Is New York Losing Its Financial Edge?

By some accounts, London is challenging the Big Apple as the world's financial capital. So what's a B-schooler to do?

Think a heavyweight championship fight is a slugfest? Then you haven't seen the battle that's taking place between New York and London for the right to call itself the financial world champion.

The cross-pond competition heated up in 2006, when New York fell to third, behind Hong Kong and London, in the value of initial public stock offerings, according to Thomson Financial (see, 12/27/06, "New York: No Longer the IPO King"). Meanwhile, New York-based NASDAQ is pursuing a $5.3 billion hostile bid for the London Stock Exchange. And the rivalry has New Yorkers worried enough that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned on Jan. 22 that "stringent regulations, high litigation risk, and immigration policy" are leading New York's financial markets to lose business and workers to London and overseas competitors.

In a world where reputation is just about everything, the implications are huge. After all, who wants to be top dog in the second city? And B-school students in the two cities aren't immune from the fallout. In 10 years, what's going to carry more prestige, that diploma from NYU or the one from LBS? Where are you going to have your buddy network? And who will you root for? The Bronx Bombers or the Blues?

London Pounding on the Door

Most of the MBA students and alums contacted about the great New York vs. London controversy—even the Brits—don't quite believe the Big Apple will go quietly into the night. "There's still a lot of money in New York," says Orly Cooper, a 2006 London Business School graduate who lived in New York before moving to Europe. "I wouldn't bet on London replacing it as the financial capital, although London has the potential to access capital from the Middle East and South America."

On the other hand, some say that London could give New York a run for its money—literally. Paul Sturgess, a second-year Columbia Business School student who lived in London for five years and attended London School of Economics, says that the British capital has a stronger performance than New York when it comes to certain sectors such as insurance and IPOs.

Still, others see London as no threat at all. "The financial capital of Europe is London," says Deirdre Humen, a soon-to-be graduate of the EMBA program that is jointly run by Columbia and London Business School and a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers. But, she noted, "New York is the financial capital of the world."

For Students, Fit Is Foremost

Each city has its own allure. To oversimplify, London is regal and sophisticated and elegant. New York is spunky and gritty and full of character. B-schoolers appreciate London for its proximity to other European travel destinations, small parks, slower pace, and museums. They like New York for playing host to the world, Central Park, its frenetic pace, and museums. Most students who have experienced both cities feel torn. "I love them both for different reasons," says Cooper.

So where's the best bet for a student looking to go with a winner for B-school or an internship opportunity? Experts still advise that fit (not to mention receiving an acceptance letter) is the most important factor in choosing an MBA program or job opportunity (see, June, 2006, "An American MBA in London").

Still, you might want to get more acquainted with the world's top two financial capitals before deciding where to apply. So we've put together a slide show—a tale of the tape, if you will—that compares New York and London in contests big and small, such as size and how much a beer costs.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.