In November 2014, David Nicklaus of the St. Louis Post Dispatch claimed, “St. Louis has something important that’s lacking in financial hubs such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte, N.C., and San Francisco.”
And, of course, he’s right.
St. Louis has always been a significant hub for the financial service industry, but the region is in the midst of a major expansion in financial and information services that is outperforming U.S. growth.
Indeed, the St. Louis-metro area added 6,300 related jobs, growing eight percent between 2008 and 2013, while the financial services industry across the U.S. lost four percent of employment. Currently, 90,000 of the region’s residents work in the sector and the St. Louis area currently has the third-largest concentration of wealth managers in the country behind only Boston and New York, with three of the 10 largest U.S. financial advisory firms based in the area.
The strength of the financial services sector in St. Louis has given the entrepreneurial community access to much-needed capital. Financial technology accelerator SixThirty – launched in 2013 by Square founder Jim McKelvey, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and venture capital firm Cultivation Capital – each year invests equity funding in eight FinTech startups – $100,000 per company. SixThirty then provides mentors and pipeline connectivity to top financial services companies across the region including Wells Fargo Advisors, Edward Jones, Stifel Financial, and Scottrade. Many of these connections are forged through the St. Louis Financial Forum, a CEO-led industry roundtable working to increase and leverage St. Louis’ recognition as one of the nation’s leading off-Wall Street financial service centers.
Combine this strong foundation and growth with available talent and cost of living, and St. Louis becomes even more attractive.
The workforce in the St. Louis area is incredibly diverse. Talented individuals work in countless different industries, have a wide range of educational backgrounds and bring different skillsets to the table. In my opinion, the St. Louis area’s work ethic and can-do mindset is propelling the region into the future, with a highly globalized, technologically driven workforce.
Much of the talent in the St. Louis region can be attributed to the region’s robust higher education network. More than 580,000 residents in the metropolitan area have a bachelor’s degree or higher and St. Louis is home to leading research universities including Washington University and St. Louis University, which brings talent and research dollars from all over the world. In addition, the area houses top public institutions such as the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and Harris Stowe State University, along with a host of community colleges that provide a top-notch education to the people in the region.
Wages for Business and Financial Occupations averaged $68,410 in 2013 in the St. Louis metro according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even with all of the recent growth, this is still only 96 percent of U.S. averages and much less than wages on the coasts, a significant value to firms seeking affordable talent. Combine that with the competitive cost of living that ranks St. Louis with the second-lowest cost of living within the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the US, and St. Louis is clearly a smart choice for companies and employees in the financial sector.
And did I mention our commute time? St. Louis has the lowest commute time among all large metropolitan areas in the U.S. according to the 2012 Urban Mobility Report published by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
Nicklaus was right. St. Louis has the elements that will continue to buoy the financial services sector for years to come – elements that other regions are challenged to match.