The Top 3 Financial Centers in the World

A dominant global financial center has international connectedness, diversity, and expertise in a variety of financial products and services. The Z/Yen Group, a London-based commercial think tank, publishes the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) every six months to provide a ranking of the world’s top financial centers according to their levels of international competitiveness.

Below is a summary of the top three, as published in the Group’s September 2020 edition. These cities were rated at the top of the rankings of 121 financial centers around the world. All were graded for their competitiveness in categories including business environment, human capital, infrastructure, financial sector development, and reputation.

Key Takeaways

  • New York is back on top with the two largest stock exchanges in the world, the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ.
  • London is in second place, bloodied but unbowed by the lingering effects of Brexit.
  • Shanghai booted Tokyo in the latest reckoning to take third place in the global ranking.

3. Shanghai

  • GFCI rank: 3
  • GFCI rating: 748

Shanghai moved up to third place in the latest index, pushing Tokyo to fourth place, though the authors point out that there's only a one-point difference in their scores.

The center of Shanghai's financial world is the humongous Shanghai World Financial Centre, which looms over the Pudong district.

The city's strengths include the Shanghai Gold Exchange, the world's largest by spot gold trading volume, and the Shanghai Futures Exchange, which ranks first globally by trading volume of several futures products. It also dominates China's interbank bond market at 87% of the balance.

Other U.S. cities in the top 20: San Francisco ranked 8th, Los Angeles 11th, Boston 15th, Washington D.C. 19th, and Chicago 20th.

2. London

  • GFCI rank: 2
  • GFCI rating: 742

London and New York regularly swap places for top and second places on this list. In the latest edition, London comes in second. London is home to the Bank of England (BoE), one of the oldest and most prestigious central banks in the world. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is among the world’s top five stock exchanges, and the city has one of the world’s largest banking sectors.

In the GFCI financial competitiveness categories, London ranked second across the board in the competitive categories weighed for the index. They include its business environment, human capital, infrastructure, financial sector development, and reputational qualities.

Brexit is expected to continue to have a substantial impact on the business environment globally, and particularly in the United Kingdom. London could see its financial institutional density eroded as part of the eventual outcome. Many firms are choosing to relocate, or at least put down stakes in Europe, because of an uncertain future.


The number of financial centers ranked in the index.

1. New York

  • GFCI rank: 1
  • GFCI rating: 769

New York's Wall Street continues to be synonymous with finance, so it's no surprise that it took first place in the GFCI rankings. The city is home to the two largest stock exchanges—the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ—based on market capitalization, and some of the world’s largest banks have their headquarters there, including JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc.

New York ranked first in all of the competitive areas considered—business environment, human capital, infrastructure, financial sector development, and reputational factors.