Paris and Frankfurt have their work cut out if they’re going to seriously challenge the City of London, according to an analysis by think tank New Financial, which found five times more international financial activity in the U.K. than France or Germany.
“This report shows you would have to move a huge amount of activity from the U.K. before France, Germany or any other EU financial center is significantly closing that gap,” William Wright, New Financial’s managing director, said in an email. Wright said that even if 10% of all international activity in the U.K. were to relocate, the country “would still be a long way ahead.”
While the report relies on data from 2019 — before Brexit came into effect, and before London lost its crown as Europe’s top place to buy and sell shares — it underlines the City’s lead over European rivals as a hub for derivatives and foreign-exchange trading, asset management, venture capital and banking.
That advantage, built up over decades, has been dented by Brexit in recent years. Financial firms have been unable to use their London bases for some business inside the bloc, forcing banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to move hundreds of billions of dollars in assets and thousands of staff to the continent. But London, for now, remains Europe’s dominant financial hub.
More business may shift away from London. The Brexit trade deal left out financial services, while a separate accord on how EU and U.K. financial regulators would cooperate has also run into problems as overall relations threaten to turn sour. The bloc has signaled it’s in no rush to grant so-called equivalence decisions that would enable European business to be done from London.
The U.K. ranked as the world’s second-largest financial center, after the U.S., according to the report. China was third, while France and Germany were sixth and seventh respectively.
While the U.K. may still be ahead of its European rivals, the report shows it is well behind the U.S., and it has lost further ground since 2019. The City of London lost 2.3 trillion pounds ($3.3 trillion) of its lucrative derivatives trading business in March alone, according to an estimate by Deloitte and IHS Markit Ltd., with Wall Street trading platforms gaining the most.
(Updates with details of derivative shifts in last paragraph.)