Report reveals Leeds and Manchester among strongest Powerhouse performers

23rd June 2022


By John Wakeford

With two months of negative growth and UK inflation at a 40-year high, the news that Leeds and Manchester are among the top performers for GVA and job creation is particularly welcome to businesses like ours based in the north.

While eight of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the UK by the end of next year are expected to be located in the South and East of England, Leeds will be one of the few northern cities to improve in terms of employment growth.

The Irwin Mitchell UK Powerhouse Report Spring/Summer 22 predicted Leeds will go from 9th in the table in Q4 2021 to 6th place by the close of 2023 with 2%   year-on-year growth and 19,200 new jobs created.

This follows a 3.5%   increase in employment in 2021, driven by a construction sector buoyed by developments including student accommodation and office space in Leeds city centre and the redevelopment of the British Library facility in nearby Boston Spa.

Responding to the report, The Guardian highlighted the city’s growing reputation for start-ups and innovation in healthcare, financial and legal services, manufacturing and retail, which has seen the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority opening offices there, and the new UK infrastructure bank choosing Leeds for its HQ.

Bryan Bletso, partner and Head of International at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Leeds continues to deliver a consistent performance in the UK Powerhouse report. Its employment prospects continue to stand out, which makes good reading for the future of the city and the West Yorkshire region.

“This comes despite the loss of the HS2 connection which, while a blow to the construction industry, is not expected to dent employment prospects in the medium term.”

It is also very good news for Manchester, one of the strongest performers in Q4 2021 with year-on-year growth of 6.9%   – placing it 6th of the 50 powerhouse cities. A 4.4%   increase in employment – up 28,000 – saw the city in 5th place for job creation.

The Powerhouse report, produced by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, says its growth has been driven by the financial services sector. Recent announcements include the launch by PWC of its tech hub in the heart of Manchester’s financial district and other large employers including EY set to accelerate their operations there.

Looking ahead to Q4 2023, a further 1.9% increase in GVA and a corresponding rise in employment to 524,200 jobs is projected for Manchester.

The growth for the two cities compares with the 1.3%   increase in output for the UK overall in Q4 2021, and they have also fared much better than northern neighbours such as Sheffield on job creation.

The strong performance has been reflected in the executive search market in the north and north-west, which is booming once again as we emerge from the pandemic.

A combination of record house prices in London and the South-East and the desire for an improved quality of life have been the key driver for increased inward migration to the regions by talented executives.

But the new opportunities being created by the faster economic recovery in places like Leeds and Manchester have also proved a big draw.

Our offices in the two cities are seeing record levels of interest from across the UK for senior roles in sectors including financial services and retail, and specialisms such as digital transformation and CFO.

We recently relocated both to accommodate an increase in staffing for our executive search and interim businesses and fast-growing mid-market division HW People to meet this additional demand.

While flexibility is still a key demand from candidates, there is an acceptance that executives are once again expected to be at least partially office-based. Remuneration and location are of much more importance now than the home-office split.

Many senior digital specialists are still, however, able to enjoy home working on a near full-time basis, which has been a real boon for HW Global’s London-based HW Group partners Osmii and Zebra People.

Back in Leeds, notwithstanding the positive recent economic performance, the elephant in the room remains public transport links which continue to be a huge issue. As Irwin Mitchell’s Bryan Bletso concluded in the report: “How far the (HS2) loss will impact the benefits that improved transport connectivity would bring remains to be seen.”

John Wakeford is a Partner at HW Global and heads the Interim business. Photo: Clare Louise Jackson/Shutterstock.

HW Global expands UK offices to accommodate continued strategic growth

5th April 2022

Fast growing executive search company HW Global has expanded its UK offices in Leeds, Manchester and London to accommodate a projected doubling in headcount.

The group has relocated its Leeds and Manchester operations to significantly larger tech-enabled space, allowing them to accommodate additional headcount in state of the art offices.

The expansion plan is part of the group’s strategic objective to offer clients an end-to-end talent solution from Board, C-suite, mid-management to specialist talent solutions including Technology, Supply Chain, Digital, Data & Analytics, Business Transformation and Finance.

HW Group services clients globally and operates multiple brands including HW Global and HW Interim, its Exec Search practices, HW People which was launched in May last year as a mid-market recruitment business delivering talent solutions from £50k-£100k salary levels, Zebra People – a digital recruitment specialist and Osmii – a development, cloud and digital specialist that HW acquired in December 2021.

The group now boasts a £30m+ turnover with colleagues across the UK, with plans to increase headcount including two new senior positions of Head of Marketing & Communications and Head of People Operations, reflecting ambitious growth plans and investment in core operations.

Spencer Jinks, CEO of HW Global, said the pandemic has created booming market conditions for all businesses within the group: “Massive business transformation activity is taking place across all industries, functions and geographies.

“The lockdown has not only forced the breakdown of generational barriers to digital online purchasing, driving organisations to automate their businesses to serve their consumers, but also to drive operational efficiencies and remain competitive in their sectors.

“There are so many challenges to businesses right now; sustainability, redesign of supply chains, hyper-inflation and the need to truly embrace EI&D. Businesses have to think more laterally and in all cases this means engaging and hiring exceptional talent.”

Spencer added: “Our strategy is built around capitally invested, high-growth sectors of transformation and demand. To service this we will continue to acquire complementary businesses while investing internally to support organic growth.”
For more information visit,, and



Top 50 private firms challenged to match FTSE 350 gender parity targets

2nd March 2022

By Pascale Gara

The largest private businesses in the UK have been challenged to match listed companies on boardroom and leadership gender parity in a government-backed review.

The FTSE Women Leaders Review recommended that FTSE 350 companies and the biggest 50 private businesses in the UK by sales set a target to increase women’s representation in board and leadership roles to 40 per cent by the end of 2025.

The 78-page report, published last week, also recommended each company appointed at least one woman in the Chair or Senior Independent Director role on the Board, and/or one woman in the Chief Executive or Finance Director role – also by the end of 2025.

Currently, female representation on boards stands at an average of 39.1 per cent across the FTSE 100, 36.8 per cent across the FTSE 250 and 37.6 per cent for the FTSE 350.

But the review found that out of the 414 women in FTSE 100 board roles, 385 were non-executive positions. Just 29 women held executive director positions at the UK’s biggest companies last year – 13.5 per cent.

It reported women held 31.5 per cent of FTSE 350 leadership roles in 2021 but only a quarter of positions on executive committees — with just 18 female chief executives and 49 female finance directors.

The review follows the five-year Hampton Alexander equality review which ended last year, concluding its target for women to fill a third of board positions had been achieved on average across the FTSE 350.

Denise Wilson, chief executive of the review team, said: “A lack of women in the boardroom was the original challenge and represents the area of greatest progress, but we need to achieve the same gains and more, for women in leadership.

“While we continue to build on good practice from the earlier years, we need to firmly shift focus in this next phase to leadership roles, and those at the top of the organisation, including the Chief Executive Officer roles where women remain few and far between.

“There is no shortage of experienced, capable women, ambitious for themselves and their companies across all sectors of business today. Yet…the appointment rate today is significantly skewed in favour of men, with almost two out of every three available roles in the year going to men. This needs to change.”

Robin Budenberg CBE, Chair of Lloyds Banking Group Plc said in the FTSE Women Leaders Review report: “In my view, women are more likely to want to be part of an organisation if they see women at the top.

“At Lloyds Banking Group, women make up 40 per cent of our Board and 34 per cent of our leadership population. But we have much more to do and have set new aspirations of 50 per cent women and 13 per cent Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues in senior roles by 2025. And our Board will mirror those ambitions. Diversity around both the Board and Executive table is a source of real competitive advantage.”

Michelle Scrimgeour, Chief Executive at Legal & General Investment Management, which has a 50 per cent gender split in its management team, is calling for investors to use voting powers to speed up change, for executive teams to remove barriers that block women’s progress through their senior leadership pipelines, and for data disclosure for all listed companies.

She wrote: “In my career I’ve witnessed the benefits of more balance in a workforce (different perspectives, wider talent pools, stronger innovation) and I’ve seen what women as individuals can bring. There has been real progress in normalising and celebrating gender diversity in senior leadership roles in recent years. However, I’m impatient for more.”

The onus is on executive search firms to work with boards and executive leadership teams to help them achieve increased diversity and inclusion – not just in terms of gender, but also non-gender diversity characteristics.

The business case for this is clear; research by McKinsey & Company* showed that companies with ethnically diverse leadership are 33 per cent more likely to outperform on profitability and 21 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability with gender diverse leadership teams.

This is why HW Global signed up to HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter in 2019, making a series of pledges to promote diversity within our business and assisting our clients to meet their own diversity and inclusion targets.

They include:

  • Aim to deliver shortlists comprising at least 30 per cent female candidates.
  • Advise and guide clients to be more flexible about candidates in order to meet diversity targets, considering candidates from different sectors, backgrounds and experience.
  • Focus on promoting non-gender diversity characteristics within our recruitment strategy such as varied age, ethnicity, disability, socio-economic background, LGBT+.

But we understand that truly striving for greater diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is not about writing lengthy strategies or discussing empty promises. It is about actually delivering a genuinely diverse list of candidates for every role we seek to fill.

When we search for talent, one of the techniques we employ to promote gender diversity is to look and contact certain leader groups relevant to the role to tap into their network and find truly exceptional women.

We also ensure that we learn from conferences and events that champion ethnic diversity, discovering how we can be an agent of positive, anti-discriminatory change in our marketplace. For example, we consistently target the Women of Colour Conference, which looks at all facets of diversity through the BAME lens.

We are very conscious of bringing the principles of boardroom diversity, be it gender and/or ethnicity as well as diversity of thought to each shortlist meeting so that they complement what already exists at the Board table.

HW Global advertises all our non-executive roles on Women on Boards and Dynamic Boards to increase our reach a diverse range of candidates. In 2020, 67 per cent of our successful non-executive placements were representative of a gender diverse or ethnic background and in 2021 it was 69 per cent.

We proactively connect globally with a variety of organisations which promote ethnic diversity on main boards. On a recent search in the USA we connected with Chief and the Executive Leadership Council – both well known for promoting women and ethnicity within their networks.

Our other techniques to promote diversity include:

  • Operating with a broad set of search criteria that encompass all varieties of experience, educational background, and racial heritage.
  • On occasion, conducting blind CV presentations to reduce unconscious bias in the selection of candidates.
  • Actively challenging our client’s perspective on hiring to not only prevent them from limiting their horizons but acting as a positive influence in the proliferation of diversity in all industries.

Delivering exceptional candidates that add value through their diverse perspectives and background is an essential part of how we operate and something that we believe contributes to better, richer, longer-lasting hires.

* McKinsey – ‘Delivering Through Diversity’ 2018

Pascale Gara is Head of the Chair and NED Practice at HW Global.