A global financial centre is akin to a popular software or hardware product: the more people access it, the more valuable it becomes—even making it near irreplaceable. Just as the dominance of Microsoft Office can’t be easily broken, New York or London can’t easily be dislodged.
Then again, the effervescent world of capital can just as easily dislodge these theories.
A Bloomberg poll on Friday notes that relatively new Singapore outpaces the old City of London as investors’ preferred place of doing business. New York, which earlier this decade was seen as losing prominence to London, is now clearly at the top. Up-and-coming Shanghai gets 11% of the votes.
How such fortunes for financial centres change is a question up in the air. It is one that has animated Indian policymakers, too, most recently with the Percy Mistry committee in 2007. Mumbai, with its English speakers and its back to a $1 trillion emerging economy, would seem a natural choice.
But that will still take years of investment in infrastructure, as well as the build-up of a sound regulatory structure. That can’t be rushed.