ARYZE spoke with Emily Hoble, Senior Inward Investment Manager at London and Partners where she helps companies move successfully to London. Her areas of expertise include financial services, business services, and technology and in our conversation, she shared with us why London stands out in the market and the must-knows for businesses looking to enter the British city.
It is no secret that London is an appealing place for many. Every year, a large number of businesses, professionals, and students are looking to find their place in the capital city. According to The Financial Times, in 2019 alone, 551 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects landed in London, having a huge economic impact as they created a total of 17,377 jobs in the city.
So what is it that makes London stand out? – we asked Hoble. She shared her experience and some key facts about the city explaining its position in Europe.
First of all, London is a real hub of creative energy and has a rich history and heritage. The city offers a high quality of life, where people can enjoy the many parks, museums, restaurants, historical buildings, and some of the world’s top universities
Hoble mentions the ‘free-thinking’ spirit that you will experience in the city, with values like diversity becoming increasingly important. For example, this creative mindset, together with London’s traditional strength in finance, is what has made the city the fintech giant that it is. The same convergence point can be made for other sectors like gaming, adtech, medtech, proptech, mobility, edtech. The list is endless. The tech sector that began in Tech City in Old Street has now spread the every corner of the city.
Some key elements that make the city appealing to large businesses are the infrastructure (five large airports), the business environment with factors as low tax and investment schemes, and also the London time zone, where office hours overlap with companies generating 99% of the world GDP.
We asked whether Brexit has or will change the future business landscape for London, Hoble argues this not to be the case.
Several top companies have made some phenomenal declarations of investment after the referendum. Both smaller scale-ups and larger companies are still entering the London market. Businesses such as Facebook, Spotify, and Deutsche Bank all have committed to investments.
Since the referendum, Apple have invested in office space in Battersea Power station, and Google are in the process of building a building in King’s Cross that is as long as the Shard is tall. These are not the only large international companies operating in London, to be exact, Deloitte stated that 40 percent of the world’s top companies have their headquarters in London (the closest city after London is Paris with eight percent).
This business environment makes for the high competitiveness you will find in London. Tech Nation and Dealroom observed that 36 Unicorn companies are operating from England’s capital city, which also shows the potential there can be found for businesses looking to expand. We asked Hoble to share with us some of her advice on how to position yourself in this competitive landscape and which common errors not to make.
1. Find local partners
Firstly, Hoble advises to work with local partners such as London and Partners, who help navigate you. With their expertise and experience, they are able to support the market entry for companies new to London. Hoble often hears from clients ‘’I wish I knew of London and Partners earlier’’, as they realize the support and guidance there is available to them.
2. Prepare early
Another tip Hoble gives us is to plan early and get the ball rolling. She mentions that it’s important for companies to start early with documents to prevent hold-ups.
For example, opening a bank account takes a longer time than establishing an entity. I would advise companies to prepare in time and manage expectations from the beginning.
3. Get your first hires right
A mistake commonly made by companies when they are just starting their operations in the London market is their first hires. Frontline VC suggested that 50 percent of companies get their first UK hires wrong.
Companies need to think about which approach suits them best. If you have a complicated product, it might be best to send someone over from your HQ who knows the offering and fits the company culture. If your product is similar to others in the market, it is probably better to hire someone locally with an established network.
4. Evaluate and adapt
Hoble also strongly advises companies to be prepared to evaluate and adapt their approach to suit the UK context. Whether this is evaluating your sales or marketing activities, or other business areas.
Firms should critically assess things such as marketing collateral and their message. Cultural differences should be taken into consideration to avoid mis-selling or potentially losing your brand image.
5. Build your network
Lastly, companies and professionals new to the London market should make the most of events and networks, Hoble believes. For example, London Tech Week, coming up in the week of the 7th of September is such an event where you can build the right industry relationships.