Nick Hungerford: Footloose financiers leave the City as cheapest office option

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The whole place shook once an hour, particularly violently, when the 14.42 fast train zoomed past. So in June 2012 we landed in Vauxhall with a fancy new HQ and a decent deal on the rent.

Nearly three years on from that, it’s time to move again. Having grown so much, we’ve had to jettison a couple of departments to a spill-over office down the road in Oval.

Wanting the team to be together again, we’re on the hunt for somewhere new.

But what we’ve discovered during that hunt is that London has changed since the great financial crisis, not only in spirit but also in form. What used to be the domain of the top hats and pinstripes is now much more, well, open.

Wanting to stay close to where we are now, we started with Vauxhall. If you’ve travelled along the South Bank any time over the past few years you couldn’t help but notice the huge amount of redevelopment work that is going on.

The US and Chinese embassies are coming to Vauxhall, and shiny new apartment complexes are going up faster than you could imagine.


The traditional combination of creative, start-up and industrial businesses have been joined by financiers and hedge-fund managers. Perhaps having a Pret a Manger endorses the area as safe; the fact that our first local sushi restaurant opened last year certainly does.

So where did these hedge-fund managers come from? Mayfair. Now that they’ve been priced out of the dark blue squares on the monopoly board, they are moving to areas like Victoria, Vauxhall and Angel. Even into the more rugged areas of Piccadilly and Soho.

It won’t come as a surprise to any readers that more financial firms are moving to Canary Wharf.

Canary Whard crossrail stationsCanary Wharf will is set to benefit from Crossrail (Picture: Canary Wharf)


They’ve been really smart in encouraging large and small, established and new financial services businesses there. There is a buzz of hard work, restaurants to see and be seen in and a sweeping trend of fashion that dictates everyone looks pretty much the same.

And look at King’s Cross: another area on the up. The previously downtrodden area with its spruced-up national and international travel hub is being renovated on a massive scale, attracting tech giants, publishers and big pharma firms, even if Google’s new $1 billion (£648 million) London HQ has been held up because the bosses in California don’t like the design.

Further east, the so-called Silicon Roundabout has branched out to become Tech city, home of London’s ever-growing scene of tech start-ups. What these 24-year-old chief executives have done for east London is nothing short of miraculous, plucking areas like Dalston from obscurity to become one of the brightest new hot spots. As prices here rise, start-ups are also spreading south towards Bermondsey.


So finance is moving to Canary Wharf, tech to the north and south: what’s left in the City?

Ironically, this may be where we find ourselves next. And it could be on a technicality. Rents in the City now seem to be cheaper than anywhere else in Zone One.

It’s hugely exciting that all of this is happening in our great city. Progress needs change and it’s progress that will keep London at the top of the list of most desirable places to live and work.

So unless a friendly landlord happens to have an 8000 square feet space at a reasonable price near Victoria, it could be the Square Mile for us in the next stage of our journey through the capital.

Nick Hungerford is chief executive of Nutmeg

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May 29, 2015 |
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