No Downturn for Emerging Financial Powerhouses

Jersey City, NJ and Charlotte, NC continue their steady march to the top of the list of financial services centers.

The Business Insider newsletter recently published its list of emerging international financial centers that it says may “blindside” global fiscal powerhouses New York and London. The up-and-comers included Toronto, Shanghai, Singapore, Zurich, Luxembourg, Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, and Dubai.

The shifting landscape in the global financial services industry is mirrored within the United States, as several regional financial centers have staked a claim to top-tier status as well. Two of these success stories are on the East Coast, in Jersey City, NJ and Charlotte, NC.

Hardly a month goes by without an announcement of the relocation or expansion of a major financial services player to Jersey City.

For example, earlier this month Fidelity Investments announced that it will be moving next year from lower Manhattan to Jersey City. Then came news from the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. that it will extend its stay at the financial center at Harborside Financial Center in Jersey City for another 10 years and expand operations there.

The Japanese bank’s decision to extend its lease until 2029 on 137,076 square feet at Harborside no doubt was prompted in part by the realization dozens of major financial players have been lining up for prime locations near the Jersey City waterfront for much of the past decade. In recent years, this trend has accelerated, even as the U.S. financial sector was clobbered by the Great Recession.

For example, the 3.1-million Harborside Financial Center is 97.7-percent leased. The developer, Mack-Cali Realty Corp. of Edison, NJ, has room on the site to add another 3.6 million square feet of office space at the waterfront complex. The Tokyo-Mitsuibishi bank leases space in the 725,600-square-foot Harborside Plaza office tower at Harborside Financial Center.

“We’re delighted that BTMU has decided to extend their lease at Harborside Financial Center,” said Mitchell E. Hersh, president and chief executive officer of Mack-Cali. “We believe that our long-standing relationship, along with the fact that Harborside is the premier office complex on the Jersey City waterfront, facilitated the decision to make a significant space commitment well in advance of the bank’s lease expiration.”

Concerned about the high cost of space (particularly in Manhattan), banks began shifting their data operations to new office towers on the Jersey City waterfront about 20 years ago. Fidelity also indicated its relocation decision was motivated by a desire to reduce costs; it is following in the footsteps of its competitors, including Charles Schwab & Co. and TD Ameritrade, which also set up shop in Jersey City in the past decade.

In 2001, Charles Schwab & Co. announced it would lease all of the space in Mack-Cali’s 19-story office tower, then under construction at Harborside. TD Ameritrade established its headquarters in Jersey City, as well as its ThinkTech operation.

On its website, TD Ameritrade offers this endorsement of Jersey City’s burgeoning financial services hub:

“Jersey City’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the area with a recent influx of financial services Fortune 500 corporations. This migration has helped create a hotbed of ideas for TD Ameritrade.”

Other major financial players that call Jersey City home include Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, BNY Mellon, Knight Capital Group, and Ubs Financial Services.

Charlotte, NC is another financial services center that is rapidly emerging as a national powerhouse. The city boasts a concentration of financial institutions and resources which offer a wide diversity of size, expertise and organizations. Businesses have many options in dealing with firms ranging from large international bank holding companies offering diverse financial services with operations throughout the world to small, locally operated companies often specializing in one particular financial service.


Big Banks Love Charlotte

The beginnings of Charlotte as a financial center dates to 1799 when gold was first discovered in the Charlotte area. By 1837, the U.S. Mint had opened a branch to mint gold coins. In 1927, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond opened the Charlotte branch.

Today, more banking resources ($2.3 trillion) are headquartered in Charlotte than all but one other U.S. city (the top heavyweight, New York, weighs in a whopping $4.1 trillion). Five of the nation’s top 25 banks operate in Charlotte. Bank of America, the nation’s largest and the second largest bank in the world, is headquartered here.

Enhancing Charlotte’s position as a financial center is a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and a U.S. Postal Service Distribution Mail facility. Nearly 55,000 people are employed in the Charlotte region within the finance and insurance industry.

Today, Charlotte’s headquartered banks operate in 32 states plus the District of Columbia. This interconnectivity allows companies to operate in multiple states with uniform and simplified financial support.

Charlotte banking is highly competitive with 24 banks having 226 banking offices throughout the city and county. Charlotte enjoys one of the highest ratios of bank branches to population in the nation.

Charlotte is well positioned to handle international banking needs. Multiple banks in Charlotte have international departments and offer foreign currency exchange, multi-currency loans, trade financing, letters of credit, money transfers and cash management. In addition to their 6,000 domestic branches, they operate branches and representatives offices in 30 countries including these financial capitals: Amsterdam, Antwerp, Beijing, Calcutta, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Jakarta,

London, Madrid, Manila, Melborne, Mexico City, Milan, New Delhi, Paris, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Sidney, Singapore, Taipei, and Tokyo.