Pudong's Lujiazui financial zone is forging ahead to build itself into a financial center featuring banking and shipping services, international trade, cultural innovation and a strong MICE (meetings, incentive, conventions and exhibitions) sector.
On the eastern side of the Huangpu River, Lujiazui covers an area of about 28 square kilometers and is one of the biggest financial and banking centers in Asia. It was China's first national-rated center of its kind, receiving government approval in 1990.
It features more than 100 high-rises that house various banks, headquarters, representative offices and financial companies dealing in hedge funds, private equity, leasing and more.
According to the latest statistics from the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone Administration, Lujiazui boasts 649 licensed financial institutions, of which there are 268 securities corporations, 204 banking institutions and 177 insurance firms.
"The convergence of these institutions is sure to bring along an influx of financial professionals," says Guo Rong, the administration's deputy director. "They are the driving force, who have made great contributions to Lujiazui's development."
The financial services industry has attracted a large number of financial practitioners during the past 22 years.
So far there are more than 160,000 financial professionals, which accounts for almost 44 percent of all employees working in Lujiazui. About 68 percent of these financial professionals are less than 35 years old and 15 percent hold a master's degree or above.
"Financial professionals, unlike technology talents who often need high-tech equipment and a place to do research, can store all their 'property' in the brain. They have strong mobility, hopping from this place to another," Guo says.
In order to retain them and lure more to Lujiazui, the local government has launched a series of preferential policies such as one-time subsidies on housing and tax reductions for high-level managers or professionals.
"From my point of view, the chicken comes before the egg," the deputy director says. "Only if we establish a vibrant financial platform with a healthy system and a good environment can we attract and keep these talents."
Guo thinks it is the government's responsibility to perfect public facilities and strengthen infrastructure to create the foundations for a strong financial industry.
Since this year, Lujiazui financial zone has had free Wi-Fi. Residents, workers and visitors to Lujiazui can enjoy the free service in public areas and the lobbies of office buildings. People can also get the latest news, weather forecast and tourism tips through the service.
New bus lines
This has been welcomed by professionals in the area as they live on information updates about stock and futures markets.
LED screens showing the latest stock market information have been set up at bus stations and overpasses. "We're also planning to install more screens in some elevators to create a facile financial environment for workers in Lujiazui," Guo says.
Since June, three new bus lines have started operation in the busy Lujiazui financial zone to shuttle commuters from Metro stations to their office towers, a move to make public transport more convenient.
Although the distance between two office buildings appears close, the walk is actually rather time consuming. Plus, it is often hard to hail a taxi in Lujiazui. White-collars in Lujiazui have complained about the long walk between the Metro station and many buildings in the area.
"The shuttle bus lines solve the transport issue for people working in the buildings," Guo says.
One bus line offers rush-hour shuttle service that also links the Financial Talents Building, a residential complex with lower rents for young workers in Lujiazui.
The other two newly opened lines operate from 7am to 9pm. Buses run every two to three minutes during rush hours.
The fare is 1 yuan (16 US cents). Passengers with public transport cards can enjoy a free ride if they come from Metro stations within 90 minutes.
The lines and its stations are equipped with LED screens to show the latest stock market information. Free Wi-Fi and a Lujiazui map also are available at the stations.
One shuttle bus line that opened about one year ago has since transported more than 1.8 million passengers. A pedestrian overpass is also being built in Lujiazui to connect some office buildings.
The local government also gives subsidies to the building proprietors who open small pharmacies, mini cinemas, gyms, convenient stores and canteens.
Lujiazui's 67,000-square-meter public space will be planned with tailor-made clothing stores, restaurants, bars and green belts as well as art galleries, Guo says.
"It's actually an extension for the Lujiazui zone to start covering lifestyle needs," he adds.
This summer the administration also held the "Shanghai Circle" for more than 10,000 Lujiazui workers from outside Shanghai to make new friends, set up various salons and build their social circle.
However, there is still great potential for Lujiazui. Deputy director Guo says they still need more high-calibrer professionals in key areas such as wealth management, accounting and asset appraisal.
"A gap does exist between Lujiazui and the world's financial centers such as London and New York," Guo says. "But we're narrowing it and will catch up with them in the near future."