since it closed in 2002 but, following a £ 45million investment, reopened in May this year and is now operated by the hotel giant Starwood.
Mr Street said: “This is an iconic building for every Brummie – most of us of a certain age will have attended an event or family reunion here at some point in the past. . It is a symbol of the renewal of our city and our region. “