Sydney versus Melbourne: Who is the fairest in the land?

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And which is best if you want to get ahead in finance?

With two of Australia's largest financial institutions - including National Australia Bank, the country's biggest bank - Melbourne is a heavyweight contender on the banking scene.

But most recruiters agree that Sydney wears the crown as Australia's financial capital, with more banks, more jobs, bigger salaries and, some would say, a better lifestyle.

The superior city has been a contentious point for decades, but on sheer numbers Sydney is streets ahead, helped along by the mammoth salaries paid by the many investment banks headquartered there - from Macquarie Bank, to UBS, ABN AMRO, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup.

"New South Wales and Victoria have the more intense demand for jobs," says Olivier Group director Robert Olivier. "I think Sydney is more active - there is just incredible demand at corporate institutional banking levels and it's still very strong. There's a stampede to attract the right people and there's plenty of money around as well - lucky for some."

Michael Markiewicz of Carmichael Fisher says: "Sydney is the financial centre, but you have got two very large Australian banks in Melbourne. That does draw some people."

He says that when people come out to Australia they invariably think of Sydney rather than Melbourne: "You've got a problem of getting people to Australia because tax is high and incomes are low, but if they do come they tend to want to come to Sydney for the lifestyle. Melbourne is a bit more tricky to recruit for."

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