The World’s Leading Financial Cities

What Makes a City a Financial Hub?

A financial center, or a financial hub, refers to a city with a strategic location, leading financial institutions, reputed stock exchanges, a dense concentration of public and private banks and trading and insurance companies. In addition, these hubs are equipped with first-class infrastructure, communications and commercial systems, and there is a transparent and sound legal and regulatory regime backed by a stable political system. Such cities are favorable destinations for professionals because of the high living standards they offer along with immense growth opportunities.

Here is a look at the top financial hubs across the globe, in no particular order.

Key Takeaways

  • Cities that are concentrations of commerce, trading, real estate, and banking tend to become global financial hubs.
  • These important cities employ a large number of financial professionals and are home to stock exchanges and corporate headquarters for investment banks.
  • Found around the world, examples include New York City, Frankfurt, and Tokyo.


Since the middle ages, London has been one of the most prominent trade and business centers. The city is one of the most visited places on earth and is among the most preferred places to do business. London is a well-known center for foreign exchange and bond trading in addition to banking activities and insurance services.

The city is a trading hub for bonds, futures, foreign exchange and insurance. The United Kingdom’s central bank, the Bank of England, is the second oldest central bank in the world and is located in London. The bank controls the monetary system and regulates the issue of currency notes in the United Kingdom.

London is also the seat of the London Stock Exchange, which is the second largest stock exchange in Europe. Another financial paragon is The London bullion market, managed by London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), which is the world’s largest market for gold and silver bullion trading.

Due to Brexit uncertainty, London may ultimately lose its stature as a global financial hub.


From a business perspective, Singapore’s attractiveness lies in its transparent and sound legal framework complementing its economic and political stability. The small island located in the Southeast Asia region has emerged as one of the Four Asian Tigers and established itself as a major financial center.

Singapore has transformed its economy despite the disadvantages of limited land and resources. Singapore is both diversified and specialized across industries such as chemicals, biomedical sciences, petroleum refining, mechanical engineering and electronics.

Singapore has deep capital markets and is a leading insurance and wealth management marketplace. It has a disciplined and efficient workforce with a population made up of people of Chinese, Malay and Indian origin.


Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, is recognized as a financial center globally. The city has a disproportionately large presence of financial institutions and banks and has developed into a hub for insurance and asset management companies. The low tax regime makes Zurich a good investment destination, and the city attracts a large number of international companies.

Switzerland’s primary stock exchange, the SIX Swiss Exchange, is in Zurich and is one of the largest in the world, with a market capitalization of $1.4 trillion as of July 2021. The city has a robust business environment and offers many finance sector jobs. Zurich is one of the cleanest, most beautiful and crime free places to live and work.

New York City

New York, commonly regarded as the finance capital of the world, has been ranked first in the World’s Financial Centers by the Global Financial Centres Index. New York is famous for Wall Street, the most happening stock market and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the largest stock exchange by market capitalization.

The city is a mix of various cultures from across the globe providing a diverse population and workforce. It plays host to some of the largest and finest companies (Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000), biggest banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan) and industries.

It is difficult to find a big name in the world of business that does not have a presence in the city. 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a key financial hub with a high number of banking institutions. The former British colony also has a sound legal system for both residents and companies and is the home of many fund management companies.

Hong Kong has benefited from its strategic location. For more than a century, the city has has been a conduit of trade between China and the world. Hence, Hong Kong is China’s second largest trading partner after the United States.

Its proximity to other countries in the region has also worked in its favor. Hong Kong has an efficient and transparent judicial and legal system with excellent infrastructure and telecommunication services. It has a favorable tax system in place with very few and low tax rates, which adds to its attractiveness. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the fourth largest in the world.


Chicago owes its fame to the derivative market (CME group), which started at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) in 1848 with commodity futures trading. It is the oldest futures exchange in the world and the second largest by volume, behind the National Stock Exchange of India.

The Chicago-based Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) clears all U.S. option contracts. Chicago is the headquarters of over 400 major corporations, and the state of Illinois has more than 30 Fortune 500 companies, most of which are located in Chicago. These companies include State Farm Insurance, Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland and Caterpillar.

Chicago also one of the most diverse economies excelling from innovation in risk management to information technology to manufacturing to health. Another financial notable is the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. 


Tokyo is the capital of the third-largest economy in the world and a major financial center. The city is the headquarters of many of the world’s largest investment banks and insurance companies. It is also the hub for the country’s telecommunications, electronic, broadcasting and publishing industries.

The Japan Exchange Group (JPX) was established January 1, 2013, by combining the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) Group and the Osaka Securities Exchange. The exchange had a market capitalization of $5.9 trillion as of July 2021. The Nikkei 225 and the TOPIX are the main indices tracking the buzz at the TSE.

Tokyo has time and again been rated among the most expensive cities in the world.


Frankfurt is home to the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Deutsche Bundesbank, the central bank of Germany. It has one of the busiest airports in the world and is the address of many top companies, national and international banks.

In 2014, Frankfurt became Europe’s first renminbi payment hub. Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, is among the world’s largest stock exchanges. It had a $2.65 trillion market capitalization as of July 2021. Deutsche Börse Group operates the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.


Shanghai is the world’s third most populous city, behind Tokyo and Delhi. The Chinese government in early 2009 announced its ambition of turning Shanghai into an international financial center by 2020.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) is mainland China’s most preeminent market for stocks in terms of turnover, tradable market value and total market value. The SSE had a market capitalization of $7.63 trillion as of July 2021. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) directly governs the SSE. The exchange is considered restrictive in terms of trading and listing criteria.

Bottom Line

Some financial hubs that have been uncontested leaders in the past are now facing stiff competition from existing players and emerging and vibrant entrants. The list above is indicative of where the major financial centers are located and there are many other names including Toronto, Seoul, Boston, Geneva, San Francisco, Sydney, Luxembourg and Dubai also among the top financial hubs. 

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