Financial and related professional services’ contribution to the UK balance of payments

Key Facts About UK Financial and Related Professional Services, one of TheCityUK’s flagship reports, demonstrates the industry’s contribution to the domestic economy.

It’s common knowledge that the financial and related professional services sector is a crucial pillar of the UK economy, but our research quantifies and highlights that contribution—to employment, to tax revenue, and to economic output. It’s worth remembering that the services sector accounts for fully 80% of UK GDP, and within this category, financial and related professional services is an important component.

One of the most striking contributions of the sector is to the UK’s balance-of-payments position. Our research points out that the industry generated a trade surplus of £72bn in 2014—larger than the combined trade surpluses of all other net exporting industries in the UK (including transport, architectural and engineering services, and telecommunications and IT). Breaking down this headline figure and looking at its components, however, reveals some interesting detail: 

  • Since 2004, financial and related professional services exports have more than doubled, while imports have increased by only 29%, leading to a near-trebling of the net export figure in 10 years.
  • Within financial services, banks and insurers represent the lion’s share of the trade surplus, with net exports in 2014 of £25bn and £18.7bn respectively. (The total financial services trade surplus was £58bn.) Within professional services, management consulting led the way, with net exports of £9.8bn (out of a professional services total of £14bn).
  • Net exports of professional services have grown faster than those of financial services, albeit from a much lower base. (In 2004, professional services exports and imports totalled £6.2bn and £3.1bn respectively, while the comparable figures for financial services were £32.5bn and £9.6bn.) The 2014 figure for professional services net exports represented growth of 450% relative to 2004, compared with 2004-14 growth of 250% for financial services net exports.


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