12 Surprising Implications of London’s Replacing New York as the World’s Financial Center

As many major financial groups are now centered around London, New Yorkers find themselves wondering exactly how this all came about. There are a number of reasons why London has become a stronger financial center, and they’re often surprising. Here’s we’ll take a look at a few that you may not have considered.

  1. Geographic location: London’s location offers an advantage as a financial center. It’s in the middle of everything, literally. With America on the left and Asia on the right, it’s easier than New York when it comes to both travel and time zones.
  2. "Wimbledonisation": It’s joked that London can host a great tennis tournament, but can’t win it themselves, as the last British win came in 1936. This phenomenon, however, has worked towards London’s financial advantage. London brought US banks to their financial table, but didn’t have the workforce to back it up, resulting in an influx of European immigrants with financial expertise to London.
  3. Visas: Since 9/11, it’s been difficult to get visas for foreign workers or even vistors on business trips to come to New York. In contrast, London’s visas are much more easy to come by, creating a situation in which it’s more favorable for foreign financial entities and employees to do business with firms in London.
  4. Financial regulation: After scandals like Enron, the financial industry is more heavily regulated. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act required lots of tightening of financial controls. As a result, it’s less attractive to do business in a country where every transaction is scrutinized.
  5. Patriot Act and Dept. of Homeland Security: After 9/11, US security was tightened quite a bit. That means there’s less openness with foreign transactions, travel, and more. In contrast, London is easier to deal with.
  6. Time zones: Who wants to keep weird hours? London’s time zone is more favorable for many world areas. Investors, generally outside of the US, who want to keep more regular hours trade on London time.
  7. International flavor: With London’s immigrant financial workforce and relatively open work and travel visas, the city’s financial makeup is very internationally diverse. Last year, a Russian pipe manufacturer chose to list with London’s stock exchange rather than NYSE because it’s "very internationally flavored," a sentiment that is likely echoed by many others with financial interests.
  8. Euro zone: Although London is not a part of it, the euro zone has attracted financial interests to Europe. The strengthening of the currency is good for finance in Europe, including London.
  9. Tax rules: Britain has flexible tax rules when it comes to foreign nationals. Essentially, they can earn British income free of taxation. This is clearly more attractive than US tax rules, and as a result, skilled financial workers see London as a better place to earn their living.
  10. Openness: The US is seen as less open after 9/11. Terrorism has scared off some business travel, and mistrust of foreign entities has damaged the image of the US. For example, when Dubai Holdings took over a company that controlled US ports, there was a large negative American backlash, even though Dubai is an ally. This created an impression that the US is not open to world business, and many investors now see London as a more open, safe investment.
  11. Lawyers: It’s not just outside forces that prop up London as a financial center. The industry in London is growing as well. The city is home to three of the four biggest commercial law firms in the world. These law firms generate almost £11 billion in fees every year, a figure that certainly helps London’s financial status.
  12. The Big Bang: Margaret Thatcher shook up the way London’s financial markets behave. Financial workers used to be boozy, lax, and generally inefficient. Thatcher put a stop to that with a radical deregulation of the markets, which created more openness and attracted some of the world’s biggest financial services groups, like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Deutsche Bank.

These reasons behind London’s new financial popularity are not likely to change. If New York wants to win back the crown, it’s going to need more openness and a renewed embrace of international flavor.