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Glasgow Powerhouse: focusing on the financial sector

By Samuel Baker - Posted on 18 February 2016

The second in the Glasgow Powerhouse series organised by Strathclyde Business School and PwC focused on the financial services sector in Glasgow. Masters student Samuel Baker went along and outlines the debate in today’s blog.

Adam Smith, one of the world’s most influential economists, has strong links with Glasgow. Besides breeding successful leaders such as Alex Ferguson, ex-Manchester coach, and entrepreneurs like Sir Tom Hunter and Jim McColl, Glasgow has also nurtured prominent scientists and politicians, as well as comedians, authors, and musicians. There is immense and diverse potential available in Glasgow, a city hailed as one of the friendliest in the world.

No wonder the Glasgow Powerhouse series, co-organised by PwC and Strathclyde Business School, aims at exploring such potential and finding a way to capitalise on it to reposition Glasgow as a major player in the global economy in different sectors.

PwC Glasgow hosted the second Glasgow Powerhouse event this week where leaders from across all major financial services firms in Glasgow came together to exchange ideas on how to strengthen and transform Glasgow’s financial sector to be a leading financial services centre in the world. The atmosphere felt serious at first but it wasn’t long until the Glasgow humour kicked in and, as a student among some of the most accomplished players of Glasgow’s finance industry, this helped to make me feel I was truly a part of it.

As the discussion progressed, every panellist hinted at the capacity that Glasgow has to re-invent itself. “What we have achieved in the past few years should help us to assess our ability to even go further,” asserted Fraser Wilson, partner at PwC.

In its industrial heyday Glasgow was the world’s shipbuilding yard, but the decimation of its heavy industries left the city with complex challenges. It has had to rebuild itself and, among other sectors, financial services has played a key role; today, Glasgow stands as an example of how cities can change their economies.

It seems as though most people in the room agreed that a lot has been achieved but in a city where openness is valued, they did not focus purely on the positives. It wasn’t long until Sharon Hamilton, financial and business services director at Scottish Enterprise stated, “we need to find what makes us different”. She asked, what are our selling points and how can we leverage them? Now as a business student, the atmosphere was becoming even more exciting. Andy Hall, Head of Corporate Banking, Central Scotland, at Barclays, mentioned that adapting to new trends in technology is vital to ensure continued growth and Daniel Broby, senior lecturer at Strathclyde Business School, noted too that capitalizing on skilled human capital able to handle new disruptive technology is beneficial for the sector. He highlighted that the Finance and Accounting department at Strathclyde Business School has been ranked first in the UK and that students are exposed to technology such as Bloomberg, helping them to learn not just theory but also practical application.

During this exchange, a few things became clear; to be a financial services powerhouse, Glasgow needs to set a clear target of what it wants to achieve; position itself in a way that differentiates it from other global financial centres to stay ahead of competition; and leverage available opportunities such as a highly trained and skilled human capital while collaborating with institutions such as Strathclyde Business School (highly ranked among the best global business schools) to encourage innovation and invest in infrastructure.

Of course, this requires bringing different stakeholders to the mix; financial services firms, academic institutions, regulators and the government will have to collaborate to ensure that these ideas do not remain as just dreams but are implemented.

From my perspective, I believe that innovation will require a continuous exchange of ideas and engagement of students with leaders in the industry. Most inventions in the world start with an idea, and having a platform where businesses can interact with students, exchanging fresh ideas while employing both business and academic perspectives, will help to encourage the growth of new methods through which challenges can be approached while supporting Glasgow to keep ahead of the innovation curve.

It is this reason that last year inspired me to start Strathclyde Business Network, a platform where businesses can effectively engage with Strathclyde Business School students to stimulate innovation through exchanging ideas, mentoring and nurturing talent.

It is inspiring that Glasgow’s financial services sector is determined to transform itself into a global leading financial services centre; although I’m happy that I’ve attended such an event, I am even more driven by action. As founder of Strathclyde Business Network, I believe that the Network is ready to push forward the agenda of developing future leaders and hope that leaders from across Glasgow’s financial services sector will join us to put our model to test. After all Glasgow’s future lies in the hands of its young and evolving talent.



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