Consequences of the ‘Big Bang’, or London as the world’s leading financial centre.

The International Financial Centre’s series continues as we look at London, one of the leading financial centres in the world.  Singapore, Hong Kong and New York have previously been discussed.

In September 2013, Z/Yen Group undertook research into 80 financial centres across the world, the results of which demonstrated the leadership of London as a financial centre for international business and trade and as one of the four ‘management centres’ for the global world economy.  According to Z/Yen Group’s ‘Global Financial Centres Index’ (GFCI) ratings, second place in the list of the largest international financial centres in the world was occupied by New York, with Hong Kong in third place and Singapore taking fourth place.  These four centres control a huge volume of financial transactions and in all likelihood will retain their influence for the forseeable future.

© 14th half-yearly rating of International Financial Centres, Z/Yen Group Ltd. by order of the Mayor of London, GFCI 14 Global Rating Top-20

How London became a financial centre

The economy of London reached a position of leadership over all other European cities, undergoing rapid development following the end of the second world war.  In the mid 1980’s, the British government launched radical reforms known as the ‘Big Bang’ which led to the liberalization of financial markets.  The reforms brought about significant change to the financial system of the country on the whole, allowing for further rapid development.  This largely restored the historical character of the city which had grown over the previous three hundred years on the basis of international trade with conditions of almost total freedom and a minimum of regulation.  In the XVII century, merchants from Italy, Germany, France and China traded practically everything in London, from gold to coffee, textiles and spices.  London has always been a successful centre for trade and the ‘Big Bang’ served to restore this free-market atmosphere to the city.

© Jynto (talk)

Factors that influenced London in becoming a leading Financial Centre

The main factors that influenced the formation of London as a global centre of finance and business include the historical ties with the USA and Asia; economic factors such as the relatively low rates of taxation; and the high level of economic growth domestically.  The British capital has a unique location in the central time-zone, which enables it to play the role of a bridge between the American and Asia financial markets. London also has well-developed transport infrastructure, particularly air travel.  Naturally, it should be noted that the English language is the main language for the global business community.

© Jason Hawkes- The City, London

Business districts in London

London has five business districts: the City, Canary Wharf, Westminster, Camden & Islington, Lambeth and Southwark.
The City is the historical core of London and is the financial heart of the capital today.  The City the City is the largest financial and business district in Europe, featuring a concentration of the vast majority of banks, stock brokers, insurance, legal and consulting companies.  The City has its’ own government and borders, which gives it the status of the only completely autonomous local authority in London.

©, Borders of the City within London.

The area of Canary Wharf is deserving of particular attention. Canary Wharf is a business district located in East London which is one of the fastest developing business districts worldwide which is already a worthy contender to the historical crown of the City as the leading business centre in the British capital.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century, this area was one of the busiest ports in the world, however by the start of the 1960’s it had fallen into decay.  In 1981 it was bankrupt and was taken up by the British government which created the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) to undertake the rehabilitation of the territory. At more than 2200 hectares, the territory was significant in size and the LDDC was tasked with the creation of a new environment that would be attractive to employers and comfortable for employees.

Canary Wharf was a unique project for the historical city of London, setting an example to other cities of how to create a new hub that would serve as a city-wide centre for business, finance and public life.  As a result, the area because the most visited during work hours, with over 100,000 people traveling to and from it for work.  Canary Wharf contains the offices of major international banks, including Barclays, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley; as well as media-holdings The Daily Telegraph, Thomson Reuters and The Daily Mirror.  As a result of this transformation, the former-industrial area was reborn as a new and highly-functional core of the city.

The American company SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Inc), one of the world’s leading architectural, urban-planning, engineering and interior-design companies created a 25-year plan for the strategic development of this massive urban-regeneration project.  The master-plan provided for the construction of more than twenty office buildings and the creation of four traditional London squares. SOM

designed several of the key buildings and undertook the coordination of the landscaping architects that created the surroundings such as fencing, access points, street d?cor and fountains.  Therefore everything in Canary Wharf was thought-out to the finest detail, including the unexpected inclusion of a park next to the Underground station, the paving of the squares and the bicycle racks around the skyscraper.


One Canada Square was the first skyscraper to be built in London and is the core of Canary Wharf; in fact it is sometimes referred to as the Canary Wharf Building.  The project was created by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli.  The 244 meters tall fifty-storey skyscraper features a simple rectangular prism, crowned by a pyramid.  The form is simple, clear, strong and as a result is easily recognizable within the city panorama.

This way we can trace the consistency between a part and the whole: the Canary Wharf Building itself is already a business, financial and public centre, linked to a light metro station.  At the same time, it’s just a part of a complex, thought out structure of the district developed around the same algorithm.  This makes Canary Wharf a rare example of organizing a truly large-scale office space.