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Decentralized versus centralized financial systems: is there a case for local capital markets?

  • Britta Klagge
  • Ron Martin

In recent years, stimulated by globalization, technological innovation and intensifying international competition, there has been a growing trend towards the increasing institutional and geographical concentration of financial systems and markets. At the same time, there has been mounting academic and policy interest in the financing problems faced by new and small firms, which are widely considered to suffer from a 'funding gap'. These twin developments provide the motivation for this paper, which seeks to throw some theoretical and empirical light on the question of whether the spatial organization of the financial system impacts on the flows of capital to small firms across regions. Is it the case that a heavily spatially-centralized financial system, like that in the UK, militates against the ready access to capital by new and small firms in peripheral regions, while a more decentralized financial system, like that in Germany, results in a more even regional distribution? The paper first discusses this question theoretically in the context of the regional finance literature. It then compares capital market structures and the regional distribution of equity for SMEs in the UK and Germany. This comparison lends some support to the view that capital markets do not function in a space-neutral way, and that a highly centralized system like that in the UK may well introduce spatial bias in the flows of capital to SMEs. It also shows, though, as the case of Germany illustrates, that the actual impact of the geographical organization of capital markets depends on, and is mitigated by, other institutional and regulatory conditions. Our analysis suggests while a geographically decentralized financial system with sizable and well-embedded regional/local clusters of institutions, networks, agents, and markets could be advantageous in various ways, regional/local capital markets also face a number of major challenges and problems. The paper indicates the need for more research in this somewhat neglected area. Copyright 2005, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Journal of Economic Geography.

Volume (Year): 5 (2005)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
Pages: 387-421

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Handle: RePEc:oup:jecgeo:v:5:y:2005:i:4:p:387-421
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