Lloyds Banking Group was one of the first tenants at Callaghan Square, which now ranks among Cardiff’s main business clusters. The UK financial institution selected Cardiff as the location for its key banking services, including credit card services, motor finance services, compliance and regulation.

“We started here as a banking institution serving local residents, but over time we started serving clients across the whole nation. Now, with more than 5000 people working for us here, we are one of the biggest employers in Wales,” says Allan Griffiths, Wales ambassador for Lloyds Banking Group.

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Asked about the main factor behind Lloyds' growth in Cardiff, Mr Griffiths points to the local workforce. “People are what make and break businesses, and we found some of the best and most engaged employees here,” he says.

Proud and welcoming

Kathryn Chivers, vice-president of sales operations at Firstsource, an Indian business process services provider that has hired nearly 1000 people in Cardiff, agrees. “Welsh people are proud and welcoming. We found this to be a great asset when it comes to contact centres. They are welcoming to our customers and proud to do a good job,” she says, adding that the quality of the local workforce is one of the main reasons why the Cardiff branch was chosen from Firstsource’s 46 other operations around the world to be the company's flagship office.

Yet, while there is much praise for the Welsh work ethic and employers find filling entry-level jobs fairly easy, they also admit that finding experienced, mid-level employees can be more challenging. “Sometimes [we find it difficult to fill vacancies], particularly when looking for people with specific [skills] and experienced ones,” says Anne Middleton, human resources director at Atradius, a trade credit insurer with 350 employees in Cardiff.

To counter that problem, in 2013 Atradius teamed up with three other local financial and professional services firms – Admiral, GMAC and Composite Legal Expenses – to create a pilot graduate scheme for 20 students interested in entering the sector. Over a period of two years, students have a chance to work for six months at each of the participating companies, while also working towards a financial services degree at the University of South Wales, a newly created entity focusing heavily on applied education.

Graduate scheme

Even though the pilot programme is still going, five of these students already have been snapped up by participating companies. “Now we are planning an even bigger programme, with 10 employers and 50 students,” says Ms Middleton. She adds that Welsh building society Principality has recently signed up for the programme, while big companies such as Deloitte, Santander and HSBC are also interested in joining.

Companies locating in the Cardiff region can also participate in Network75, a scheme run by the University of South Wales in which students combine studies with work for six years. The programme was originally launched in 2000 and currently has 27 employers signed up in fields ranging from aeronautical engineering to accounting.

Donna Whitehead, head of the University of South Wales’ business school, says: “Students get paid for the work, so they graduate not only with no debts, but also with a job offer. After six years of training, employers do not want to see them go.”