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Britain is the world's leading financial centre and the home of thriving international banking an financial markets. The city of London's historic 'square mile' holds the greatest concentration of banks in the world and is responsible for a fifth of total international bank lending. It also accommodates the world's largest insurance and reinsurance industry and one of the world's largest stock exchanges. Between them, Britain's financial commodities and futures markets are responsible for the lion's share of international business.
Testifying to its dominance in world markets, the daily turnover of money in London's Exchange Markets alone is about $300 billion compared to $192 billion in New York and $128 billion in Tokyo. Nearest to London's turnover in Europe is Zurich, with a turnover of over $68 billion.
Why has London got a leading position in finance?
Today, the city of London remains the world's leading international financial centre for good reasons. The city offers:
The world's biggest international financial markets
A time zone advantage in 24 hour global dealings
Comprehensive financial expertise and Innovation
International professional advertisers
Liberal financial regulations
A stable political climate
A compact location with first rate amenities and new, prime
office developments in nearby Docklands)
Sovereign location for overseas operations
World class cultural entertainment
Merchant Banks are so called because they originate from large merchants engaging in banking
activity. Their traditionally important roles were helping foreign governments to raise loans and accepting Bills of Exchange but they are today involved in a range of services including corporate finance, foreign exchange dealings and securities trading
The discount houses are unique to Britain an occupy a central position in the British monetary system. They act as intermediaries between the Bank of England an the rest of the banking sector promoting an orderly flow of funs between the authorities an the banks.
The Investing Institutions collect savings drawn from the personal sector and invest them in securities and other assets. The main investment institutions are insurance companies together with insurance broken firms, pension funds, unit trusts an investment trusts. Together, they represent a massive pool of funds for investment.
Serving special customers
The Bank has three important groups of customers:
Commercial banks in the clearing system keep accounts at the Bank of England, using them at the end of each day when money is cleared. They must separately keep an agreed amount, currently 0,35%, of their sterling deposit base with the Bank in a non-interest bearing account; this is the capital ratio deposit and provides the main source of income for the bank.
Government keeps its main banking accounts at the Bank of England so that payments by the Government are ultimately made to and from the Bank. Surplus funds are invested in the money markets or used to reduce the Government's short-term dept.
Foreign central banks
Foreign central banks keep accounts and gold at the Bank of England and may conduct foreign exchange and bullion business in London through the bank.
The institutions include insurance companies, pension funds, investment trusts and unit trusts. Together they account for a vast resource of funds which are invested in securities and other assets. Recent serveys indicate that the institutions own more then 60 per cent of the shares of British companies and corporations listed on the London Stock Exchange. In 1963 the figure was only 28 per cent.
The British Insurance Industry
The British insurance industry is highly sophisticated and provides all-embracing services to millions of policyholders in Britain and overseas. Policyholders include governments, corporations, companies and individuals.
London is the world's leading centre for insurance and for the placement of international reinsurance. It is estimated that some 20 per cent of all insurance handled internationally is placed here. A large number of overseas insurance companies are represented in Britain, many working closely or in affiliation with British companies. Conversely, the largest British insurance companies operate internationally through overseas subsidiaries or through affiliated companies.
The industry falls into two board categories:
Long term insurance involves the provision of life policies as well as long-term contracts for savings and investment. Premiums are invested in securities and other assets.
General insurance is carried out by insurance companies and by Lloyd's of London and involves the provision of cover for fire, accident, general liability, short term life, motor, marine, aviation and transport.
Lloyd's of London
Lloyd's is a unique society of private insurance underwriters incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1871. It developed from informal trading in marine insurance carried out by merchants in Edward Lloyd's coffee house in Lombard street in the 17th century.