The world's most innovative hub...the North East

21 October 2015


Anne-Marie Lister
Anne-Marie Lister

The world’s most innovative hub…the North East

Could the North East become the next creative centre of the universe? We certainly think so

Who’d have thought I’d make such a bold claim? “The North East?” I hear you cry. Where even is that? Not even our own government is sure where this part of the world is (‘Where is the north of England. We’re not sure, admits government’s northern powerhouse minister’ The Telegraph 7 July 2015)

I’m touting the North East as the world’s next most innovative and creative hub. An undiscovered and attractive ‘hub’ for start-ups, entrepreneurs, creatives and people with big ideas. Of course, the North East isn’t a barren land lacking entrepreneurship. We have plenty. We work with and are supported by many local entrepreneurs and creatives. But with the digital age I think even more so, now is our time.

London has been described as the ‘creative centre of the universe’ as well as ‘expensive, stressful and covered in pigeon crp’ (Beulah Devany 13 Feb 2015 – Ideas Tap). Perhaps it’s all of those things. There is certainly a magnetism to the place. Well, perhaps not for the pigeon crp. As an ex-proclaimed Londoner, having lived in the bright lights for well over a decade I know all too well the attraction, the intrigue, the excitement.

London is now the world’s most expensive city in which to live and work, according to estate agent Savills, with the cost having risen almost 40% since 2008 (Marketing Magazine June 1 2015). Figures released by the Office of National Statistics showed that from January to June 2014 58, 220 people aged 30-39 left the capital – the highest number on record and 10% up on 2010 (The Observer 14 November 2014). Make that 58,221 as I left then too. However, this is likely to be a fraction of the true figure. These statistics are based on NHS records only.

So where are young bright things, older experienced darlings and tired commuters moving to? The usual culprits of Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham are up there. And aren’t they great places?

But what about the North East? And Durham in particular.

When Atom was an idea being thrown around a room by 6 people – way back when – the location of our new digital venture was thought about long and hard. What factors does a start-up aiming to change the banking industry consider when choosing a good base for itself?

Talent, skills and knowledge. There is an unbelievable talent pool in the North East. In a range of industries. All of which we’re tapping in to. Innovators and creatives aren’t often motivated by extrinsic rewards such as money and the mega salaries of London. They are motivated by the ability and freedom to create, be themselves and see their ideas to fruition. We have plenty of freedom here in the North East and always insist that people are truly themselves. We hanker after the original! We’re backed by not only the skills and knowledge of people in the region but also the enthusiasm. The excitement and passion for what we’re creating and what we believe in when it comes to banking. Our team want to create something special for customers.

The North East is affordable. It’s affordable for Atom as a business and those wishing to live here. Land is cheaper and property less expensive. We can keep our overheads relatively low and invest the pennies that would have been sucked up into London property boom into building an even better and slicker banking proposition in the North East with maybe a bit of grass, outdoor space and place to bounce our spacehoppers.

The people. It’s no lie when they say people in the North East are the friendliest locals. There is a great sense of community, camaraderie, genuine care for each other, passion about our proposition and what we are creating for our customers. We’re a family. We’re in this together.

And of course, we’re not a million miles away. We’re 2 hours 50 mins on a train to London. A mere hop, skip and jump. We love to visit, of course we do. But also like to get back to our sanctuary. Have you ever pulled into Durham on a train? It’s certainly a spectacular sight. I’d highly recommend it. That and the fresh air, open roads (well, not quite) and beautiful beaches.

Being in the North East and settling in Durham is allowing us to build a fantastic digital bank for all the reasons above. Good things happen when different types of ideas, industries and people collide.

And of course, this is God’s Country. But of course I am biased.

Communities of creatives, entrepreneurs, professionals, experts, customer champions and people with a passion about changing banking for good can turn into a hub. We’ve stuck our proverbial stake in the Durham sand and we hope people from across the North East and beyond will continue to join us on our journey. We’ve already got a following. We’re developing our very own creative hub.

So, lift your head up and look around. There’s a big wide world out there and you never know where your feet could take you next. Maybe you creatives, entrepreneurs, professionals, experts, customer champions and people with a passion about changing banking for good could come and join us? We’d love to have you!

However after all that, does it even really matter where we are?

We’re digital, we can beam our faces on to your smart phone screen if you wish, you can take us with you. We’ve never been closer. We’re the bank in your pocket.