UK confirmed as the world’s leading net exporter of financial services

Press release
18 January 2023

Despite increasing competition in global financial markets, the UK-based financial and related professional services industry’s trade surplus increased to £81bn ($110.9bn) in 2021, up from £79.6bn ($106.6bn) in 2020, according to TheCityUK’s annual ‘Key facts about the UK as an international financial centre’ report.

The report, which sets out the key facts and data underpinning the UK’s status as a world-leading international financial centre, also reveals that the UK remains the leading net exporter of financial services across the world (£63.7bn), followed by the US (£62.5bn), Singapore (£19.4bn), Switzerland (£18.6bn) and Luxembourg (£18bn).

The UK’s largest trading partner in financial services continues to be the US, with 34.1% of total sector exports, followed by the EU at 29%, with Luxembourg (6.3%), Ireland (4.4%) and France (4.2%) being the top three destinations in the bloc.

Anjalika Bardalai, Chief Economist and Head of Research, TheCityUK, said, “Throughout the economic tumult of recent years, the financial and related professional services industry has proven itself resilient and adaptable.

“The UK’s status as a world-leading international financial centre provides widespread economic benefits right across the country. But that position can’t be taken for granted. It is essential for industry, government and regulators to work together to ensure the UK remains globally competitive and a hub for firms to invest and do business.”

Other key facts from the report:

  • Legal services
    • The UK is the largest legal services market in Europe and is second only to the US globally. It accounts for a third of Western European legal services fee revenue and around 5% of global legal services fee revenue (£520.5bn in 2021).
    • The UK’s position in legal services is helped by the international prestige of English common law, which forms the basis of the legal systems for some 27% of the world’s 320 jurisdictions (American common law is by contrast used by around 20% of the world’s jurisdictions).
  • Professional services and management consulting
    • The UK is a significant global centre for professional services including business management and management consulting (net exports £20.6bn in 2021) and accounting services (net exports totalling £1.6bn in 2021).
  • Banking
    • The UK banking sector assets totalled $12.4trn (£9.8trn) at the end of the third quarter of 2022, the fifth largest in the world.
    • The UK maintains a globally leading share of a number of financial markets, including 15% of the global total of cross-border bank lending in the second quarter of 2022.
    • London is a centre for foreign banks, with around 180 foreign banks or branches in the city.
  • FinTech
    • The UK FinTech sector registered record investment of £27.6bn in 2021, seven times more than in 2020. London is considered to have the second-best FinTech ecosystem globally. As of 2021, there were 1,600 FinTech companies in the UK.
  • Currency trading
    • Around twice as many US dollars are traded on the foreign exchange market in the UK than in the US. Overall, the UK has 38.1% of the global total of foreign-exchange turnover.
  • Insurance
    • The UK insurance sector is the biggest in Europe and fourth largest in the world
  • Private equity
    • The UK private equity market is the most developed in the world outside the US. UK private equity funds invested $37.8bn (equivalent to £29.5bn), the largest amount in Europe, in 2021.
  • Equity trading
    • London’s importance as a centre for global equity trading is illustrated by the 333 foreign companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) as of September 2022.