This House Believes the City is a Drain on Talent

debateFor some Oxford students, working in the City might seem like an easy and quick fix. But, argued University College student Risham Nadeem, opening the case for the proposition, this is only because large City firms have huge amounts of money to pump into marketing campaigns to recruit the best graduates. The reality is that top quality students are being lured into careers that lack personal and social benefit. We must, she argued, consider what graduates could be doing as an alternative to working in City firms. She cited the example of childcare workers – who apparently create £3.50 worth of social good for every pound that they earn.

But Chris Saul, senior partner at Slaughter and May, claimed that the City stretches beyond the square mile. As to whether they are draining talent, he responded that, for better or worse, Britain is now a knowledge and services economy, so that talent is needed in the City to allow us to punch above our weight on the world stage. A focus on this service-based and highly competitive sector is needed, he argued, since the de-industrialisation of the 1970s means that Britain doesn’t make anything anymore. He argued that despite this, the City is not a total drain on talent. He highlighted that other sectors including ‘ideas businesses’ such as Dyson thrive alongside the City’s success.

Conservative MP Claire Perry admitted that if you cut her open like a stick of rock it would say ‘banker’. Yet she argued that the City takes about 4.5 percent of the most talented graduates, develops their potential and then keeps them there.

She claimed that “never in the history of mankind has so much been given to so many for doing so little” and that the City was “a glorified call centre”. She argued that the City pays so much more than entrepreneurship that it discourages people from starting up businesses.

Mark Field, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, argued that the “Big Bang” of the ’80s, which saw the deregulation of the banking industries, smashed up the old boys’ clubs that had previously dominated the sector. Competition for talent is required, he argued, because banks are such a key lubricant for the whole economy. The tax revenues the City creates allows the government to employ so many people in the public sector.

In the past, the only time you didn’t go to the City was if you were a wacky genius or a school drop-out, insisted Sahar Hashemi, listed as one of the 20 most influential women in Britain by The Independent. She claimed that when training in the City she would leave 40 percent of her personality at home. Now, she added, the future belongs not to the corporations but to outsiders, and that the City needs creativity rather than the conformity.

But you have to be actively sucking talent out of other sectors of the economy to be open to this accusation, argued James Uffindell, founder of the Bright Network. The City, he viewed, is in fact a great force for social mobility.

This may be the case, but small businesses create far more jobs than the City, countered Doug Richard, a former ‘dragon’ on Dragon’s Den.

Robin Geffen, founder of Neptune Investment Management, summed up the case for the opposition by making the point that not everyone is suited to being an entrepreneur