Few cities around the world can compete with London when it comes to commercial activity. London has it all: big banks, law firms, real estate businesses, media companies. The list goes on. With the city’s unemployment rate at a staggering low of 6.1%, there really is something for everyone here.
Like many cities, London’s labour market has changed considerably since the 20th century. Up until the 1960s, manufacturing was a dominant industry that accounted for roughly 1.5 million workers. But, following the closure of places like the Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company, Vauxhall Iron Works and the Chrysler Factory in Kew, a new breed of employee was ushered in: namely desk-bound white collar workers in IT, professional and financial services.
This shift to a mostly serviced-based economy pushed London right to the forefront as a leading financial centre. Modern capital markets, coupled with technological advancements, have turned the capital into a hub of innovation, at the heart of which lie the headquarters of companies such as HSBC Group and Barclays.
To make sense of London’s sprawling business districts, we’ve created an industry guide which maps out key firms in different parts of the city.
Key industries: banking, finance, broking, insurance and legal.
Known colloquially as the Square Mile, the City of London is a major business and finance centre with a history dating back to Roman times. More than 300,000 people travel there and it’s also home to the vast majority of London’s skyscrapers and tallest buildings.
The City stretches from Barbican in the north-west, to Aldgate in the east, London Bridge in the south, and Chancery Lane in the west. It’s where you’ll find global companies like Aviva and Old Mutual, and law firms including Allen & Overy, and Eversheds.
Key industries: real estate, private banking, hedge funds, government, head offices.
Westminster is an area in central London which lies on the north bank of the River Thames and within the West End. The vast majority of Britain’s government departments are based here, and run either along or adjacent to the main thoroughfare, Whitehall. These include the Cabinet Office, The Department of Health and Her Majesty’s Treasury.
BAE Systems and BP are just a few local employers that spring to mind.
Camden & Islington
Key industries: Creative industries, finance, art, design, media, architecture.
London wouldn’t be London without the world-famous Camden Markets, which attract some 250,000 visitors every week. All sorts are sold here from bric-a-brac to crafts. But Camden’s creative economy doesn’t stop there. Also in the area are fashion companies and marketing agencies like ASOS and Jones Knowles Ritchie.
Islington, which connects to Camden, has a similar number of media companies and architectural practices such as Exterion Media and Pollard Thomas Edwards.
Key industries: Legal, banking and media.
Not too far from the City of London sits Canary Wharf, Britain’s second largest financial centre. Many of Europe’s tallest buildings are located here, the second highest one being One Canada Square.
Among the major banks and professional services firms headquartered in Canary Wharf are EY, Barclays and J.P Morgan. There’s also a strong publishing presence, thanks to the likes of Trinity Mirror Sports media and Thomas Reuters.
Lambeth & Southwark
Key industries: Consultancy, local government and accountancy.
Lambeth and Southwark might as well be one and the same place. They’re both in Central London, both close to Charing Cross, and together form a single London Assembly constituency.
Consultancy firms are a common feature in both districts. PwC, for example, have two offices in the local area: one on Hay’s Lane, and another as part of the More London development. In amongst the HR professional service specialists are accountancy firms including Fitzgerald & Law and Qubic Tax.
The East End
Key industries: Technology, software, startups, digital, not-for-profits.
You’ve heard of Silicon Valley. Well, London has its very own technology hub in the form of the Silicon Roundabout: an area broadly stretching Old Street to Shoreditch. People travel far and wide to set up businesses here, much as they do in San Francisco or New York City.
Cisco, Amazon, Facebook, EE and Google all have a presence in the Silicon Roundabout. Numerous charities can also be found nearby including the Mencap National Centre and Together for Mental Wellbeing.