Jillian Thomas is managing director of Future Life Wealth Management and a former president of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce – here she looks at the future of our city
Where will Sheffield be in ten years? Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, but as someone who spends her day planning, I do know that it will be in a better place if we plan!
It sounds obvious, but it is easy to just let things drift and see what turns up. But I am a financial planner and letting things drift is not in my DNA. We work with our clients to give them the best possible chance of the best future they can have. We’re called Future Life Wealth Management for a reason!
So how can we plan for Sheffield? Like any good plans, it starts with where we are now. We need to do a bit of ‘situational awareness’, a bit of a review of what we have already, and then what we know is surely going to come.
When we sit down with clients, we need to know all about them and we need to know what life events are likely to come along (children going to university, elderly parents with potential care needs, their own potential care needs, business succession, retirement etc). We also probe to find out about their attitude to risk. And then – and only then – do we start to plan.
It is a bit like doing a SWOT analysis, or for those of you who like longer processes and longer words, a PESTLE analysis. Once we have started to work out our strengths and weaknesses, and considered the threats, we can start to think about the opportunities.
Sheffield has some real strengths. It has fantastic universities, a University Technical College, and an airport just down the road (and I mean Doncaster Sheffield, not the one over the Pennines or the one down the M1). It has weaknesses – talented people leaving the city for opportunities elsewhere as we don’t always have the second and third jobs in the career ladder that people need.
We do have a good rate of people staying on after university, but we need more talented people to make it their home – we want the jobs that are well-paid and have greater spending power, to bring prosperity to us all. We need an economy that is positive and forward-thinking and a city where people want to stay and grow. We need ambition from our leaders.
We need to look ahead to the sectors that are emerging and those that will emerge in the years to come. We have some fantastic digital industries in the city, games designers, digital marketeers, app designers, health tech experts, IT whizzes…the list goes on. But where will the next industrial revolution come from? Will we be ready?
And what about our infrastructure? Will our digital connections and our transport connections give us greater connectivity? The Government has announced a £137m upgrade to the Hope Valley line, which will improve one link to Manchester, but we need more. In ten years’ time will HS2 be here or be on its way here? Will Doncaster Sheffield airport be a hub, not just for passengers, but for freight, too?
There are endless possibilities. We need the Government to really deliver on its promise to ‘level up’, but we need to play our part, too. We need to be brave, take risks perhaps, and build a Sheffield where people want to stay, and a Sheffield where people want to come to and invest in. And that starts with a plan.