“Better prepared” – a discussion with actors with Brexit responsibility in the Rhine-Main region

The starting signal was sounded a year ago: the British people decided in a referendum on June 23, 2016 in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and therefore set a process in motion that can already be described as historic. The consequences are so far-reaching that even accomplished experts can hardly gauge effectively how the interaction between the UK and the countries in the EU will change. Only one thing is certain: much of what has been considered certain up to now will be put to the test.

That also applies to the question as to where the financial centre of the European Union will in future be located. The place to be has been London up to now. The race for a successor has already started some time ago and the competition is tough: Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Paris and Warsaw are all doing their best – each city in its own way – to become the hotspot of the international finance industry.

Long before the UK made its decision, Frankfurt made initial preparations: to have a voice and be articulate, to provide interested parties with considered answers, to seek dialogue – that is a fair description of what representatives from the Hesse state government and the Hessen Agentur /Hessen Trade & Invest as well as from Frankfurt Rhein Main and Frankfurt Main Finance have wanted to achieve from the outset. With success, as the round table discussion with their representatives shows: those taking part comprised Wolf-Dieter Adlhoch, Head of the Brexit Office in the Wiesbaden State Chancellery, Dr. Rainer Waldschmidt, Managing Director of Hessen Agentur/Hessen Trade & Invest, Eric Menges, Managing Director of Frankfurt Rhein Main GmbH, and Hubertus Väth, Managing Director of Frankfurt Main Finance.

After a year of intensive discussions about the Brexit: how has Frankfurt positioned itself to score points in the competition among European financial centres?

Dr. Rainer Waldschmidt: Communication was the key from the very beginning. As early as during the discussions about the referendum, we already started to bring together important representatives from city and state institutions around the table for talks so as to agree at a very early stage about the concerted action we should take. One important point, for example, was that we don’t focus on Frankfurt as a city, but talk about the Rhine-Main region, because many aspects relating to the issues of talent, infrastructure and quality of life gain their relevance from the circumstances and realities within this larger region.

Eric Menges: It helped us considerably that we had already programmed a complete website before the Brexit decision, which we were able to set up live on the morning the results were announced. That involved a certain risk: the effort might well have been in vain. But it meant we had betted on the right horse, even though we would have preferred the vote to go a different way. There was a massive interest in receiving up-to-date information from this point onwards, as you can imagine. Our swift action received a great deal of positive feedback, especially in the social media. The nicest comment was to the effect that here’s a region that seems better prepared than the rest of England. We allowed ourselves a wry smile on reading that.

Hubertus Väth: Alongside the website, there was also a Twitter and a LinkedIn campaign with a simple, clear-cut message: welcome. As early as 6.20 in the morning, the media were already on the phone and wanted to know whether, and in what way, Frankfurt was prepared. Since then, there have been around 500 inquiries from journalists from over 40 countries. Even now, no week goes by without two to three inquiries coming in.

What are the central messages? What do Frankfurt and the region have to offer?

Wolf-Dieter Adlhoch: There are undoubtedly a lot of hard facts that speak in favour of the Rhine-Main region. Already today we are one of the most important financial centres worldwide. All the major German banks and over 150 foreign banks are present in and around Frankfurt. The most important regulatory authorities, and first and foremost the ECB, are resident here. Another merit is that the German economy is strong and robust, and – more important than ever in times like these – we enjoy a high degree of political stability. The taxes in Germany are not as high as sometimes assumed; 30 percent on average for companies, that makes us competitive. Our labour law is flexible, fair and above all efficient. As far as infrastructure is concerned, our Frankfurt Airport makes us unbeatable …

Menges: I always like to point out that it’s as close as London’s City Airport and as efficient as Heathrow.

Adlhoch: It’s important to us, however, that we don’t just beat our own drum, but that we present objective arguments.

Väth: Three messages have been clearly heard: Europe still needs the international standing of the financial centre of London, which is why we don’t want to harm London as a financial location. We want to build bridges and not tear them down. And we want to work together effectively in future as well.

Menges: Yes, that’s true: we aren’t conducting any superficial advertising campaign, as other financial centres are indeed doing. We are talking with decision-makers in the companies. And many, very concrete questions have emerged that we didn’t at first have in such clear focus. One example: international schools. You can imagine that’s an important issue for employees who are to come to Frankfurt in future with their families. So we brought all the international schools in the region – more than 30 altogether in and around Frankfurt – together around a table and discussed with them whether they are ready in their structure or in their capacity planning to accommodate a large influx of new pupils. The answer is yes. The diversity of schooling options available is also impressive. Armed with such information, we then go back to our discussion partners and can usually answer their questions in all the necessary detail.

Waldschmidt: Available office space is also a topic that comes up again and again in discussions. That’s why we have surveyed the availability and quality of sites together with the local real estate brokers. Specifically: we have 750,000 square metres of vacant office space at the necessary quality level in the preferred inner-city area. Moreover, project development plans are showing a further increase in these A-grade premises. Consequently, we can take up all the people that serious forecasts suggest for the first wave of immigration caused by the Brexit. When we talk about such changes, things don’t happen overnight. Instead, we assume that three waves will take place, each with different regional effects. The first wave will directly impact the financial centre, and therefore Frankfurt and its immediate surroundings, at the very core. The second wave will involve the relocation of European headquarters, i.e. distribution and back office as well. The radius of impact will expand to take in the belt around Frankfurt. It’s only during the third wave that industry will be affected, and that’s where the whole of Hesse is of interest.

After a year, what are the most significant findings and what should be the focus of attention in future?

Väth: Although we have pole position, the race isn’t over yet. It’s too early to take a breather. Exogenous factors, such as a possible US tax reform, can still change crucial parameters to our disadvantage. We must also point out that the competitors are doing a good job and are achieving some success – for instance in the domain of insurance companies and asset managers. The question of the future of euro clearing will certainly be of great importance – and area where exciting days and weeks lie ahead of us. Here, too, we’ve already done a lot of educational work. But, having said all that, it’s also time to say thank you. Whether BaFin or the Bundesbank, the state government or national government – outstanding work is has been and is being carried out when it matters, and this doesn’t go unnoticed. It has also been remarkable just how many of our members have unselfishly contacted us and asked whether they can do anything for us. Needless to say, we didn’t say no and were able to get a number of things moving. Also noticeable was how actively new members approached us and said that they now understood why we are important and why it makes good sense to participate.

Adlhoch: We take the feedback we receive from the many individual discussions we hold as representatives of state government, of Hessen Agentur, Frankfurt Rhein Main and Frankfurt Main Finance very seriously. What is well received is the confidential dialogue, and that’s why our focus will remain in this area in future. What we will do more intensively is to organise a direct exchange with experts. This region is home not only to the banks and regulators, but also to all those lawyers and consulting companies that are so necessary for the financial industry. We clarify detailed questions about labour law, tax issues and regulatory aspects by mediating contacts and networking experts. One thing we won’t be doing is to promote the location with the help of short-sighted gifts – i.e. allowances, benefits or privileges. We are firmly convinced that as a region we have what we need to make our case effectively to companies and to help them make the right decision in their strategic location. Last but not least, this also applies to the quality of life. We’ve not spoken a lot about that today, but everyone familiar with the Rhine-Main region knows all too well that the spectrum of leisure and cultural activities on offer is really quite impressive.

Brexit Frankfurt Finance Summit

After Brexit, financial centres confronted with a new reality

Just six weeks before the Brexit Referendum, in his keynote at the 2016 Frankfurt Finance Summit, Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble, German Federal Finance Minister, described this as possibly the biggest political decision in a generation. Schäuble stated that “I think both the EU and the UK are better served with Britain remaining,” and later posited that “Great Britain’s relationship with Europe should not be defined by splendid isolation, but by splendid integration.” Last year’s nightmare became this year’s reality. Article was triggered on March 29, 2017, and official negotiations are underway and on the clock. This year’s Summit, titled Europe Reloaded – Challenges for the Financial Sector, will seek to encourage productive dialogue on how Europe can move forward after Brexit.

With the formal declaration by the United Kingdom’s government to withdraw from the European Union, Brexit has now entered a new and decisive phase. Hubertus Väth, Managing Director of Frankfurt Main Finance e.V. states, “The beginning of the exit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union are imminent. The negotiating parties are entering uncharted territory. Of the utmost importance, will be standing fast to the maxim that maintaining stability in the financial system must take precedence over individual interests. Both parties must strike the delicate balance between averting a cliff-edge scenario while still maintaining the recognizable appeal of membership in the EU.”

The United Kingdom’s withdraw from the EU is regrettable. The anticipated loss of rights, including passporting, will create a dramatic shift of banking and financial services out of London. While bad for London, and Europe in general, European financial centres are poised to profit from this exodus. “The Financial Centre Frankfurt is exceptionally situated to assume a position functioning as a bridge for London into the EU,” explains Väth, “As the home of the European Central Bank, the Europe’s insurance supervisory mechanism, Europe’s largest stock exchange and the largest internet hub for data traffic, Frankfurt offers best infrastructure for credit institutions and financial services providers active across Europe. Frankfurt’s TechQuartier and dynamic, growing FinTech ecosystem have been distinguished by the Federal Government with the Financial Centre Frankfurt’s appointment as Germany’s Digital Hub for the finance industry. Therefore, we still estimate that around 10,000 jobs will be relocated to Frankfurt in the coming years.”

These estimates of jobs moving to Frankfurt are not empty estimations. Just last week, Väth reported in the Financial Times that Frankfurt already has more than an indication from three of the five largest US banks, as well as a Swiss, Japanese, Korean and Indian bank that they have either decided to relocate operations to Frankfurt or are in the process of doing so. Clearly, Frankfurt is in the pole position to benefit from Brexit, but certainly not alone amongst European financial centres. Each financial centre is uniquely equipped to accept certain functions and business units. For example, Luxembourg and Dublin are ahead with asset managers. Warsaw’s affordable and well trained talent pool should result in an influx of back office functions. It seems certain that operations will move out of the City of London, but will be fragmented across European financial centres.

However, major questions still linger. What will the new financial centre landscape look like? Will Euro Clearing be forced under ECB jurisdiction? If so, who will win this 500 billion EUR market? Will the European Banking Authority join the other European regulatory functions in Frankfurt? The future of Europe and its financial centres will be the topic of the 2017 Frankfurt Finance Summit’s first keynote and panel discussion.

Minimising Brexit risks and strengthening European capital markets

In its position paper “Exit negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom: Minimise Brexit Risks and Strengthen the European Capital Market”, Deutsches Aktieninstitut has identified the essential issues with relevance for capital markets and which deserve particular attention due to their significance for business and society in connection with the Brexit negotiations. Furthermore, it makes proposals how the negative impact of Brexit on the affected national economies can be minimised.

In particular, Deutsches Aktieninstitut makes an appeal to the negotiation leaders to enter into objective and constructive talks. The strong economic relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union should be maintained despite the new framework conditions. It is absolutely essential not to damage the core of the European idea, which is manifested in the four fundamental freedoms of the single market.

“It is up to the negotiators to shape the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom in such a way as to minimize the negative impacts of Brexit for both sides,” emphasizes Dr. Christine Bortenlänger, Executive Director of the Deutsches Aktieninstitut. “With our position paper and its recommendations, we are doing our part so that the start of negotiations can begin on a sound footing from a capital markets standpoint and ultimately to lead to favourable results.”

Luka Mucic, Chief Financial Officer of SAP SE and member of the Executive Board of the Deutsches Aktieninstitut, highlights the importance of the position paper for the forthcoming negotiations. “The paper clearly articulates the stance of the Deutsches Aktieninstitut and its member companies. Negotiators must do everything they can to prevent distortions of competition through tax dumping and a deregulation race between British and EU markets,” explains Mucic.

The central demands of the Deutsches Aktieninstitut are:

  • To minimize disadvantages for all stakeholders and to ensure the attractiveness of European markets;
  • To secure time through transitional arrangements and to ensure the continuity of economic relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom;
  • To expand, harmonize and more efficiently shape third country regulations concerning capital and financial market legislation;
  • Ensure continuity of established and necessary legal institutions concerning basic corporate structures.

These results were developed within the framework of the Brexit project of the Deutsches Aktieninstitut. The project identified topics relevant to the comprehensive economic relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom that will play a role in the coming Brexit negotiations. The interdisciplinary project group, consisting of representatives from member companies of the Deutsches Aktieninstitut, will closely follow the content of the negotiations and as necessary, share its position on each respective negotiating stance.

Financial Centre Focus: “Brexit – Let’s go Frankfurt”

Financial Centre Frankfurt the preferred destination for Brexit-induced job relocation

In a comparison of European financial centres, Frankfurt clearly ranks in second place behind London. With numerous qualities in its favour, the German banking centre is an attractive location for domestic and international players in the financial sector and has the potential of becoming the preferred destination for Brexit-related job relocations. The following assets that Frankfurt possesses are of particular benefit: The stability and strength of the German economy, the headquarters of the ECB in its dual function, a transportation hub with a good level of infrastructure, relatively low office rents as well as a high quality of life. This is the conclusion that Helaba’s economists arrived at in their Financial Centre Study “Brexit – Let’s go Frankfurt”. But it has serious competition in the shape of Paris, Dublin, Luxemburg or even Amsterdam.

Dr. Gertrud Traud, Helaba’s Chief Economist and Head of Research, stresses: “If Frankfurt really is to become the principal winner of Brexit, it will require a concerted effort on regional, national and European levels as well as a more self-confident approach.”

Forecast for banking sector employment 2018: Stable at around 62,000 jobs

In addition, a further improvement in the conditions offered by the city is essential to ensure its success. In view of Frankfurt’s excellent position in the framework of European financial centres, demonstrated by various studies, Helaba’s economists believe that it has good chances of picking up at least half the jobs in the financial sector that will be shifted from London to Frankfurt in a restructuring process lasting many years. Thus, Frankfurt now faces the task of putting the necessary prerequisites in place, e.g. in the housing market. Based on very cautious assumptions, a total of at least 8,000 employees would come to Frankfurt over a multi-year period. Since companies cannot wait for the outcome of negotiations, more than 2,000 jobs are expected to be relocated by as early as the end of 2018 already.

“This Brexit-induced effect on the labour market will act as a counterbalance to consolidation in local banks”, says the author of the study, Ulrike Bischoff. Both effects should, more or less, cancel each other out within the forecasting window. By the end of 2018, the study anticipates a total of just over 62,000 bank employees in the German financial centre.

The complete Helaba study is available for download here.

Crumbs or Pie? How much will Frankfurt’s property market benefit from Brexit?

A recent study from Deutsche Bank Research has just been released which outlines the potential effects of Brexit on Frankfurt’s property market. The study examines the Financial Centre Frankfurt’s office and residential markets, current and future pricing trends, as well as trends in demand and availability. Furthermore, the analysis from Deutsche Bank compares several European financial centres, showing that Frankfurt is in several ways an obvious and affordable choice for financial services relocated from the United Kingdom.

Executive Summary

“In view of the high level of political uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, it will be some years until the size of the Brexit pie, i.e. the relocation of companies and employees, can be determined fully. Regardless of the final outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the EU, the city of Frankfurt is likely to benefit.

Frankfurt is already continental Europe’s main financial hub, and compared to other European cities, it can boast a range of additional advantages such as low rents and residential property prices, good infrastructure and a highly dynamic economy. However, considering the strengths of its European and also non-European competitors, Frankfurt will end up with only a piece of the Brexit pie.

Frankfurt’s property market would gain considerable momentum even if only a relatively small number of British companies and employees moved here. Growth in employment in the wake of Brexit should stimulate demand for office space, thus contributing to a reduction in vacancies and rising rents in the office market close to the city centre. Following the referendum on Brexit, we have raised our average rent increase expectations in the top segment to over 2% per year by 2020 (double what had previously been anticipated for the 2018-2020 period).

Bottlenecks have existed in the housing market for some years. A large demand overhang – the shortage of housing runs to several tens of thousands of homes – and a lack of undeveloped land are the main reasons why prices have risen by around 25% since 2009. An additional Brexit effect could drive prices up significantly. The rule of thumb in this context is the price per square metre increases by EUR 25 for every 1,000 missing homes. Assuming additional demand for 5,000 homes, residential property prices will increase by EUR 125 or around 4% compared to current levels.”

The complete study from Deutsche Bank Research can be downloaded here.

Frankfurt Main Finance

Brexit Fever – FMF on FINANCE-TV

The votes have been counted and the UK has decided to leave the EU. But how will this decision affect the Financial Centre Frankfurt? Frankfurt Main Finance’s Hubertus Väth sat down with FINANCE-TV to discuss how Brexit will affect European financial centres and what Frankfurt has been doing capitalize on this opportunity. With some experts predicting that 100,000 jobs could leave London’s financial district, there is a lot at stake and Frankfurt Main Finance had all hands on deck in the hours rigth after the announcement. In cooperation with their partners, Frankfurt Economic Development and FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH, Frankfurt Main Finance launched a website, welcometofrm.com, an information hotline and a social media campaign on LinkedIn and Twitter targeted at decision makers in London’s financial sector. Watch Hubertus Väth’s full interview in the video below (German).

Source: www.finance-magazin.de/finance-tv

Montagsgesellschaft – What does Brexit mean for Frankfurt?

Days before the EU referendum in the UK, Frankfurt’s Montagsgesellschaft (Monday Society) met to discuss the possible consequences of Brexit for Europe and the Financial Centre Frankfurt. Expert panellists, including Frankfurt Main Finance’s Managing Director Hubertus Väth, weighed in on possible outcomes. The overall mood at the Montagsgesellschaft was certainly that Brexit would be negative for the European Union and Europe, but could have certain positives for the Financial Centre Frankfurt.  Hubertus Väth explained after the event that, “We aren’t expecting nor do we want a Brexit to occur. Nevertheless, we will not waste a good crisis and are prepared to positively position the Financial Centre Frankfurt in the case it does.” Just four days later, all of Europe was shocked by the decision of UK citizens to leave the EU and trying to come to terms with the uncertainty that lay ahead.

On Monday, July 4, 2016, the Montagsgesellschaft convened again with the same panellists to further discuss the Brexit and its now more concrete consequences. During the last meeting, most were almost certain that a Brexit would not happen. However, the tone was quite different this week as most were only certain that Europe will face months if not years of uncertainty. The UK’s departure from the EU does, however, certainly mean that some financial institutions will need to reevaluate their London operations and very possibly relocate to another financial centre on the Continent. One example is the European Banking Authority, currently housed in London’s Canary Wharf. Hubertus Väth elaborated on this during the discussion, “Frankfurt is the natural choice for EBA’s relocation as the ECB and other bricks of the regulatory pillar are already here. EBA is one of the last missing pieces.” While this may only bring a few hundred jobs, it would also augment Frankfurt’s reputation as a regulatory hub, already being home to EIOPA, ESRB and BaFin.

Experts estimate that some 20,000 jobs could leave the Thames in for the Main. Quoting a recent study from the Boston Consulting Group, Väth explained that the Financial Centre Frankfurt actually ranks very highly amongst bank executives as an alternative to London. Amongst others, Frankfurt scores highly for economic and political stability, real estate costs, transportation infrastructure and the availability of a highly qualified workforce.

Brexit Frankfurt Finance Summit

Frankfurt Main Finance regrets the decision of the United Kingdom

Frankfurt Main Finance regrets the decision of the citizens of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. This decision affects all of Europe and extends the period of economic uncertainty, especially for the UK. Now drawn-out negotiations will have to clarify the relationship with the European Union (EU). By leaving, the UK will forfeit the benefits of membership in the EU. The consequences are still difficult to predict.

Frankfurt is well-equipped as a stable financial centre to embrace those looking for a new base of operations within the Eurozone. Frankfurt stands ready with a high-capacity real estate market as well as an excellent range of service providers, particularly in the areas of accounting, legal, communications and IT. For example, in Frankfurt you will find the DE-CIX internet exchange hub, over which more than 40% of the European internet traffic flows. Home to the European Central Bank and the German Central Bank, Frankfurt is also the centre of currency and monetary policy in Europe. The proximity to central banks is already a decisive factor for international banks in selecting a location. Additionally, as the home of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, or EIOPA, Frankfurt is the centre for stability in the European insurance market. Compared to the lasting instability in Great Britain, Frankfurt represents openness, stability, capable infrastructure and favourable conditions.