Singapore takes top slot in latest Fintech Capitals rankings

By Bernard Lunn

A week from today, on Wednesday next week, I will be moderating a session at SIBOS in Singapore entitled Why Banks need Fintech Hubs, where representatives of 8 Fintech Hubs will be presenting:

  • New York, USA. Maria Gotsch,President and CEO, Partnership Fund for New York
  • Singapore. Markus Gnirck,Co-Founder and Global COO, Startupbootcamp
  • Switzerland John Hucker, Founder, Swiss FinteCH / finteCH meetup.

I had earlier published a ranking that put London top of the pops. As in any ranking things change and it is part of the pleasure of an open source research site such as Daily Fintech that good data from experts comes in from the community.

So I have reissued the rankings using only data points from two fairly objective sources:

  • Global Financial Centers Index. This has been reissued since I posted about London being top of the pops. London has now displaced New York as the number one slot.
  • Doing Business Rankings. This is compiled by World Bank and the summary number is an extract of 10 individual scores all related to the ease of doing business.

One way to view these two rankings is that Global Financial Centers represents the present and Doing Business Rankings represents one aspect of the future. Singapore gets top score on Doing Business Rankings and # 4 on Global Financial Centers.

There is a data normalization issue because Global Financial Centers is based on a City and Doing Business Rankings is country based. The USA has multiple Financial Centers of scale (New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco) and Switzerland has two (Zurich and Geneva).

Comparing these two metrics does surface some interesting outliers:

  • New Zealand does not even get into the top 85 on Global Financial Centers but is # 2 on Doing Business Rankings. I can think of Xero as a great Fintech venture (small business accounting) from New Zealand.
  • Other outliers that score low on Global Financial Centers but high on Doing Business Rankings include Nordic countries and I do not think it is a coincidence that three great Fintech ventures from this region include Klarna, Saxo Bank and Basware.
  • Tokyo is the other way around. It scores high on Global Financial Centers but low on Doing Business Rankings.

Here is the current ranking (top 20) that puts Singapore on top:

Hub Global Fin Center Doing Business Score
Singapore 4 1 5
Hong Kong 3 3 6
New York 2 7 9
London 1 8 9
Seoul 6 5 11
San Francisco 9 7 16
Washington DC 10 7 17
Chicago 11 7 18
Boston 12 7 19
Australia 15 10 25
Zurich 7 20 27
Frankfurt 14 14 28
Geneva 13 20 33
Montreal 17 16 33
Tokyo 5 29 34
Vancouver 18 16 34
Stockholm 32 11 43
Los Angeles 49 7 56
Amsterdam 36 27 63

New York and London are tied in 3rd place.

The “Captain Obvious Insight” is that this is the Asian Century and there are 3 Asian cities (Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul) in the top 5. American cities on West (San Francisco and Los Angeles) may benefit from this and it may explain the Canadian city that is almost an Asian city (Vancouver) appearing in the list.

I am currently researching other metrics that can be used to rank Fintech Hubs. One that looks promising is the Global Innovation Index. Another is a ranking of great Higher Education with a focus on science & tech (based on the Paul Graham notion that all you need is nerds and rich people, great Higher Ed creates a funnel of great nerds). This requires a bit of data normalization work so we can get an aggregated score and that will have to wait until after SIBOS.

At the SIBOS session on Wednesday, each Hub will self rate on 5 criteria:

  • Regulation. (Regulation that favors innovation while still protecting customers).
  • Other country’s startups coming to yourHub.
  • Proximity to customers who will try something new. (Could be consumers or business customers).
  • Proximity to subject matter business expertise.
  • Innovation Culture (Hard to define but includes habits such as paying it forward, collaboration, risk taking, meritocracy).

However Doing Business Rankings represents only one aspect of the future. In a world of purely sustaining innovation these two scores would tell the full story. However the wild card is disruptive innovation. San Francisco (and Silicon Valley) was hardly known for its expertise in transportation until Google Maps, Uber, Autonomous Vehicles and Tesla came along to change our world. Without doing any exhaustive analysis, it is pretty obvious that Silicon Valley wins the game based on value created to date. The question that people want to know is where will the value be created in future.

It is possible that the mysterious but hard to define category called Culture is what really matters.

The SIBOS session should create an interesting debate.

Daily Fintech Advisers (the commercial arm of this open source research site) can help implement strategies related to the topics written about here. Contact us to start a conversation.


  1. Hi…I will be at SIBOS. I represent INTESA Sanpaolo – a bank headquartered in Milan, Italy. I am the APAC head for Trade Finance for the bank. I am interested in Fintech…and would like to meet up with you (Bernard). Kindly reply if possible at my email.

  2. Interesting update, Bernard. What about including venture funding and momentum data in your analysis? It could give NY and London a slight boost, purely based on volume of deals. But if you look at the funding & momentum changes over time, it could boost the likes of Singapore, HK and emerging markets that are gaining ground quickly.

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