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Corruption, petty language fights don’t help Montreal’s “reputation deficit”


Charles Lapointe says squabbles over a few English words on menus or in bathrooms are “ridiculous” and are “creating a troubling image of Montreal abroad.”

Photograph by: Tourisme Montreal , .


Charles Lapointe, president of Tourism Montreal, was uncharacteristically frank this week when he said that petty battles over language are undermining the city’s image.


Perhaps it’s because he’s retiring in June that Lapointe was willing to speak out.


Squabbles over a few English words on menus or in bathrooms are “ridiculous” and are “creating a troubling image of Montreal abroad,” he said.


Lapointe’s remarks are timely because we’ve just been reminded that reputation is vital to a city’s financial health.


The Global Financial Centres Index, a measure of how cities rank around the world as places to conduct banking, insurance, investment management and other financial transactions, has just been updated.


Montreal ranked 16th in the survey, gaining one spot and finishing behind Toronto and Vancouver, but ranking just ahead of Calgary.


It seems Montreal suffers from “a reputation deficit,” according to the survey’s author, Mark Yeandle of London-based Z/Yen Group, who was in town to release the latest findings.


He wasn’t referring to language battles, student strikes, crumbling roads or rampant municipal corruption. Rather, he meant that the city’s financial strengths in such areas as investment management and derivatives trading are not well known and need to be promoted.


Still, it’s clear that image is everything when it comes to a survey like this and it may not be long before Montreal’s troubles catch up to it.


The index doesn’t attempt to measure the dollar value of financial business conducted in each city. Instead, it asks nearly 2,400 financial-services professionals to rate cities on 96 criteria.


These are grouped into five main areas: the business environment, infrastructure, market access, availability of talent and cost competitiveness. No surprise that London, New York and Hong Kong hold the top three spots or that Singapore, Zurich and Tokyo follow just behind.


North American cities ranking ahead of Montreal are Boston (8), Chicago (11), Toronto (12), San Francisco (13), Washington D.C. (14) and Vancouver (15).


Montreal can take some encouragement from the index: it ranks ahead of such cities as Paris and Shanghai.


But there are warning signs, too.


Those responding to the survey placed a lot of value on such issues as the rule of law and absence of corruption. If Montreal can’t clean up its act in this regard, it may well lose business.


The more we learn about the complicity between corrupt municipal officials and big local companies hungry for contracts, the less inviting this city looks as a place to do business.


Reputation, the study concludes, is “very important” and “predictability is key.”


Montreal, of course, isn’t the only place where there’s concern about such issues. Even top-ranked London has looked bad lately.


One banker based in London commented: “London continues to receive bad news — LIBOR (the interest-rate fixing scandal), capping of bonuses, corruption — when will it end and what does it take for London to lose its top spot?”


Another area of concern in the survey is taxation. “Simplicity and stability are required,” notes the study. You could take that as a reminder to the Parti Québécois government that its income-tax increases on high-income Quebecers risk making Montreal a less attractive destination for mobile financial jobs.


What you have to remember is that the financial industry is a moving target; it’s evolving all the time as new centres, products and technologies emerge.


When asked which centres are likely to become more significant down the road, respondents identified Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Toronto as their top five picks for future growth.


Clearly, Asia is on the move and Latin American cities are rising, too. It’s an ultracompetitive world and Montreal risks being left behind if it can’t develop its strengths.


That’s where we get back to language. English does happen to be the language of international banking and finance; let’s hope that petty bureaucrats and politicians don’t get in the way of anyone wanting to expand here.


The city’s French fact is already a great attraction, making Montreal a bridge between North America and Europe. Let’s not forget the importance of the other language in any growth strategy.


[email protected]


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Peut etre un commentaire hors contexte.

Seulement j'accorderais très peu d'importance a une etude qui place vancouver devant Montreal, Shanghai ou Paris comme centre financier....

C'est tout simplement ridicule.

Il y a a Mtl des poles financiers comme la caisse (CDP) ou PSP dont Vancouver ne rêve meme pas dans ses wet dream les plus fous...

J'imagine qu'il ont prix en consideration la qualite de l'air et la beaute de couchers de soleils comme critères d'évaluation de l'environnement financier...


Ceci dit, Mtl progresse beaucoup et attire de plus en plus de capitaux.

Si on peut retrouver une attitude plus pro business (changer de gouvernement) on va continuer de progresser.

Edited by qwerty

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The study that M. Lapointe is referring to is the Global Financial Centres Index 2012. It's interesting in that it uses a mix of empirical data plus the opinions of 1,890 financial service professionals from around the world in order to reach its conclusions. You can take the survey here: It's 8 pages long and I imagine that you have to be in a fairly influential position in order to be included in the results.


Some highlights concerning MTL and North America in general:




What I find interesting here is that only 4 cities occupy positions in the 700 range while 53 appear in the 600 range. Likewise, the 1st 100-point jump includes only 6 cities from London to Seoul whereas the 2nd 100 point jump covers 58 cities from Tokyo to Moscow. In other words, London and New York lead a very small group of 'places that matter' followed by the rest of us.




Self explanatory. I wouldn't get overly excited by MTL trailing Vancouver by one point or even Toronto by 14 when you consider that Toronto trails New York by a whopping 84. There's only one financial centre that truly matters in North America and that is not about to change in our lifetime.




While I expected MTL to be viewed less favourably in Asia/Pacific, I was surprised by the results from Europe. They didn't include a graph for Vancouver but I would imagine that they have an extremely strong Asia/Pacific showing and not much else.




These are interesting but with so few mentions out of 1,890 respondents, I don't think they mean much.


Anyhow, interesting report that I encourage you to read in its entirety. I'm far from an expert in these matters but MTL has been moving up steadily over the years when compared to earlier reports. If we can get past silly stuff like Pastagate and start working together, our future will be a bright one!

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But Montreal is not even a top 10 where new offices will be opened.


Nor is your beloved Toronto! Leave it to you to focus on the most negative aspect possible. You're like a bad news vulture: constantly circling for a rotting corpse to pick over in a field of 10,000 healthy gazelles. If M. Lapointe read MTLurb he probably would have lumped you in with Pastagate and bathroom signs as creating a troubling image of Montréal.

Edited by Habfanman

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That is some interesting material :)


Montreal will prosper once again, when Quebec stops meddling in certain things or if there is a referendum for Montreal to become its own city-state (province within a province). That can only happen, when city hall is completely cleaned up.

Edited by jesseps

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That is some interesting material :)


Montreal will prosper once again, when Quebec stops meddling in certain things or if there is a referendum for Montreal to become its own city-state (province within a province). That can only happen, when city hall is completely cleaned up.

Dans tes rêves.

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