County-Durham born Nigel Wilson, head of one of the country’s largest multi-national financial services companies, Legal and General, gave a frank and insightful speech to North East England Chamber of Commerce President’s Club.
At the Newcastle Falcons rugby ground he outlined to over 150 business leaders his background which included living in Newton Aycliffe and attending a local Grammar School before gaining a scholarship for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He saw his generation as very lucky to have free education and more affordable homes than at present.
As part of his speech he outlined Legal and General’s decision to use their substantial investment funds to help regenerate Britain’s towns and cities.
One of these projects is receiving £400m investment to support the creation of the Helix development by Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council on the former Newcastle Brewery site.
Nigel Wilson said: “We need the great graduates being produced by Newcastle’s universities to stay here. There are enthused businesses in the region and entrepreneurial students pouring out of your Universities. Unfortunately, although there were 200 start ups last year but there was not so much success in scaling up from these young companies.”
His view was that a lack of capital and not enough capability to support greater growth were probably the reasons why there was not more success and jobs created from fledgling enterprises.
He commented on Newcastle being an early adopter of the first industrial strategy and science innovation still underway in the city with solar, wind and nuclear fusion businesses being created and expertise growing.
He said If people were willing to collaborate with each other there were unique opportunities to grow urban places and also make them less reliant on Government funding for success.
Devolution is in progress for North of Tyne, following on from Tees Valley and he reported on how important this model of Government had proved to be in London in relation to transport in particular. However, he said it was imperative there was a collaborative Mayor appointed in the North of Tyne area if they were to be effective.
He stressed his business was keen to invest in real assets and solve market failures. The phrase he used to describe the overall approach was inclusive capital where there is collaboration for everyone’s mutual benefit.
With regard to Brexit, Nigel Wilson said his company was not a remainer or a Brexiteer but rather a ‘doer’ who was getting on with developing the business.
The Chamber President’s Club is supported by Brewin Dolphin and the event was sponsored by Pulsant.