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contrasting the financial districts of New York and London

There are many cities around the world that are key nodes in the network of global finance. These important financial hubs often have strategic locations and a storied history of leadership in the worldwide economy. Examples include Shanghai, Tokyo, and Hong Kong in Asia, as well as Zurich, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt in Europe.

Any list of the world's top financial cities, however, is likely to lead off with London and New York. The U.K. capital remains a vital center for the insurance and foreign exchange markets, while the largest U.S. city is home to the world's two biggest stock exchanges. Let's take a look at how these two English-speaking financial capitals compare.

Key Takeaways

  • New York edged out London on the Global Financial Centres Index 33, a ranking of the world's most important financial hubs.
  • Having the world's two largest stock exchanges by market capitalization helps ensure New York's global reach, while London leads on insurance and foreign exchange.
  • London's firm grip on second place suggests that its financial reputation has been withstanding uncertainties related to the U.K.'s departure from the EU.

London vs. New York: How Do They Compare?

New York holds the top spot on the 33rd annual Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), published by Long Finance in March 2023. It aims to rank the vital roles that different cities play in global finance. London is in second place. However, this hasn't always been the case, with New York ranking below its across-the-pond rival as recently as March 2018.

It may seem difficult to quantify the importance of a financial center, but the GFCI ranks the world's major financial cities and evaluates their future competitiveness by analyzing 153 "instrumental factors." These data points include quantitative measures gathered from third parties like the World Bank and the United Nations. The index also accounts for the results of questionnaires asking more than 10,000 respondents around the world to assess different financial centers.

In the edition of the GFCI released in March 2023, New York came in first with an overall rating of 760, followed by London with a rating of 731. The third and fourth spots went to Singapore and Hong Kong, which posted ratings of 723 and 722, respectively.

The Global Financial Centres Index 33 for 2023
Rank Financial Center Rating
1 New York 760
2 London 731
3 Singapore 723
4 Hong Kong 722
5 San Francisco 721
6 Los Angeles 719
7 Shanghai 717
8 Chicago 716
9 Boston 715
10 Seoul 714
Source: GFCI 33

The fact that four other U.S. cities—San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston—join New York in the top 10 points to strength and resilience in the U.S. financial markets. Meanwhile, London's solid grip on second place suggests that the U.K.'s financial services sector has maintained its relevance and reputation, even amid questions about its future following Brexit and heightened competition with financial centers that remain in the European Union.

A deeper dive into the data from the GFCI shows New York and London firmly entrenched in their No. 1 and No. 2 positions.

The index breaks down its evaluation of financial centers into five "areas of competitiveness"—business environment, human capital, infrastructure, financial sector development, and reputational and general. Among all the cities included in the GFCI, New York and London rank first and second, respectively, across the board in all these categories.

Key Differences

New York and London earn their status as global finance powerhouses by showing leadership in different areas of the financial markets. New York stakes its claim as the world's financial capital partly because it's home to the world's two largest stock exchanges by market capitalization—the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq. Companies from countries around the globe opt to list their shares on exchanges based in New York, showing concrete proof of the Big Apple's global reach.

While London is also home to the London Stock Exchange (LSE), one of the world's oldest and most important stock exchanges, the global impact of the U.K. financial services sector may be strongest in the insurance and foreign exchange markets. London is also an important player in the international commodities market, with the London Metals Exchange (LME) among the world's largest commodities exchanges.

Which City Is the Financial Capital of the World?

There may not be a definitive answer to the question of which city truly deserves the title of the world's financial capital. People from the U.S. may be quick to answer that it's New York, and the most recent Global Financial Centres Index seems to confirm the argument that the home of Wall Street is the top financial city.

However, it's worth noting that London also has taken the top spot on this list of the most important global financial hubs in the past. There is no telling how shifts in the global economy might eventually reshape the relative influence and importance of worldwide financial centers.

The Future of these Financial Capitals

New York and London appear unlikely to give up their leadership positions in the global financial markets anytime soon. Both cities look poised to embrace the future of finance—New York came in at No. 1 in the GFCI's fintech rankings, while London was in third place, just behind San Francisco.

While there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about both cities retaining their global financial relevance, New York and London also face their own sets of risks. The Federal Reserve's campaign of inflation-fighting rate hikes could slow economic growth in the U.S. and hamper New York's financial markets. Meanwhile, plenty of unknowns remain in London about the evolving impact of Brexit.

Is London or New York the Financial Capital of the World?

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London and New York are both key financial hubs that play an important role in the global economy. According to the Global Financial Centres Index 33, released in March 2023, New York is the top world financial center, followed by London in second place.

What Is the Most Powerful Financial Institution in the U.S.?

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VisualPolitik EN

The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the U.S., endowed with the power to set monetary policy that can determine the direction of the nation's entire economy and influence the entire world. Other powerful financial institutions include large banks, some of which are considered "too big to fail."

What Is London's Financial District Called?

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The Infographics Show

London's financial services industry has never left the city's historical center, which is often referred to as the City of London or the Square Mile. In addition, following its construction in the 1980s, Canary Wharf has been a focal point for London's insurance companies and other financial firms.

What Is London Known for in Finance?

VIDEO: Why is London The World's Most Influential City?

London is home to important financial institutions such as the Bank of England (BoE), the London Stock Exchange, and the London Metals Exchange. It's also a key player in many areas of the global economy, particularly when it comes to forex markets and insurance.

The Bottom Line

The Global Financial Centres Index 33 lists New York as the world's top financial hub in 2023, followed by London. Both cities have a long history as key players in the global economy, and despite the challenges they face, New York and London will likely remain at the center of world finance.


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