Singapore is better for finance, but Hong Kong has the razzle
It's official: in many areas of financial services, Singapore now trumps Hong Kong. But Hong Kong attracts greater optimism, more international bankers want to live there, and it wins in the crucial two sectors of sales and trading.
Singapore has leapfrogged Hong Kong to become the world’s third most important centre behind London and New York, according to the latest Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI 32) compiled by Z/Yen London and the China Development Institute.
Singapore scored higher than Hong Kong on all five criteria – on the availability of human capital, the business environment, infrastructure, financial market development and "reputational and general."
However, Hong Kong ranked above Singapore in the most prestigious sectors, including banking and trading. For sales and trading activities, it ranked third in the world, behind New York and London.
Hong Kong's bankers and traders were also unusually optimistic about the city's future competitiveness. Hong Kong ranked as the third most attractive place the world behind London and New York when people were asked where they would prefer to work if they had to move to a different city. - Hong Kong was mentioned 151 times by respondents, beating Singapore, which was mentioned only 124.
Chinese financial centres continued their rise in the rankings with Beijing and Shanghai joining Hong Kong, Shenzen and Singapore among the top 10 global financial centres. Guangzhou (25th), Chengdu (34th) and Qingdao (36th) also make it into the top 50, while Taipei takes the 55th spot.
He Jie, Director Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Financial Supervision and Administration, said in the introduction to the report that despite the impact of the pandemic there has been “no change to the ongoing shift of gravity in global financial activities from North America and Europe to Asia”, adding that “financial centres in China continue to rise with a steep ascent in international influence.”
When the index is broken down into sub-sectors, Shenzen tops the global rankings for banking according to responses to people working in the sector, with Shanghai in fourth and Hong Kong in fifth spot, based on responses from people working in the industry. Singapore is the top location in Asia for fintech, and is third globally, while Hong Kong is ninth, according to respondents in those sectors.
Hong Kong's slippage was the result of travel restrictions and is likely to be remedied as they're lifted. “After the depths of Covid, bankers are definitely returning to Hong Kong, having relocated to other centres to escape lockdowns,” said one senior banker. Two bankers who relocated temporarily to Singapore said they found it too expensive and missed the ‘buzz’ of Hong Kong.
Nonetheless, there remains a trend for rebalancing headcount across the region. “The pandemic showed how banks had become overweight Hong Kong in terms of people. Now they are being much more considered and spreading resources, locating heads of businesses in Singapore and Australia. That also enables them to pick from a deeper talent pool,” said one Hong Kong-based headhunter.
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