SMEs dominate the City of London as half of office stock is leased by firms occupying 50,000 sq ft or less

New research from Colliers International shows that despite headlines concentrating on financial and legal sectors, the City of London has an occupational diversity that will provide resilience and help drive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figures from Colliers’ London City Occupier Insights report show:

  • In the City of London alone, over 90% of occupiers can be classed as SMEs (small/medium sized enterprises) with 250 employees.
  • Some 25 million sq ft (50% of the Square Mile’s office stock) is leased by companies occupying 50,000 sq ft or less. In turn, 61% of that figure is attributable to occupiers in under 20,000 sq ft.
  • Combined, professional, other services and media & tech account for 59% (35 million sq ft plus). Media & tech alone, has risen from 2.3 million sq ft in 2009 to its current level of 7.2 million sq ft, a rise of 300% in just over a decade.
  • Banking and finance account for 37% of the occupied office space in the EC1 postcodes, in excess of 20 million sq ft.
  • In addition, the occupier profile at Canary Wharf continues to broaden, with occupancy by the banking and financial sectors falling by 13% over the past decade.

Guy Grantham, director of London Research and Forecasting at Colliers International, commented: “Following the global financial crisis, there was significant growth in ‘one-man-bands’ and start-ups driven by former employees who had suffered redundancy or simply took a decision to make a new career move. Many of these firms from over the past decade have evolved into the SMEs that have contributed to the diversity of the City, and will continue to do so.”

James Walker, director and Head of City Agency at Colliers International, added: “Major banks have been repositioning staff for a number of years to key regional hubs, with HSBC, Barclays and RBS already having relatively modest levels of staffing in London compared to the wider UK.

“The doom and gloom headlines we have seen recently often fail to take this diversification of office location into account. SMEs and start-ups are now an important part of the market and from early indications have weathered the pandemic better than expected and certainly seem to be more amenable to an early return to the physical workplace. It will be this diversity that will help to drive the recovery of the market and help to give the City a resilience it hasn’t previously had.”