Top cities for an international career in finance

SOURCE: Angela Weiss / AFP
Wall Street, which is located in Manhattan, has become synonymous with the financial industry. 

By Shekinah Kannan 

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Are you a finance professional who is looking for career opportunities outside your home country? Depending on where you go, there could be opportunities in developing and developed countries for an international career in finance.

Within the US, a career in finance can be rewarding. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, for instance, that the employment in financial operations occupations is projected to grow five percent from 2019 to 2029 – faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 476,200 new jobs. 

The median annual wage for these professionals was US$72,250 in May 2020, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of US$41,950.


Pursuing a career in finance can be financially rewarding, but that might not mean much if the opportunities in your current location are limited.

For adventurous souls, an international career could be an option worth exploring if you’re looking for opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

There are many benefits to a career abroad international exposure can be excellent for anyone’s personal development.

It can act as a catalyst to build your communication skills, encourage you to step out of your comfort zone by learning to work in a culture that might be different from what you’re used to, expose you to new people and build a strong international network, among a host of other benefits.

Sold? If you’re curious about the best cities for an international career in finance, here are the top five, according to the latest edition of the Global Financial Center Index:

New York

Unsurprisingly, New York takes the crown as the leading financial centre in the world.

Wall Street, which is located in Manhattan, has become synonymous with the financial industry. It is also home to the New York Stock Exchange, founded in 1817, and has since developed a reputation for being the most influential securities exchange in the world. 

Additionally, financial services are highly concentrated in New York City. According to the New York Bureau of Labor Market Information, more than 90% of jobs in securities, commodities, and other investments are located in downtown New York City.


London’s largest industry is finance. In fact, it is the largest financial exporter in the world.

The city is home to a wide range of exchanges, banks, brokers, investment managers, pension funds, hedge funds, private equity firms, insurance companies, and reinsurance markets.

The London Stock Exchange is the world’s most international and Europe’s largest. As a centre for international finance, foreign participants in financial markets love coming to London to do business with each other. 


Shanghai is held in high regard as the centre of commerce between the east and the west.

It is also a multinational hub of business and finance, known as the financial and commercial core of mainland China. It is home to a solid financial service industry that comprises commercial banks; and companies that specialise in insurance, securities, trust, fund management, and more. 

It’s a city considered to be attractive to foreign investors due to cosmopolitan demographics, sophisticated consumers, and an educated labour force.


Hong Kong

Hong Kong is known to be one of the most vibrant international financial centres in the world. It is also a prime location for conducting financial services business due to the fact that it is built on “a prudent regime and backed by a well-educated workforce”

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority notes that Hong Kong’s financial markets operate under effective and transparent regulations that are in line with international standards.

Hong Kong also serves as an ideal gateway for foreign firms seeking access to Chinese cities in Mainland China. Its location in the heart of Asia also means this special administrative region offers extensive networks with the rest of the world, a sound legal system, low and simple tax regime, free flow of capital, a full range of financial products, and a large pool of financial talents.


If you’re looking to grow your career in finance within Asia, Singapore regularly ranks amongst the top financial centres in the region.

Reports note that it has a well-established business infrastructure, stable political and economic environment, robust regulatory and corporate governance framework, and liquid and vibrant capital market that continue to attract the world’s leading financial institutions to establish a regional presence in Singapore.

Singapore’s financial industry employs about 200,00 jobs in the country and accounts for more than 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (as at end 2015). It covers mainly Banking, Capital Markets, Wealth Management and Insurance.

Here, over 200 banks have a presence and a growing number have chosen to base their operational headquarters in the country – to service their regional group activities.