Stabilising an unstable industry: The role of agency in interconnecting international financial centres (FINWEBS)
The growth of the financial services sector has unmistakeably been one of the key economic trends of the last thirty years. This growing market has unleashed a race among cities for the status of ‘international financial centre’ (IFC), which can be understood as an urban concentration of firms in the financial services sector engaged in cross-border business. The objective of this research project is to better comprehend the dynamic/stability duality of the system of IFCs through an analysis of several ‘transnational social layers’: networks of financial centres, networks of financial firms and their products, and networks of leading financial professionals. By adding an agency perspective to the presently-dominant ranking interpretations of how IFCs come into being and jockey for position within global financial business flows, we help moving our understanding of stability and dynamics among IFCs beyond broad-sweeping narratives of path dependence and crisis. This overall objective is specified through a series of more concrete research questions focusing on how IFCs, financial firms and financial elites inhabiting them (re)define each other through webs of innovation, specialization, and power, respectively. The project adopts a mixed-method approach, which allows capitalizing on both in-depth qualitative and systematic quantitative research. The implications for the future of the financial industry and those cities heavily relying on this industry will be explored.