A financial centre, financial center, or financial hub is a location with a concentration of participants in banking, asset management, insurance or financial markets with venues and supporting services for these activities to take place. Participants can include financial intermediaries (such as banks and brokers), institutional investors (such as investment managers, pension funds, insurers, hedge funds), and issuers (such as companies and governments). Trading activity can take place on venues such as exchanges and involve clearing houses, although many transactions take place over-the-counter (OTC), that is directly between participants. Financial centres usually host companies that offer a wide range of financial services, for example relating to mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, or corporate actions; or which participate in other areas of finance, such as private equity and reinsurance. Ancillary financial services include rating agencies, as well as provision of related professional services, particularly legal advice and accounting services.
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The International Monetary Fund's classes of major financial centers are: International Financial Centres (IFCs), such as New York City, London, and Tokyo; Regional Financial Centres (RFCs), such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Frankfurt, and Sydney; and Offshore Financial Centres (OFCs), such as Cayman Islands, Dublin, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
International Financial Centres, and many Regional Financial Centres, are full–service financial centres with direct access to large capital pools from banks, insurance companies, investment funds, and listed capital markets, and are major global cities. Offshore Financial Centres, and also some Regional Financial Centres, tend to specialise in tax-driven services, such as corporate tax planning tools, tax–neutral vehicles, and shadow banking/securitization, and can include smaller locations (e.g. Luxembourg), or city-states (e.g. Singapore). The IMF notes an overlap between Regional Financial Centres and Offshore Financial Centres (e.g. Hong Kong and Singapore are both Offshore Financial Centres and Regional Financial Centres). Since 2010, academics consider Offshore Financial Centres synonymous with tax havens.