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Toronto's financial services sector is well ahead of New York, Boston and San Francisco in terms of its employment growth.

Mark Blinch

Toronto’s financial-services sector has snagged third place in terms of its employment growth in recent years in a global ranking of financial centres.

The Conference Board of Canada released a report Tuesday that found the industry added 55,194 jobs in the city from 2012 to 2017 – a 25.2-per-cent increase over that period.

That puts Canada behind two Chinese cities – Beijing and Shanghai – but well ahead of U.S. financial centres such as New York, Boston and San Francisco, which grew their employment at an average of 5.3 per cent over the same time span.

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During the five-year period covered by the report, Canada’s biggest banks took a number of restructuring charges as they looked to cut costs amid headwinds such as low interest rates, a slower growth in consumer borrowing and the oil price crash.

However, Jennifer Reynolds, president and chief executive of Toronto Finance International, says it was also a period of robust international growth for many of Canada’s large financial institutions. Canadian banks weathered the storm of the global financial crisis of 2008-09 better than most, which put them on solid footing to grow their businesses while others were retrenching, Ms. Reynolds said.

“The way in which our financial institutions came through the economic crisis has a huge impact on the numbers," Ms. Reynolds said. “If you’ve got a healthy business you can continue to invest and grow. If you’re in a bank that is fearing for its next day’s survival, you’re not investing. You’re thinking about survival."

She added that the significance of Toronto’s financial sector on the global stage is often underestimated.

“Canada is very well known for its resource sector – metals, mining and oil and gas – but what it’s not so well known for is its financial sector. It gets underplayed in terms of how global it is in nature and what a significant player it is internationally," Ms. Reynolds said. Toronto Finance International is a public-private partnership that aims to promote the city’s financial centre globally.

The financial-services industry employed 274,525 people in Toronto in 2017 – roughly 8.3 per cent of the total employment in the Toronto census metropolitan area, which includes municipalities such as Mississauga, Oakville and Markham.

That’s second only to Luxembourg, where 12 per cent of employment is in financial services, and higher than London at 6.5 per cent and New York at 6.4 per cent.

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The sector accounted for 7.1 per cent of Canadian GDP in 2017, according to the report.

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