Starting a business in the City of London

Regarded as the UK’s financial and business centre, the Square Mile is a no-brainer start-up location for fintech entrepreneurs - find out why...

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Why should you start a business in the City of London?

The City of London, or The Square Mile as it’s known, has amassed a reputation as the financial capital of the world – tied with New York – and it’s not surprising given that it’s home to over 500 banking, financial and insurance institutions including Ernst and Young, Lloyds, BT, Aviva and even the AIM stock market.

Yet it’s appeal isn’t limited to big firms and multi-nationals. In recent years the City has become the start-up destination for emerging financial technology (fintech) start-ups with Canary Wharf’s Level 39 fintech accelerator helping to cement the area’s position as the international ‘fintech capital’.

Number of new start-ups (2014):2,610 – see how this compares

According to the City of London Corporation research team, over the last 20 years 50% of the local area has been redeveloped to cater for the 300,000 workers and tourists that commute to the City on a daily basis and it’s unlikely that the area’s appeal will flounder anytime soon. With attractions such as the Heron Tower and Tower 42, and a range of transport links with 11 tube stations, two DLR stations, and three longer distance rail lines (Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street and Cannon Street) the City is perfectly suited to start-up entrepreneurs looking to get a footing in the financial services sector. It’s also just 22 minutes away by tube from London City Airport.

Start-up entrepreneurs are in good company in the City – the majority (80.6%) of enterprises in the City are micro-businesses (0-9 employees) with over 13,370 micro-companies based in the City and growing. The latest figures show that there were 2,160 new start-ups created in the City in 2014.

Number of new start-ups per sq km:898 – see how this compares

Given the density of start-ups in the Square Mile, there are a range of serviced offices and commercial properties available for those looking to start up locally.

Take a look at our guide to the best coworking spaces in London.

Regus, Workspace Group, i2Office and MWB Business Exchange all have flexible workspaces based in the area and the City of London Corporation offers a commercial property search tool.

For those looking for new space rather than City-owned properties, you can contact the City Property Advisory Team (CPAT) on its website here. For retail businesses, there are retail facilities in and bordering the City which provide over five million square footage via One New Change, Bow Lane, Leadenhall Market and the Royal Exchange although available retail space is limited.

Talent in the City of London

£864.70: Average full-time weekly earnings (2015)

business talent

The City is a major draw for graduates and high-flyers looking for a career in the finance and legal professions, particularly as the City is home to parts of three universities; the business school of London Metropolitan University, the campus of the University of Chicago Graduate Booth School of Business and Maughan Library of King’s College London. What’s more the Square Mile is also the home to one of the top business schools in the world; CASS Business School – part of City University London – which has a reputation for attracting some of the best students and businesses worldwide.

Yet, while the talent pool for the City is large, attracting highly-qualified employees would be difficult for a new business with a tight budget – average weekly salaries for those employed in the City are £864.70 which is over £200 more a week than the London average.

Business support in the City of London

Access to business advice and support in the City is vast with a range of accelerators, initiatives, workshops, and a dedicated angel investor network.

While the City is widely known for being home to Europe’s leading fintech accelerator Level39, the City also boasts the Innovation Warehouse; a business incubator founded by the City of London Corporation which combines physical workspace with support for start-ups and early-stage fast-growth companies, and is also the headquarters for the Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab. More recently, Canary Wharf Group launched a new accelerator programme; Cognicity Challenge, which is looking to support 36 talented tech start-ups with the potential to create new “smart technologies”.

Survival rates (2009-2014):36%

For advice on starting a business in the area, both the nearby City Business Library and Guildhall Library are hubs for specialist business resources. For free advice, Capital Enterprise offers a directory of providers of business advice to London entrepreneurs while additional support is available to a limited number of start-ups via the Ready to Supply the City initiative. The scheme is running between April 2014 and March 2016 and promises to give a minimum of 105 small and medium businesses in the City at least 12 hours of support.

In terms of start-up funding, new businesses rejected by a bank or lending provider can apply for loans of up to £10,000 from Frederick’s London which acts in partnership with the City of London Corporation. Entrepreneurs looking for private investment can apply to Angels in the City; an angel investor community supported by the Corporation which works in partnership with London Business Angels.

Quality of life in the City of London

quality of life£931.20: Council tax (2016)
35mbps:Average broadband speed (2014)

While the City is too small in radius for the Land Registry to include datasets, it’s likely that most start-up business founders will have residence in nearby neighboring areas such as the borough Tower Hamlets which has average house prices of £547,916.

There are no up to date figures for crimes in the City but between January to December 2014, crime levels in the City were actually higher than that of the overall population with the City of London Police figures recording a total number of 7,876 crimes committed – the majority of which being cases of theft. On the whole this is unsurprising given the number of tourists and commuters moving in and out of the area and is markedly lower than that of Central London.

In terms of social activities and culture, the City has a rich history and there are plenty of things to visit, see and do in the area. The Barbican Centre, the Museum of London and St Paul’s Cathedral are key tourist attractions while the area’s range of markets; Smithfields, Billingsgate and Spitalfields make it an attractive destination for shopping enthusiasts and foodies. Speaking of food, the Square Mile has an abundance of popular bars and restaurants which includes the celebrity-favourite Hawskmoor and Duck & Waffle in the Heron Tower to the more affordable eateries such as The Don, Vietnamese cafe City Caphe and local lunchtime favourite Coco Di Mama.

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