The 80s had the Yuppies, the 90s the Dinkies. Now we have the 'Lifeshifters' - City workers yearning for quality of life and a few acres.
People who've made the move out of London to the provinces will tell you that life is far from grim. Shorter commutes to work, often shorter working hours, rarely having to work weekends, affordable housing, first-class schools, amazing countryside, modern and increasingly glamorous cities with surprising cultural, shopping and leisure facilities are just some of the delights on offer in the green lands north of the City.
"Where there's muck there's brass!"
Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham are now thriving financial centres and have a wealth of opportunities for City professionals. Accountants and lawyers should be able to make the move effortlessly. Admittedly, those with more specialist financial skills might find the move more difficult, but will be genuinely be amazed at some of the opportunities on offer in corporate banking and leveraged finance, corporate finance, private equity, private banking, turnaround funds and the like.
Sure, the money is not as good as is on offer in the City, but at the top end some of the salaries will come as a pleasant surprise to those who believe that they simply cannot afford to leave 'The Big Smoke'. With City names such as Rothschilds, Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York and JPMorgan all increasing their presence outside London, you need not necessarily compromise your career by leaving the capital.
As one corporate finance director of a major City investment bank, who recently joined a boutique in Leeds, told me, "It took a while to get used to. The deal size is much lower and things move a bit slower. However, what I hadn't bargained for was how much more influence I can have with clients and be a true adviser, also that the work is not restricted to the regions; I am currently working on deals in London as well as in Europe.
"The added benefit of course is that the children are having a ball, my wife is much happier, and I get to spend much more time with them."
Gentleman farmers - not
Don't expect to be able to trade a three-bedroom Victorian terrace in 'Nappy Valley' for a country estate in Yorkshire, however. Those days have well and truly gone. Today 500k will buy you either a very cool two or three-bedroom apartment in the centre of any of the major cities, or a chocolate box cottage with (perhaps) a paddock in an attractive commuter village. If you have a million to spend, then a good-sized family house with up to 10 acres of land is still a possibility. The small country estates, however, are probably the reserve of those trading in their four-bedroom town house in Eaton Square!
Family man (or woman)?
Having made the move myself four years ago, I can tell you that if it's quality of life you're looking for, moving to the regions will be beneficial and won't be instant career death. You will undoubtedly be able to buy a much grander home, your children will become much freer, you will see much more of your partner and you will feel that you have finally stepped off the treadmill.
However, if your life centres around avoiding the kids' bath-time, meeting your wife for a few hours at the weekend, and flying from Heathrow to JFK, then a move out of London is probably not for you!