Ask many laymen where the financial capital of world lays and you’ll more often than not either get New York or, to a lesser extent, Hong Kong. In the eyes of many, London has sat in third for a good while and yet that’s no longer the case. As observed in the Guardian (play on words intended) last year, London has actually become the most competitive financial centre in the world, rated higher than either NYC or Hong Kong in the most recent Global Financial Centres Index. Whilst London remains behind New York in the International Financial Centres Development Index, there’s only a single ratings point in it now.
You could look into every factor - and there are plenty - as to why London has overtaken these other financial centres but one of the main ones comes down to simple geography. The UK’s afternoon is the US’ morning. The UK’s early morning is Asia’s afternoon. Sitting pretty in the middle has allowed the British FS industry to work internationally with relative ease when compared to other continents.
This has led to more companies making more jobs, and the ensuing demand for talent has subsequently led to an influx of talent from across the UK as financial experts flock to the City to turn their learnings into earnings. And yet, despite so many jobs being opened up, there’s still a shortage of skills in the capital. Part of it is down to regional finance hubs such as Birmingham and Edinburgh competing with London to win back local talent and part of it is due to the continuing expansion of the FS industry and ongoing creation of new regulations and directives. Either way, London has not only become a financial hub but also a multicultural one.
At GCS, we recruit for the technology, engineering and financial services industries. Despite there being a similar skills shortage in the other two areas, it is financial services where we have found there is less opposition to granting work visas to foreign nationals. This is not to say it is easy to obtain one - far from it - but many companies, especially the larger ones, are understanding of the fact that people who’ve never been to London before in their lives might well be necessary in order to drive their business forward. The Government, to some extent, seems to understand this as well.
And this comes back to the geography of Britain - whether you’ve been working in New York, Canada, India or Asia, coming to London isn’t “travelling to the other side of the world”. This is opening up some great options for workers and companies alike.
There still remain a number of clients who, whether they will admit it or not, maintain the attitude of British jobs for British people making a truly Great Britain - we would challenge this statement. We’re in pole position in the financial services world right now and part of this is down to the input of people who’ve come from outside our Island. To deprive our industry of these people through stubbornness and a Draconian approach to international recruitment could actually do Britain far more damage than good.