London wins top financial center title once again as gap with New York widens

Key Points
  • London pulls further ahead of New York in latest ranking of top financial centers
  • Slide in major North American cities attributed to possible concerns over U.S. trade
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

London has held onto top spot in the latest ranking of global financial centers as the gap with second placed New York City (NYC) widens, according to the most recent iteration of the semi-annual report released on Monday.

Despite the looming threat of Brexit and fears that the city will cede a significant amount of financial companies and employees who are driven out by either regulatory stipulations or concerns over changes that may detract from the city's appeal, London's tally has only lost two points since the previous report. This is the smallest fall of any of the top ten centers.

Meantime, North American cities, namely regional leader NYC which has lost 24 points since March and others including San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Vancouver, have taken a much larger hit over the period, with the report's authors pointing to fears over U.S. trade as the possible key reason.

The research considers 102 quantitative factors as well as a qualitative study. Much of the criteria considered revolves around the concept of competitiveness, five key categories of which are deemed to be business environment, human capital, infrastructure, financial sector development and reputation.

Western Europe returned a mixed bag of results with boosts for Frankfurt, Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam – all cities seen as key potential beneficiaries of Brexit - while other more traditional finance hubs, including Geneva, Zurich and Luxembourg, fell.

Another area seeing a broad-based fall was Asia-Pacific whose six cities in the top ten list fell across the board, led by Singapore and Tokyo which lost the most points. Its two highest ranked cities continued their tussle for regional dominance with Hong Kong managing to sneak ahead of Singapore to capture third place – however, this by a margin of only a meagre two points on a scale that runs to 1,000.

The poor showing from the region signifies a reversal of the robust gains made during 2015 and 2016. On a brighter note, a questionnaire carried out as a part of the research process asked respondents to identify which centers are likely to become more significant in the years ahead. Six of the top nine cities selected are in Asia Pacific with Shanghai, Qingdao and Singapore securing the top three spots.

Of the list of 108 centers considered, convergence was a key theme as 23 of the top 25 cities relinquished points while 20 of the lowest ranked cities gained points.

This was the 22nd edition of the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) and was compiled using a combination of both qualitative survey results and quantitative factors with aspects of the methodology provided by bodies including The Economist Intelligence Unit, the World Bank, the OECD and the United Nations.