GaWC Research Bulletin 179

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This Research Bulletin has been published in PJ Taylor, B Derudder, P Saey and F Witlox (eds) (2007) Cities in Globalization: Practices, Policies and Theories London: Routledge, pp. 52-71.

Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.


World City Networks ‘From Below’: International Mobility and Inter-City Relations in the Global Investment Banking Industry

J.V. Beaverstock*



As Castells’ (2000) The Network Society and Sassen’s (2001) The Global City are so influential, path-breaking and omnipresent in current globalization and world city discourses, little value would be taken from (yet another) critical analysis of the space of flows and the ‘global city thesis’ (for example see Beaverstock et al., 2000), especially when Taylor’s (2004) World City Network, has firmly squared all the circles in his reading of the Castellian and Sassen spatial logic. From Castells (2000, 443) we already know that the third layer of the space of flows is composed of, “the dominant managerial elites”, who occupy the command and control functions of global cities. In a similar vein, Sassen (2000) has discussed that the concentration of advanced producer services in, “the new production complex” (2000, 71), constitutes a significant reproductive synergy for the intensification and concentration of command and control in the global city.  Such an argument gives credence not only to the productive nature of ‘face-to-face’ contact, where, “time replaces weight … as a force of agglomeration” (Sassen, 2000, 72), but also to inter-city relations, both virtual and physical, as it is now a requirement for a professional workforce to deliver accurate information, advice, solutions and specialism cross-border in the knowledge service economy (Beaverstock, 2002). But, having briefly aired the main propositions of the new relational spatial logic of understanding world cities in a connected society, in the rest of this chapter it is important to bring value to the debate which unpicks one significant agent of inter-city relations: the firm.  My intervention in this edited collection, therefore, is to discuss inter-city relations through the organizational role of the advanced producer service firm, which will add process-led ‘flesh’ to the skeletal frame of the world city network (Beaverstock et al., 2000; Taylor, 2004).  In my reading of inter-city relations, it is the firm and their client-supplier-relations that are the dynamic ‘shakers and movers’ of the world city network, who have agency because they cannot ply their global business without expert labour fixed and fluid at the point of demand, inter-facing with a global clientele where they sell expertise, bespoke solutions and reputation (see Beaverstock et al., 2002).

I wish to illustrate the role of the firm in making inter-city relations and world city networks through the example of international labour mobility within global investment banking. Global investment banks, like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan, penetrate international markets through world city networks because they require a physical presence in the market to serve clients and co-locate with suppliers (e.g. lawyers) (see Gardener and Molyneux, 1996).  As global investment banks are akin to professional service firms (Lowendahl, 1997), key organizational strategies are labour and mobility, where experts work in close proximity to colleagues (via intra-firm relations) and clients through transfer, secondment and business travel arrangements (Beaverstock, 2005a).   Investment banks accumulate financial capital through the embodied knowledge of their expert staff in world city-client networks. Expert staff have to physically travel to service clients in co-location in order to deliver their services between cities because such knowledge are not easily tradable in virtual form.  Accordingly, labour mobility is an efficient mechanism to make the knowledge structures of world city networks.  The rest of this chapter is divided into four sections.  In the next section, it is important to discuss the organizational strategy of firms, who provide the structural processes for making world city networks; namely transnational knowledge management.  After all, firms are the agents that create, direct and manage flow and inter-city relations (Beaverstock et al., 2002a).   Following on from this initial conceptual platform, the discussion will then advocate the agency of global investment banks in making inter-city relations. In the third section, research findings will be reported that illustrate the key knowledge production process of labour mobility in several global investment banks, drawing upon interviews with firms and bankers themselves.  Finally, several conclusions are reached on the role of international mobility in producing inter-city relations and world city networks ‘from below’. 


Transnational service corporations are integrated networks, characterised by multi-faceted linkages and relationships both intra- and inter-firm with clients and suppliers alike (Aharoni and Nachum, 2000).  At an organisational level, an important strategy for the firm is to circulate knowledge and best practice between subsidiaries whether it is from top (global headquarters) to bottom (subsidiary) and visa-versa, or laterally between subsidiaries of the firm (including the HQ).  Nohria and Ghoshal (1997, 4) refers to the firm has having, “a differentiated network”, with, “local linkages” within national subsidiaries and linkages between headquarters and subsidiaries. But, perhaps the most useful analysis of firm knowledge management can be derived from Bartlett and Ghoshal’s (1998) Managing Across Borders, who evaluate the development an diffusion of knowledge in four typologies of the firm, pertaining to all economic sectors; multinational; global; international; and transnational.  The key issue is that knowledge is developed, managed and diffused differently depending upon the typology of the firm (Table 1).  For example, in the ‘International’ firm – akin to global investment banks, “knowledge is “developed at the centre and transferred to overseas units”, because the assets and capabilities of the firm are both dispersed and centralised from the centre, thus making subsidiaries dependent on the centre for knowledge.  But, understanding how transnational professional service firms develop and manage knowledge between subsidiaries through expertise, skills and practice physically embodied in labour, one can look closely at the recent work on the characteristics and work process of professional service firms.

Professional knowledge, including expertise, is the, “core resource and is both the input and output,” of the production process (Nachum, 2000, 4).  Sectors like architecture, accounting, consultancy, investment banking and securities, and legal services depend entirely on the professional knowledge, expertise, reputation and trust of their staff to offer clients and customers bespoke, non-routine solutions, which require close-delivery and predominantly co-location (Greenwood and Lachman, 1996).  Moreover, Nachum’s (2000) detailed analysis of the intangible, labour intensive, tailor-made characteristics of professional services illustrates very clearly why delivery is reliant upon close interaction with the client.  Accordingly, for professional services expert staff-client interaction is the key process for knowledge transfer and ultimately the retention of market share, the acquisition of new clients and expansion into new geographical markets through foreign direct investment. 

For geographers, the key process by which professional services interact with clients in world cities is through face-to-face contact, with clients, competitors, suppliers and colleagues (intra-firm knowledge transfer) (Amin and Thrift, 1992; Beaverstock, 2004; Jones, 2003; Thrift, 2000). Face-to-face relationships are reciprocal processes which not only share and disseminate tailor-made, non-routine and often ‘one-off’ solutions to clients, but also act as the medium for interaction with teams of actors where deal making often requires the specialist input from a range of professional services e.g. lawyers, bankers and accountants.  The bottom line therefore, is in professional services, firms can only deliver their products and aura of professionalism, ‘blue-chip’ reputation and trust to clients, and interact successfully with colleagues intra-firm and with suppliers inter-firm, through physical relations, which are of course supplemented by the virtual transmission of explicit knowledge.  For transnational firms with foreign direct investment in the form of international offices in world city locations, “services are delivered by local and expatriate staff alike, as in many circumstances, clients require PSFs to stretch knowledge onto a global scale and cross-border” (Beaverstock, 2004, 161).

International mobility, therefore, is a key factor of production in the professional service industry.  For example, in Beaverstock’s (2005a) recent analysis of global professional labour markets in the accounting industry, mobility was a key facet of the firm’s globalization strategies to service existing and reach new clients in world city locations because clients demand a service onsite in international financial centres Moreover, Beaverstock (2005a) has posited a framework that illustrates the dimension of international mobility in transnational professional service firms (Table 2) (by drawing upon Edstrom and Galbraith’s [1977] seminal work on transfers within multinational corporations). In short, professional staff are assigned to international locations to fill vacancies, develop as managers and develop the strategy of the organisation, but these moves can be highly-frequent, between many-different locations, mainly fee-earning, from top to bottom and visa-versa and between subsidiaries (lateral), and throughout a career-path.


Investment banks have entered world city markets through international office networks because the recipe for global success is inter-twined with five major factors – which all have one thing in common, the requirement to be physically located in the market place.  First, investment banks are reliant upon the capabilities of their expert staff whether in a bulge bracket firm or niche, boutique, to generate fee income from intrinsic client-relations in global markets and product innovation.  Investment bankers have to work in teams to be successful, drawing upon individual expertise and generic skills from a range of personnel in global market and product divisions that transcends location (Wrigley et al., 2003). As expert knowledge is embodied and cannot be easily reproduced without socialisation, investment bankers must be tied to the physicality of the market place where face-to-face contact becomes an essential factor of production in an industry where the market is multi-locational and the product range dispersed between geographical markets.  Second, investment banks are client-focused and, “if these banks were not satisfying their customers, they would not be in business” (E.I.U., 1999, 21).  Investment banks must be in close-proximity, co-location, to their clients, who are invariably the major institutional and corporate entities of international financial centres, and their suppliers, especially ‘Magic Circle’ corporate law firms (The Corporation of London, 2003).  Co-location and inter-dependency is an essential geographical agglomeration economy for the investment banking industry. Third, as investment banks are market-makers, where reputation and prowess attracts the clientele, product innovation can only be efficiently developed in-house, and in co-location with competitors, where traded and untraded path dependencies nurture knowledge spillovers and binds innovation with client relations and supplier networks (Benveniste et al., 2003).  Fourth, for a global investment bank to claim that they offer customers integrated seamless services, they must have geographical coverage in the principal financial markets and be able to supply products to transnational national clients with a ‘global’ focus (Berger et al., 2003).  As Freeman & Co (2003, 16) the investment banking ‘think-tank’ argue, “distribution prowess is essential to ensure the ‘right’ products are sold and held by the ‘right’ investors based on the mutual needs of issuers and investors.” In all of these factors, the over-riding internationalization driver of the investment banking industry comes down to the common denominator of providing an international office in a world city location for expert staff to engage with the client base of the bank. 

Global investment banking is dominated by the organizational activities of the ‘bulge-bracket’ US and European firms who have global geographical coverage (E.I.U., 1999).  In 1998, the top ten banks accounted for approximately 75% of total global fee income with Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch accounting for over a quarter of international business (International Financial Services, London, 2000). In 2001, these two banks remained the leading fee earners accounting for 17% of global fee income (Table 3). But, given that investment banking rests on the performance of expert staff and close client-relations, headcounts (number of experts, fee-earners) are of critical importance in the firm, more so than office distribution and number (Beaverstock and Smith, 1996). Expert staff are the prime asset of the investment bank and therefore, at an organizational level, are the key attributes for internationalization through local hires and mobility. Investment banking experts presents the firm with its competitive advantage in the global market.  It is the, “skill and commitment of individuals that often makes the difference between success and failure, between trading profits and losses, and between clients returning or taking their business elsewhere” (Seifert, 2000, 8). What is of critical importance in the rest of this chapter is to illustrate how investment banks deploy expert staff within and between world city office networks which acts as a significant organization strategy for the bank to successfully penetrate new markets, but moreover as one actant which produces the space of flows and makes world city networks in contemporary globalization (see Beaverstock et al., 2002a). 


The study reported in this section of the chapter was collected from secondary sources (e.g. firm world wide web sites; Annual Reports) and London-based interviews with C.E.O.’s responsible for international human resources in ten global investment banks in 1999/20001.  Six of the ten banks headquartered (HQ) their global investment banking from London, two from Paris (IB3, IB10) and two from New York (IB4, IB5), with global corporate finance, fixed income C.E.O.’s etc., sitting in these locations, supported by regional management in the main geographical markets (New York, Singapore and, or Tokyo). Two processes responsible for making inter-city relations will be highlighted: the firm and organizational strategy; and, the reproductive nature of flow that creates uneven patterns between world cities.

Organizational Labour Mobility

Investment banking is an industry which seeks profitability and market share through the efficient delivery of products and solutions to institutional, corporate and private clients on a global scale (E.I.U., 1999).  Interviewed bank websites and other publicity (e.g. Annual Reports) constantly praised the professional credentials of its ‘client-focused’ and ‘client-facing’ research, sales, trading and management teams across the bank’s entire global product portfolio and geographical markets.  Investment bank websites oozed the rhetoric of being able to offer clients ‘global-local knowledge’, ‘seamless services and execution’, ‘deep, enriched relations’, ‘innovative solutions’, all bounded by trust, reputation, ‘ethical behaviour’ and ‘integrated delivery’ and, most importantly, provided by ‘expert’, ‘dedicated staff’ and ‘global leaders’, ‘around the world’ or ‘worldwide’ (emphasis added). Investment banking is the archetypal professional service industry where the competitive advantage is derived from the knowledge and expertise on the staff and the ways in which they execute their business in deep and trusted client-relationships on a world stage.  It was no surprise to find therefore, at interview with all banks that international mobility is a key organizational strategy for the banks to not only client-face around the globe and ensure that global products are delivered with ‘pools’ of expert and technical staff available in situ during the business cycle, but also very importantly, to deliver ‘global’ products and ‘global’ solutions to clients on a global scale.  In variably, as the business of investment banking is rarely tied to one particular location, staff must possess ‘global expertise’, and from the other side of the fence, investment banks to claim that they are ‘global’ must have staff with global experience and credentials to service clients within and between world city financial markets and management services.

Investment banks transfer knowledge and expertise throughout their international office networks by physically moving staff between world city locations.  International mobility facilities skill exchange between locations and is a surrogate organizational strategy, which reproduced the ‘global’ branding of the bank.  Investment banks require staff with global experience and expertise to project the global branding of the bank and provide competencies to a transnational institutional or corporate client.  Within these ten global investment banks, research findings revealed that international mobility made world city networks though four major organisational strategies:

1. Strategic, revenue-earning skill transfers – banks assigned professional staff – whether in front or back office research, sales, trading and I.T. systems functions across all global products (markets – equities, foreign exchange; corporate finance; fixed income; asset and wealth management) in order to check the upside of the business cycle as growth in different world city locations created conditions for immediate labour market demand.  In occupations like trading or research as the, “technical skills would be if you like universal and it is cheaper to recruit from the local market … the only reason to expatriate someone is a skill shortage” (IB1).  In more client-facing functions, like sales, mobility enhances, “succession planning” and “deepens client-relationships” (IB3) because of the exchange of technical skills between world city markets.  For example, IB5, like all other banks, have “a network of people” involved in identical jobs sitting in Tokyo, London and New York and if client-demand created skill deficiencies in a particular node in the network, staff were “brought in” to fill that skills gap. All banks noted “severe skill shortages” in Tokyo and certain booming emerging market locations (e.g. Mumbai).  In the emerging market locations, foreign staff were required to, “develop product lines first matured in New York and London” (IB4), because the local labour markets were just not “sophisticated enough” (IB7).  All banks noted that international mobility activated through skill transfers would account for at least “60 per cent” (IB7) of all corporate postings.

2. Strategic, management skill transfers – C.E.O.’s and other senior staff were sent abroad to manage new offices, departments or product lines; “there will always be a demand for management expatriates either for political reasons or genuine skills” (IB1).  In IB3, all of the investment bank’s international offices is headed by a French national, seconded from the Parisian HQ and “75 per cent” of IB4’s expatriate managing C.E.O.’s are American, assigned from the bank’s New York HQ.  In new markets like the emerging markets or newly acquired businesses, all the banks sent C.E.O.’s to head-up the new product-line because they had the managerial skills, deep technical expertise and “global organizational contacts” (IB10) to succeed.  For example, all of IB9’s heads of global markets and products in Asia, including Tokyo, are expatriates from London (British and American).  In addition, it was also common for these banks to second a, exceptionally qualified foreign national who had been working in either London or New York to act as the managing C.E.O. of the new office or client-venture, supported by colleagues of other nationalities. All banks noted that skill transfers activated though the requirement to manage new or existing offices, global markets or products would have accounted for at least “10-20 per cent” (IB7) of all corporate postings.

3. Strategic training and skill acquisition – All banks circulate more junior professional staff to their key international offices, London, New York and Frankfurt especially, for training requirements and skill acquisition. Those banks with investment banking global HQ’s outside of London, regularly sent professions to the London office for rotational training.  For example, IB3, the French HQ bank sent 40 staff to London from Paris, and both US bank’s (IB4 and IB5) sent rotation staff from New York.  As IB4 comments, “we have a rotation programme out of New York and they will rotate four times in two years.” 

4. International cadre – Interestingly, IB3, IB6, IB7 and IB9 all employ so called ‘Third-Country-Nationals’, who effectively spend their entire career with the bank working outside of their country of domicile.  Such workers move frequently between international offices undertaking specific managerial positions associated mainly with non-revenue, back-office functions (e.g. I.T. systems management, Human Resources, auditing).  In all banks, such workers cross all the functional divisions of the banking group, so for example in IB3, who have an estimated 500 ‘International Cadres’, only a small fraction would be ‘corporate’ and investment bankers’ as the rest would be involved with retail banking, investment management and private banking. 

Mobility, Distribution and World City Networks

As we have discovered, these investment banks use the physical international mobility of their expert staff, of all nationalities, to transfer knowledge and skill competencies between world city office networks.  These workers are actual flows that connect world cities in networks of intra-firm and firm client-relationships.  An examination of the world cities of next residence from London and last residence before coming into London, reveals a strong circuit of relations between certain world cities in contemporary financial globalization.  Table 4 and Figure 1 and Figure 2 illustrates very precisely the dominance of the London and Frankfurt-Tokyo-Singapore-New York-Paris-Hong Kong space of flows, making a world city network of outflows and inflows. The problems of retrieving standard datasets from investment banks does make it almost impossible to quantify the magnitude of flows in the network. But, complete evidence from IB1, IB3, IB10 does quantify the scale, however small, of flows between London and the banks’ HQ (if outside of London – e.g. Paris) and top tier world city location: New York, in particular, where markets are larger and client demand more sophisticated and demanding. 

Qualitative evidence from the interviews revealed three major characteristics of the geographies of these people flows in the world city network.  First, London or New York were the cities which received and sent out the most expert staff in the bank’s entire international office network because these two cities were either the location of the bank’s HQ or largest office (by staff, turnover and revenue).  As these two bankers commented, “London-New York is by far the biggest path between any two destinations. New York is our world headquarters, Europe is our next biggest region. London is our second largest office” (IB4), and, “London is our largest exported. Corporate financiers especially move back and forth between London and New York” (IB7). Accordingly, in the majority of banks interviewed, all international mobility in the global investment banking product divisions was originated from London or New York with no evidence of mobility between other offices in the network (i.e. expert staff in Tokyo would not be sent to Singapore, instead it would be initiated through New York or London). The rationale for this distribution has already been highlighted: in London or New York sits the bank’s global head of markets (equities, foreign exchange) and products, and they orchestrate human resources across the bank’s network accordingly, “we have a global business manager sitting in London responsible for global equities and he’s got that advantage of overseeing the business from a global perspective” (IB5).  Also, bank’s identified that it was common practice to fit skills shortages in London from New York, which would involve the import of skills from a whole range of nationalities. Second, more senior, expert staff were sent to emerging market world cities, for example Mumbai, Moscow, Kiev, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and these workers tended to employed on traditional expatriate packages to reflect their esteem in the receiving bank and managing functions.  In terms of flow, traffic was, “significantly less between emerging markets” (B10), but more long-term (often more than 3 years), whereas flows between London and New York tended to be contracted as adjusted local packages (i.e. local hires).  Expert staff moving to Singapore and Tokyo especially still received enhanced packages, but the shift contractually was to hire on local packages.  Third, in all banks, the range of nationalities of expert staff on the move was phenomenal.  All nationalities were brought into the banks’ investment banking HQs, London, New York, Paris and Amsterdam for all the corporate rationales discussed earlier, and given that each of the bank’s global market division (e.g. equities) and product lines were segmented into defined geographical regions and markets, trading desks, research teams, analysts etc. were composed of a multitude of nationalities.  Admittedly, managing C.E.O.’s of the bank’s ownership nationality still tended to head-up international offices, markets and product divisions out side of the HQ, but for other revenue earning capacity, nationality was not an issue.

One final and very important observation to make about flow within these banks was the daily, routine of hyper-mobility for investment banking staff. Investment banking is now a multi-location working practice.  All banks expected staff in all global markets and product divisions to be client-led and flexible when it came to cross-border working patterns.  Three major patterns of world city hyper-mobility can be identified. First, high-frequency short-haul business travel between all European financial centres to meet clients and suppliers (e.g. lawyers), inter-face with colleagues and senior staff in European offices and HQ (if in Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt), attend team meetings involving cross-border activities (e.g. corporate finance) and for training. Second, high-frequency long-haul business travel, especially between London and New York, as one bank commented, “we see a large number of backwards and forwards movements between New York and London all the time.  That is just normal” (IB1).  Banks also commented on the frequency of expert staff making long-haul business trips to east Asian cities like for example Singapore and then travelling to clients throughout east Asian using Singapore as the hub. Third, business commuting, particularly evident with more senior staff who commute to and from Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Zurich with overnight stays during the week and time spent back in ‘home’ office, usually for very short periods of time where an expatriate or local hire contract is not appropriate (e.g. short-term corporate finance projects involving staff and clients in multi-locations. 


Location is sacra cant in upward career-path mobility and working in world city international financial centres the City of London, Midtown and Wall Street, New York City or ‘The Golden Shoe’, Singapore are the ‘prized locations’. In this section of the chapter, I wish to illustrate how the international career paths and working practices of ten British investment bankers working in New York City from the late 1990s onwards, make world city networks through their ‘micro’ past world city working experiences and global physical and virtual business networks and ties.2

The ‘micro’ international career path of the individual makes a significant contribution to the making of world city networks.  Changing workplaces, firms, occupations and world city international financial centres, are now endemic in the world of finance, banking and professional services.  Of these British investment bankers working in New York, three major characteristics stood out when analysing their world city career paths (Table 5 and Figure 3).  First, their career paths were dominated by the London-New York dyadic connection as nine of group had predominantly only experienced working in London and New York (with three having started working life in U.K. provincial cities). For eight of these nine bankers, this New York assignment was their first international career-path experience outside of London for more than one year.  Interestingly, one banker had already experienced two other assignments to New York City with the same employer, NatWest Markets, before the switch of employer in New York City during 1997.  Second, those who had experience of inter-firm mobility were predominately with their ‘second’ employer, with exceptions being: respondent 6 who had previously worked for Wang Computers and Instinet in London before moving to a US investment bank in London before being sent to New York in 1998; and respondent 11, who had worked for Chase Manhattan/Chemical Bank and NatWest Markets before employment with a UK investment bank.  Third, incidents of international mobility were linked invariably to training rotations (as in respondent 1) or just seniority and extensive career path experiences (respondent 11). Both these bankers had worked and lived in other world cities for more than six months (e.g. Bahrain, Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo, Zurich), with either current or past employers.  International career paths concretised an array of transnational working and business relations in different cities and employers, which in sum presented the bankers with a world city intellectual infrastructure and network of contacts and social relations, which were portable and transcended space and time. 

Once in post in New York, each of the banker’s working practices produced unlimited transnational flows of information, practice and social relations between world cities.  Of significance in the production of world city networks were the bankers’ cross-world city business connections and ties with intra-firm colleagues, clients and suppliers through physical business travel and virtual communication.  All of the respondents were involved in business travel, either on a regular basis back to the bank’s London office (all respondents) or global headquarters cities (e.g. respondent 9 to Madrid, 5 to Toronto) every six or four months, or for specific business requirements (e.g. respondent 11 to visit client’s in Miami).   But, it was through the virtual mediums of daily email and telephone communication, and regular video and call conferencing intra-firm that these bankers’ produced micro-world city networks.  On a regular daily basis, aggregated, these eleven investment bankers were connected in real-time to colleagues in European, Latin American, East Asian and Chinese world cities relaying and receiving knowledge, information and intelligence, with all connecting to London (Figure 4). The following short biographical accounts of the banker’s career paths and transnational working practices illustrates very deeply why it is the knowledge-rich workforce of banking, finance and professional service firms that are at the heart of world city network formation and reproduction.

Respondent 1, is a Vice-President in Risk Manager in Emerging Markets Trading and Sales in the bank’s global headquartered Manhattan office.  He joined the US global investment bank on graduation from University in 1991 and in his first four years working for the bank had been assigned to Paris, Frankfurt and Zurich on six month postings for training purposes (interrupted by six month stints back in the London office).  During that same period, he was involved in many extended business trips to the New York office for both training and client-led business in the US bond market especially.  In Manhattan (-5 hours GMT), his job focuses on the Latin American equity markets that requires continuous daily dialogue with his equivalents in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo especially (both -4 hours GMT).  He starts his working day early before the Brazilian and Argentinean markets open to catch-up on the end of day Asian market trading from email and voice mail from his counterpart in Singapore (-8 hours GMT) and liaises with his London (GMT) colleague (who is responsible for Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East) for late morning/early afternoon market performance. For this banker, daily virtual connections with Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, London and Singapore are part and parcel of his working routine because he requires first hand ‘local expertise’, ‘real-time’ knowledge and interpretation of equity market data in different markets to enable him to function in New York.  Respondent 1 described his working relationship with his counterparts in these four cities as, “very closely-related”, which did involve occasional week-long business trips to Argentina and Brazil, and very occasional longer trips back to London (at least twice a year). Accordingly, for this specific banker, his regular world city relational space is a criss-cross of flows, connections and practice between New York, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, London and Singapore.


In this chapter I have illustrated that international mobility makes inter-city relations, and more importantly, that the firm is a significant actant in producing the fluidity of cities in globalization and ultimately the making of world city networks.  This process-led approach focusing on the action of firms and individuals, conceptualised explicitly in an organisational discourse, enables two major concluding remarks to be posited, levelled at both actors (firms) and recipients (cities) in a network world economy.  First, firms are key actants in perpetuating inter-city relations, whether physical or virtual. In a digital global economy the locational decision-making of firms builds the asset base of cities and provides the nodes for communication in the space of flows.  Such complex organisational processes are discussed by Beaverstock et al. (2002) and their world city network credentials are exacerbated in the advanced producer service sector of the economy because competitive advantage in the city is produced by the professionalism, expertise and skills of the workforce, in proximity and co-location with clients, suppliers and competitors.  In the empirical study of global investment banks and investment bankers it becomes very clear that these actors can only inter-connect with their market through physical relationships in the world city.  Firms use international mobility as a globalization strategy and individuals use the opportunity of mobility to enhance world city career paths;  both together, making inter-city relations.  Moreover, incidents of what I have termed hyper-mobility, that is high-frequency business travel (short and long haul) and commuting, are continuous inter-city flows that sustain and feed the network. At the root of this working pattern is the requirement to not only interact with clients, suppliers and competitors through virtual means (email etc.) but, importantly through face-to-face contact.  Knowledge can only be circulated and embedded within the corporate economies of world city networks through socialization and mobility (Beaverstock, 2005ab).  In sum, the inter-connected high-value service economies of cities in globalization are founded upon highly-professional and knowledge rich expert staff, who are world city hyper-mobile, world city flexible in their working patterns and world city ‘street-wise’; who become the ‘NYLONers’ or ‘LONFURTers’ of the network.

Second, we must remember that understanding cities in globalization and the world city network is not an even process over time and space.  The space of flows is a contradiction.  Some constitutents of the network are more connected that others, some are in the fast lane and some in the slow, or some have just stopped altogether; or some are simply cities not in globalization (see Short, 2004). In this research, the empirical findings unearthed a world city network characterised by physical and virtual relations between a New York-London dyad and intensity between European cities (London-Paris-Frankfurt-Zurich-Geneva-Amsterdam); New York and Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo; London and Asian cities (Singapore and Tokyo); and, hyper-mobility especially between London and New York, and London and Frankfurt.

Finally, I would like to argue that world city networks should be theorised as micro-network systems.  To borrow phraseology from the transnationalism literatures, unlike Taylor’s (2004) world city network ‘from above’, I would fervently argue that in order to understand the complex processes of cities in globalization, one should conceptualise world city networks ‘from below’.  Individual action, whether physical or virtual, is the key agent in understanding world city networks ‘from below.’ We must not forget that the space of flows are composed of multiple scalars of unequal and uneven connections and flows. In a similar vein to Korff’s (1986) first critique of Friedmann’s (1986) infamous hierarchy, in order to add value to the conceptual understanding of cities in globalization and the world city network, I would like to throw down the gauntlet and suggest that future research should focus on micro-processes, whether economic, social and/or cultural, because such actions are the fundamental grass-roots of understanding cities in globalization, and world city networks and relations.  We live in a micro-network society composed of multifarious and infinite connections and flows between cities which generate a multitude of different micro-world city networks operating simultaneously and at different speeds in the time-spaces of contemporary globalization.


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I would like to thank the United Kingdom’s Economic and Social Research Council Transnational Communities programme for funding this research (Award L2144252001) and the research assistantship of Drs. Richard Bostock and James Boardwell.



*Jonathan V. Beaverstock, Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough LE11 3TU Email:

1All C.E.O.s interviewed, and bank official and unofficial sources are anonymised to protect confidentiality.

2Between April and May 2000, ten British investment bankers were interviewed in New York City who had disembarked from London on inter-company formal secondment or transfer arrangements for two years or more to the bank’s Midtown or Wall Street office in the mid- to late-1990s. Only middle and senior grades of investment banker were interviewed (at Vice-President or above [Senior V-P., or Executive V.P.]). These interviewees were a supplement to the thirty highly-skilled expatriate workers interviewed as part of Beaverstock’s (2005b) study of professional service inter-company transfers from London to New York City during the same period. This research was undertaken before the events of 11th September 2001.

Apendix 1: British investment bankers in New York City

            Gender           Age     Occupation                                       Contract

1.         Male               30       V.P., Corporate Finance                 2-3yrs
2.         Female            30       V.P., Global Equities                       2yrs
3.         Male               35       S.V.P., Trade Finance                    2yrs
4.         Male               45       E.V.P., Corporate Finance             Indefinite
5.         Male               42       S.V.P., Corporate Finance             Indefinite
6.         Male               36       S.V.P., Global Custody                   3yrs
7.         Male               30       V.P., Corporate Banking                5yrs
8.         Male               46       E.V.P., Credit Finance                    5yrs
9.         Male               29       V.P., I.T. Management                     Indefinite
10.       Male               35       S.V.P., H.R., Global Fin. Markets  3yrs

Source: Fieldwork

Table 1: Organizational characteristics of the transnational.

Organizational characteristics Multinational Global International Transnational
Configuration of assets and capabilities. Decentralized and nationally self-sufficient. Centralized and globally scaled. Sources of core competences centralized, others decentralized. Dispersed, interdependent, and specialized.
Role of overseas operations. Sensing and exploiting local opportunities. Implementing parent company strategies. Adapting and leveraging parent company competencies. Differentiated contributions by national units to integrated worldwide operations.
Development and diffusion of knowledge. Knowledge developed and retained within each unit. Knowledge developed and retained at the center. Knowledge developed at the center and transferred to overseas units. Knowledge developed jointly

Source: Bartlett and Ghoshal (1998, 75).

Table 2: Dimensions of transfer policies in transnational professional service firms.

Dimensions Fill positions Reasons for transfers Develop managers Develop organisation 
Relative numbers Specialities transferred.

Many.Fee-earning. Many.Fee-earning. Many.Fee-earning.
Location of host. All countries. All countries. All countries.
Direction of flow. Between subsidiaries and between HQ and subsidiaries. Between subsidiaries and between HQ office and subsidiaries.  Between subsidiaries and between HQ office  and subsidiaries.
Age of assignee. Throughout career. 
Young to middle.
Throughout career.
Frequency. Many moves. Several moves. Many moves.
Nationality of assignee. All nationalities. All nationalities. All nationalities.
Personnel information Extensive lists of candidates monitored by personnel in all offices. Extensive lists of candidates monitored by personnel in all offices. Extensive lists of candidates monitored by personnel in all offices.
Power of personnel department. Strong.  Strong. Strong.
Strategic placement and distribution. Extensive. Extensive. Extensive.

Source: Beaverstock (2005a)

Table 3: Largest investment banks, 1998 – 2001

1998 Fee % 2001 Fee %
  income share   income share
1. Goldman Sachs 1.5 13.9 1. Merrill Lynch 4.0 9.6
2. Merrill Lynch 1.4 12.3 2. Goldman Sachs 3.1 7.5
3. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter 1.1 9.8 3. Credit Suisse First Boston 2.8 6.8
4. Salomon Smith/ Barney/Citigroup 1.0 9.2 4. Citigroup 2.6  6.3
5. Credit Suisse 0.8 7.3 5. Morgan Stanley 2.5 6.0
6. JP Morgan 0.7 6.5 6. JP MorganChase 2.0 4.9
7. Chase Man. 0.6 5.7 7. UBS Warburg 2.0 4.7
8. Lehman Bros. 0.6 5.1 8. Lehman Bros. 1.4 3.4
9. Deutsche Bank 0.4 4.0 9. Deutsche Bank 1.4 3.4
10. Warburg Dillon Read/UBS 0.4 3.8 10. Bank of America 0.9 2.1

Source ISFL (2001; 2002).

Table 4

Table 5: World city career paths of investment bankers in New York City

Respondent                        World City Career path
  1. London (1991-99, US investment bank) to multiple European short-term postings (including Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich of not more than 6 months) and back to London in between to New York (1999 -, same bank).
  1. Glasgow (1991-95, Big Four accounting firm) to London (1996-98, German investment bank) to New York (1998-, same bank).
  2. Nottingham (1986-87, Lloyds TSB) to Leicester (1987-89, same bank) to London (1989-95, same bank) to London (1995-95, Bank of America; 1995-95, Industrial Bank of Japan; 1995-98, US investment bank) to New York (1998-, same bank).
  3. London (1980-1, merchant banking division of a UK Retail Bank) to Zurich (1981-82, same bank) to Bahrain (1982-83, same bank) to Tokyo (1984-88, same bank) to London (1988-97, same bank) to New York (1997-, same bank).
  4. London (1976-85, NatWest bank) to New York (1985-89, Nat West Markets) to London (1989-92, same bank) to New York (1993-97, same bank; 1997-, Canadian investment bank).
  5. London (1985-93, Wang Computers; 1993-94, Instinet; 1995-98, US investment bank) to New York (1998, same bank).
  6. Leeds (1989-93, investment banking division of UK retail bank) to London (1993-97, same bank) to New York (1997-, same bank).
  7. Edinburgh (1971-97, merchant banking division of UK retail bank) to New York (1998-, same bank).
  8. London (1983-85, NatWest Markets) to London (1985-97, Spanish investment bank) to New York (1997-, same bank).
  9. London (1996-97, Ford Motor Company) to London (1997-9, German investment bank) to New York (1999-, same bank).

Source: Fieldwork

Figure 1: World city destinations of expert staff from London (>1 year)

Figure 2: World cities of last residence of expert staff into London (>1 year)

Figure 3: World city career paths

Figure 4: Daily connections to world cities

Edited and posted on the web on 29th September 2005

Note: This Research Bulletin has been published in PJ Taylor, B Derudder, P Saey and F Witlox (eds) (2007) Cities in Globalization: Practices, Policies and Theories London: Routledge, pp. 52-71