Top 10 Cities for a Career in Finance

There are finance jobs to be found in nearly every city in the world, but some cities offer more potential than others. This article pinpoints 10 top cities for finance jobs and examines their language requirements, typical weather, cost of living, and other factors. All of these cities are expensive places to live, but they also offer plentiful and high-paying jobs in the finance industry

Here are 10 of the most popular cities for finance professionals (in no particular order):

1. Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Mercer's* Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 50

Language: English

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $3.664 (2022)

*Note: Mercer is an international human resources company that offers financial advice, products, and services. The highest cost of living city is listed as No.1, and the comparison cities are rated in descending order. The listed rankings are as of 2021, and the average monthly rental rates are as of 2022.

Well-known for its asset management businesses, Boston is home to leading money management firms such as Fidelity Investments and Putnam Investments. Although employment in Boston can suffer during tough times, the job market for asset management professionals tends to be more stable than the job market for investment banking or trading. This stability makes Boston an appealing location for financial workers during economic recessions or market pullbacks.

Boston residents are particularly passionate about their sports teams, which have enjoyed a recent wave of success. Boston is also a popular destination for American history buffs, and the city is relatively close to both beaches and mountains.

Key Takeaways

  • Some cities are more stable during economic downturns for certain financial professionals.
  • Boston is a better bet for asset managers during volatile economic times.
  • Chicago is a hot spot for derivative traders.
  • If you are thinking of working abroad, consider the language and cultural barriers.
  • New York, the finance capital of the world, commands top dollar for real estate, with one-bedroom apartments averaging more than $3,000 per month.

2. Chicago, Illinois, USA

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 45

Language: English

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $2,270 (2022)

Chicago is home to the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), making it a hot spot for futures and derivatives trading. Large banks and brokerage firms also often have offices in America's "second city." 

Chicago has a vibrant nightlife and sports teams as well as a thriving music scene; however, winters in the Windy City feel colder than the temperatures indicate.

1:35

Top 6 Overseas Cities For Finance Careers

3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 42

Language: Arabic

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $1,564 (2022)

Dubai is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and is gaining recognition as a finance mecca as it attempts to become the financial capital of the Middle East. Many global financial institutions are rushing to open and staff regional offices here, making the city a popular destination for finance professionals.

Finance professionals specialize in different areas from sales to trading, front office to back office, and banking to regulation, to name a few. The type of finance you wish to practice may influence your choice of location.

International applicants might find that they can find work here even if they do not speak Arabic. While cosmopolitan, Dubai is still a Muslim city that follows the rule of Sharia Law (the religious legal system for the Islamic faith). The city allows alcohol consumption by non-Muslims, but there are strict rules that must be followed.

4. Frankfurt, Germany

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 54

Language: German

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $1,164 (2022)

Frankfurt is arguably the finance capital of continental Europe and is the home of German financial powerhouses, such as Deutsche Bank. Many international firms also keep their European headquarters in Frankfurt. 

Residents of Frankfurt enjoy extensive entertainment options as well as tourism hot spots throughout Germany and Europe. Frankfurt is a destination for banks and other financial institutions that are relocating from London after the Brexit vote.

5. Hong Kong, China

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 2

Language: Chinese, English

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $2,192 (2022)

Hong Kong is one of the top cities for finance jobs in Asia and a key gateway to China. As such, this is a rapidly growing market for a wide variety of brokerage, banking, wealth management, and trading jobs. While some employees may be able to get by speaking English, knowledge of Chinese is an advantage.

Hong Kong is expensive and crowded, but it is also a vibrant, exciting city with some of the best shopping anywhere. As a regional airline hub, other parts of Asia are within easy reach of Hong Kong. 

6. London, England

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 18

Language: English

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $2,297 (2022)

For those who do not view New York as the finance capital of the world, London is their answer. In addition to being the finance capital of the United Kingdom, nearly all of the large international banks and brokerage firms maintain a significant presence in London. London is particularly strong in currency trading, commanding more than twice the market share of its closest rivals.

Like New York, London suffered job losses during the credit crisis. After the Brexit vote, financial institutions moved a significant number of jobs out of the UK to other cities within the European Union (EU), leaving London under a cloud of uncertainty.

London is a hot spot for culture and nightlife with theatre, fine dining, museums, pubs, sporting events, and easy access to continental Europe. However, the weather in London can be dreary, particularly in winter.

7. New York, New York, USA

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 14

Language: English

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $3,314 (2022)

New York City is typically considered the finance capital of the world. Many of the largest investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch, are headquartered in New York City. So too are several large banks, including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. Nearly every large global financial institution has a presence in New York. The city lost a large number of jobs during the credit crisis, but Wall Street is still the place to be.

$89,966

The average pay for a financial professional in 2022 in the United States, according to Indeed.com.

The city that never sleeps is a hot spot for culture and nightlife with Broadway plays, fine dining, music and museums, clubs and bars, and sporting events.

8. San Francisco, California, USA

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 25

Language: English

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $3,503 (2022)

San Francisco is the finance capital of the western United States. There are many brokerage and banking firms with offices in the San Francisco area, and companies such as Charles Schwab and Franklin Templeton Investments have their headquarters there. As the gateway to Silicon Valley, San Francisco has a particular focus on the technology sector, and the Bay Area is the worldwide headquarters of the venture capital industry.

San Francisco boasts significant natural beauty with beaches and parks, and it is relatively close to many outdoor opportunities making it a destination for city dwellers that enjoy the outdoors. While the weather in San Francisco can be foggy, temperatures are moderate.

9. Tokyo, Japan

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 4

Language: Japanese

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $1,152 (2022)

Japan has the world's third-largest economy. Tokyo is home to most Japanese financial institutions' headquarters and many international firms' regional headquarters. Once considered a rival to New York for the title of world financial capital, Tokyo has slipped in importance in recent years as the Japanese economy and financial markets languished. Activity has picked up recently, and if the Japanese economy continues to recover, Tokyo could thrive.

While there are opportunities, Tokyo is a difficult place to get a job if you do not speak Japanese. For those interested, working for an international financial firm and then requesting a transfer to Tokyo might be an idea.

10. Zurich, Switzerland

Mercer's Cost of Living Ranking for 2021: 5

Language: German, French, English

Average Monthly Rent for a 1-Bedroom Apartment: $2,096 (2022)

Zurich, the capital of the Swiss banking industry, offers a variety of finance jobs. Global giants UBS and Credit Suisse have their headquarters here, and the city is strong in wealth management and private banking. Applicants will have more success if they speak some German or French, but it may be possible for otherwise well-qualified, English-only speaking applicants to find jobs.

Switzerland routinely ranks highly for overall quality of life. Natural beauty, clean air, low crime levels, relatively high incomes, and its cosmopolitan culture make Zurich a popular place to live.

What Are the Biggest Finance Cities in the U.S.?

The biggest finance cities in the United States are also some of the most populous. Five of the biggest finance cities include New York, often regarded as the finance capital of the world, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia.

What City Has the Most Financial Companies?

New York has the most financial companies in the world.

What Is a Financial City?

A financial city is a city with a large presence of financial institutions, insurance companies, and exchanges. It often serves as the hub or financial center where important related activities occur.

The Bottom Line

All of the cities discussed in this article offer wonderful possibilities for job seekers. Prospective employees will find that there are no wrong choices on this list. While the world's leading financial cities offer amazing job opportunities for qualified candidates, the cost of living might be the biggest factor when deciding to relocate.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Mercer. "Mercer 2021 Cost of Living Ranking," Page 3.

  2. Rent.com. "A monthly look at average rent price trends across the United States."

  3. Mercer. "Mercer 2021 Cost of Living City Ranking," Page 2.

  4. Numbeo. "Cost of Living in Dubai."

  5. Numbeo. "Cost of Living in Frankfurt."

  6. Mercer. "Mercer 2021 Cost of Living City Ranking," Page 1.

  7. Numbeo. "Cost of Living in Hong Kong."

  8. Numbeo. "Cost of Living in London."

  9. Bank for International Settlements. "Triennial Central Bank Survey: Global Foreign Market Turnover in 2019," Page 1.

  10. Numbeo. "Cost of Living in New York."

  11. Indeed. "Financial Professional salary in United States."

  12. Numbeo. "Cost of Living in Tokyo."

  13. The World Bank. "GDP, All Countries and Economies."

  14. Numbeo. "Cost of Living in Zurich."

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