Balanced cities perform best in 2011 study of finance capitals

Size no longer a leading predictor of influence

KUALA LUMPUR, 7 June 2011 – The finance and business centres of the future may not be the traditional capitals of global dominance, according to a new report released by PwC and the Partnership for New York City.  Cities of Opportunity shows that in a more virtual and mobile world, holistic cities with balanced economies and strong quality of life offer an attractive alternative. They are more resilient during downturns and have greater allure for skilled people. 26 global centres of finance, business and culture were analysed and ranked based on 10 key indicators. New York leads the 2011 study, followed closely by Toronto, San Francisco, Stockholm and Sydney – cities more notable for quality of life and balance than global business dominance.

“The study is very timely. For Malaysia to be competitive, especially Kuala Lumpur, we need to improve the social, educational and technological indicators, as well as the hard economic indicators like economic clout, transportation and infrastructure, and cost,” said Andrew Chan Yik Hong, PwC Malaysia Executive Director, who leads Capital Projects and Infrastructure.

“Our government appears to be on the right track with the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and Government Transformation Programme (GTP). Both focus on the same indicators which make the cities analysed in this study the leading ones of the world– such as enhancing education and health, improving Kuala Lumpur’s public transport system and reducing crime,” he continued.

While the other cities in the top five cannot match the size or clout of longstanding commercial hubs like London, New York, Paris or Tokyo, they highlight a changing global dynamic. Modern cities are less dependent on geography and historic connections. Instead, they rely more on holistic approaches to attracting and keeping creative minds and cutting-edge businesses.

New York, despite finishing first, hardly dominates across the indicators. It leads because of balanced performance, likely a key to the city's continued economic resilience, and outstanding performance in measures of intellectual capital, lifestyle assets and technology readiness.

Among the ten indicators, five correlate in a close positive pattern: intellectual capital and innovation; health; safety and security; ease of doing business; technology readiness and demographics and livability. In other words, when one goes up, the other tends to do so as well. For instance, the indicators that include health and intellectual capital correlate a striking +87%.

This is consistent when compared with the 2008 Asia Pacific Cities of Opportunity report by PwC for the Sydney Chamber of Commerce which ranked Malaysia first and fourth for its cost and ease of doing business respectively. However, on other indicators, Kuala Lumpur performed poorly when compared to other major cities in the Asia Pacific region.

Through the ETP, the government’s vision for Kuala Lumpur can be summarised as 20-20 by 2020. It is hoped that Kuala Lumpur will be the only city that simultaneously achieves a top-20 ranking in city economic growth (as defined by city gross domestic product growth rates) and is among the global top-20 most liveable cities by 2020. This again is in line with the findings of the study.

“Perhaps the most compelling takeaway from the study for Kuala Lumpur is that a broadly positive quality of life may serve as a foundation of both a resilient economy and lasting global success. Simply stated, the most globally competitive cities are almost always those in which its intellectual capital is offered professional and personal surroundings that can reasonably ensure their health and safety. This is important for individuals looking for not just a place to work, but also a place to live, build families and invest in the future,” Andrew concluded.




Notes to Editor:

  1. The ten indicators are: intellectual capital and innovation; technology readiness; transportation and infrastructure; health, safety and security; sustainability; economic clout; ease of doing business; cost; demographics and liveability; and lifestyle assets.
  2. The Cities of Opportunity key indicators and top three cities in each are:
    • Intellectual capital and innovation--Stockholm, Toronto, New York/San Francisco (tied for 3rd)
    • Technology readiness--New York, Seoul, Stockholm
    • Transportation and infrastructure--Paris, Chicago, New York
    • Demographics and liveability--Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto
    • Economic clout--London, Paris, New York
    • Cost--Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago
    • Lifestyle assets--New York, Paris, London
    • Health, safety and security--Stockholm, Toronto, Chicago
    • Ease of doing business--Hong Kong, Singapore, New York
    • Sustainability--Berlin, Sydney, Stockholm
  3. Cities of Opportunity is based on publicly available data, using three main sources: global multilateral development organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; national statistics organizations, such as National Statistics in the UK and the Census Bureau in the US; and commercial data providers.
  4. Data for Cities of Opportunity was collected during the second and third quarters of 2010.  In the majority of cases, the data used refers to 2009 and 2010. In some cases when verifiable and consistent city information was not available, national data was used as a proxy. Care has been taken to ensure that, where used, national data closely reflects the city. The scoring methodology was developed to ensure transparency and simplicity for readers, as well as comparability across cities.
  5. The complete report, interactive tools that allow users to model their own comparisons among the 26 cities and 66 variables, and videos and podcasts featuring Rem Koolhaas and Mortimer Zuckerman are available at:


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