27 Mar 2014

‘Dramatic Jump’ in Chinese Speakers in City of London

There has been a significant jump in the number of Chinese speakers working in London’s vibrant financial services district, new research suggests.

In an analysis of the most commonly spoken foreign languages in the City, Mandarin and Cantonese now feature in the top 10.

Astbury Marsden – a recruitment firm – said that London’s financial centre no longer fits the stereotype of a ‘laddish’ working culture, with companies in the capital’s financial sector more committed to diversity than other industries.

Its research follows a recent agreement between the UK and China to create a Chinese currency clearing bank in London as part of an initiative to attract Chinese investment.

A city of diverse languages

The Astbury research shows that London’s financial district is a hub of many languages. While French is still the most commonly spoken foreign language in the capital’s financial district, Asian languages are increasingly coming to the fore.

Mandarin is now the 4th most commonly quoted foreign language on CV applications and Cantonese the 6th most commonly cited foreign language among City workers.

The company said the City of London is leading the charge to be the world’s largest trading hub for the renminbi (RMB) – the Chinese currency – outside China.

The rapid increase in Mandarin and Cantonese speakers is the result of investment banks employing more Chinese speakers as they seek to manage a surge of work with Asian markets, said Jonathan Nicholson, managing director at Astbury Marsden.

“Chancellor George Osborne has made great strides recently to get agreement with the Chinese Government for London to be the location for the first Western-based RMB clearing bank.”

“Our research on languages spoken in the City shows that London is well equipped to achieve this as it is already home to a burgeoning business in RMB financial services and products such as trade finance and foreign exchange. This trend is likely to continue.

“I would be very surprised if any other European city had anything like the same number of Chinese speakers working in its financial sector.”

French still most common foreign language

Despite the rise of Chinese languages, French remains the most commonly spoken foreign language in London, the report shows.

Large numbers of young French professionals have flocked to London in recent years with figures from the French consulate suggesting 300,000 to 400,000 French people live in the capital — which would make it equivalent to the sixth-largest French-speaking city in the world.

Commitment to diversity

The research shows that the City has made great strides in its approach to workplace diversity, with a significant improvement in City workers’ assessment of their employer’s commitment to it.

Employees even said they thought companies in the capital’s financial sector were “more committed” to diversity than non-financial-services firms.

The biggest improvement has been in City firms’ focus on racial diversity, with the rating staff give their employers on this factor jumping by 22% on last year.

Top ten most commonly spoken languages in the City of London:

  • French
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Mandarin
  • Italian
  • Cantonese
  • Indian languages
  • Russian
  • Arabic
  • Portuguese


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