Go West! Why professionals choose Bristol to build their careers

Bristol is not just the beating heart of the West Country, it's one of the most vibrant, prosperous cities in Britain. With an ideal Atlantic-facing location, it thrived for centuries as a major sea port and commerce centre, generating vast wealth during the age of empire. In industrial Britain, Bristol's excellent trade links and natural resources - it is built on a coalfield - helped to diversify the local economy, building a city fit for the modern world.

The Bristol of today is a major regional hub for culture, tourism, education and employment. It's a grand, historic city with a 21st century twist - very much a juxtaposition of the old and new. Stylish office blocks interweave the Tudor, Georgian and Victorian buildings, which line the impressive docks-turned-marinas. For every contemporary row, there's a cobbled passageway or alley - once the domain of merchant sailors and pirates!

As a fast-expanding city with a booming economy, Bristol continues to attract growing businesses seeking a regional base in the south-west. This in turn is seeing an influx of talent to the region, as top performers look for an alternative to London careers. Bristol's laid-back lifestyle and indie/artsy-feel mean it is often seen as a highly desirable place to live. As well as the attractive, bustling city centre - jam-packed with shops, bars, restaurants, theatres and museums - Bristol has leafy suburbs and stunning landscapes.

Bristol highlights

  • Bristol Old City - the historic centre
  • Avon Gorge - dramatic natural link to the coast
  • Clifton Suspension Bridge - Grade I Listed structure
  • SS Great Britain - Brunel's great passenger steamship
  • Bristol Zoo and Clifton Downs
  • Vale Street - England's steepest residential road

Bristol's job market

The largest employer in Bristol is the government, with the public sector accounting for around quarter of the local workforce. However, business and financial services is not far behind - and the industry is continues to grow. Many London-based firms are expanding their operations outside the capital, bringing corporate services functions - as well as commercial focus - to the region. Bristol's tertiary sector is one of the major beneficiaries of this decentralisation process, meaning there are now excellent opportunities with major banks, accounting firms, consultancies and more for ambitious individuals.

As the status held by regional offices continues to increase, many employers are looking to boost their workforces. This means demand for talent is continuing to rise in the south-west, particularly for professionals with niche skills working in specialist occupations. Many employers are finding there simply aren't enough high-calibre people to go around, and as such, they are willing to pay a premium for the right candidates. The upshot is salary inflation - with average earnings for finance and accounting, financial services, information technology and administration professionals rising by 2.6 per cent in 2013-14.

Positions with fast-rising salaries

With demand for skilled professionals set to rise further in 2015, talented individuals working in Bristol have a further opportunity to boost their incomes. They can potentially do so by securing a new job with a different employer, or by negotiating an improved contract with their current employer to reflect the changing state of the jobs market - and their potential value to rival firms.

In accountancy and finance, business partnering is the most sought-after skill, since firms are focusing more on commercial growth than just finance tasks and regulatory risk management. Rates of pay for financial business partners are expected to rise by 4.2 per cent to between £41,800 and £49,600 in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The same rate of inflation is expected for commercial finance controllers working for larger Bristol companies (to £64,600-£75,900), while those employed by SMEs should be able to command between £69,000 and £79,800 (up by 4.1 per cent).

The highest rate of salary inflation in financial services is expected to be for regulatory accounting managers - due to ongoing tension between the adoption of a risk culture, where risk management is an endemic part of day-to-day operations, and the need to grow. Wages are set to rise by 5.9 per cent in 2015 to £62,800-£78,400. Salary inflation of 5.8 per cent is expected for Bristol-based management accounting/financial planning and analysis managers (to £60,100-£78,400), while professionals employed as the head of credit risk are predicted to earn between £72,00 and £150,800 - 5.4 per cent more than last year.

Technology employment is forecast to grow at nearly five times the rate of the UK average, as firms look to make up for years of under-investment during the downturn. Chief information security officers look set to be in the greatest demand in Bristol, with wages expected to rise by 5.7 per cent to £90,000-£134,100. However, data architects - up 5.5 per cent to £54,000-£70,900 - and software developers - up 5.4 per cent to £28,800 - £66,500 - won't be far behind in the salary inflation stakes.

Shortage of skilled candidates

Matt Weston, director for southern England at Robert Half, explained that as Bristol businesses look to grow and add talent to their teams, they could become embroiled in a war for talent. "The job market across the south-west is facing a shrinking pool of skilled professionals, with demand outweighing supply across numerous specialisms including accounting, financial services and technology," he noted.

Clearly this is good news for ambitious professionals - those who are seeking higher salaries and the opportunity to progress their career in more senior roles. The relative shortage of talent means, should they apply for roles based in the south-west, they will be up against fewer credible candidates in any recruitment process. By nature, this increases the likelihood of applicants being offered the job.

Mr Weston explained that the onus is on employers to quickly identify the people they want and then make competitive offers to their preferred candidate. He warned that companies which delay the recruitment process - subjecting candidates to numerous interview rounds while they finalise their hiring decision - risk missing out on the top contenders.

"The most in-demand professionals are now receiving multiple offers and counteroffers," Mr Weston noted. This means companies need to ensure the remuneration they offer is competitive across their industry - employers can check the average salaries for particular roles by consulting the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guides. "The most in-demand professionals are now looking for a range of benefits, including flexible working and work-life balance," he noted.

In summary

As well as offering a wealth of opportunities for professional people seeking new roles and higher salaries, Bristol is a jolly pleasant place to live and work. The city has plenty going for it - from both a business and leisure perspective - with modern infrastructure, great facilities and plenty of West Country charm. Little wonder then that its stock continues to rise.

For more information on working in the south-west, get in touch with Robert Half - your recruitment agency Bristol.