Hubertus Väth: COVID-19 is a global crisis, don’t make it worse by making it a crisis of globalization

Summary

An exceptionally long period of ever-growing prosperity is seemingly drawing to an abrupt end. Is COVID-19 ending globalization as a model of wealth creation? A model already challenged by a trade war and growing national assertiveness. As a result, the world economy is grinding to a halt and growth is going into reverse. What we are seeing has the potential to become the “mother of all recessions”. Losses of 12 trillion USD are expected, 1/6th of which will fall on a financial industry that is much better capitalized than in 2008, but clearly not sufficiently strong to digest a crisis of such proportions.

COVID-19 is a crisis of a global dimension and responses have been mainly national ones. It’s the time to cooperate on a global response. A multilateral approach is needed for an economic response on a truly global scale. In this respect, five areas of global cooperation are necessary to be implemented:

  • Global information system
  • Global cooperation on tackling infections
  • Stabilization of economic activity
  • Medical provisions against “Black Swans”
  • Maintaining global supply chains by alert and contain chains

The current Corona crisis makes us aware of the interconnectivity of our globe. The world needs a framework to learn as fast as possible from those that had to deal with it early on, medically, economically or financially. The world has collectively to become more agile to cope with COVID-19 and to be hopefully better prepared for the next virus certain to come, if that one is going to be defeated, as it sure will.

 

COVID-19 is a global crisis, don’t make it worse by making it a crisis of globalization.

An exceptionally long period of ever-growing prosperity is seemingly drawing to an abrupt end. Globalization since 1990s has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty and led the world to unique prosperity. This was made possible by lowering the barriers and opening the borders to multi-national enterprises. These enterprises have successfully been working for decades on optimizing their supply chain systems to reduce costs, minimize inventories, speed up deliveries and increase resource utilization. In their wake they created productive work around the globe and thus produced prosperity widely dispersed.

Emergency Brakes pulled

Is COVID-19 ending globalization as a model of wealth creation? A model already challenged by a trade war and growing national assertiveness? One could jump to this conclusion as the properties of the virus make its spread around the world the easier the more open the borders are.

These crucial properties are:

  • A varying and a up to two weeks long incubation.
  • Easy spreading like a flu.
  • Asymptotic in an uncomfortable high number of cases.
  • No vaccine yet.
  • No proven treatment yet.
  • A significant mortality rate; at the very least 5 times of a severe influenza, strongly rising if medical facilities are insufficient.

These properties are making the virus mortal for too many people to be socially acceptable to run its course, as severe cases of influenza usually do. And it is equally hard to contain and to isolate those effected, particularly in todays globalized world, where interconnectedness helps to spread a virus fast and wide.

The response was long to belittle or even deny the risks. Followed by public warnings with little or no sanctions attached to them. Policy responses such as expanding facilities to test, stockpiling crucial equipment to protect medical and otherwise systemically relevant staff, expand capacity of medical facilities and retrain medical staff, establish safeguards for the weakest were implemented – with some noteworthy exceptions – often too late. What followed didn’t come easy and again mostly too late: Disrupting the links through which the virus spreads such as mass gatherings or mass transport. Time, being so crucial, was waisted despite early and sufficient news came from the front line of the fight against the virus.

After all those measures didn’t slow the spread, major economies pulled the emergency brakes on individual life and economic activities. Ever more leaders effectively closed the borders to travelers directly or made a quarantine obligatory for travelers from ever more countries of origin. The EU and US were particularly slow to respond and now try to catch up, as medical services reach the limits in ever more countries. Hard to bear: Doctors are being forced in some places to prioritize medical treatments, a decision they are not equipped to make in peace times, least of all in such numbers.

Faced with such stark choices, country after country banned events, flights, tourism, restaurants, bars, clubs and even hairdressing. What usually starts with a fortnight of restrictions, already is or is likely to be extended, who knows how often and how long. In a way it’s a race and a bet. A race with human ingenuity to come up with a faster test, a vaccine and/or a treatment. It is also a bet that the virus follows seasonality patterns, much like influenza. Some characteristics point to that, but we can by no means be sure about it. But most of all, it is to flatten the curve of infections to maintain an infection rate more in line with medical capacity, which of course is being expanded at the same time, simply because beyond that capacity limit, lethality rates jump.

As a result, the world economy is grinding to a halt and growth is going into reverse. What we are seeing has the potential to become the “mother of all recessions”. Economists more or less only differ in their view whether the economic shock by COVID-19 will become the biggest slump since the Great Depression or even exceed this around 90 years old traumatic experience. The International Monetary Fund casts doubt on traditional views of a V-shaped recovery and shows that all types of recessions — including those arising from external shocks and small domestic macroeconomic policy mistakes — lead to permanent losses in output and welfare.

Losses will exceed 12 trillion USD, which is the estimated loss in the Global Financial Crisis 2008/09. Applying same proportions as in 2008/09, 1/6th of the losses will fall directly on a financial industry that is much better capitalized than in 2008, but clearly not sufficiently strong to digest a crisis of such proportions. Losses will be very unequally distributed. The weakest will suffer the most and existentially. Food shortages, a loss in education and health provision will take a hard to measure toll. Potential political disruptions as a result should not be underestimated.

However, Philip Thomas, professor of risk management at Bristol University, already warns that measures could “do more harm than good”. There is indeed a clear link between GDP and life expectancy, not least due to being able to spend more on healthcare and safety. The measures taken, leading to massive losses of GDP, will clearly impact live expectancy for many in yet unknown but substantial proportions.

How long can the world sustain a near close down? One, two, three months? Most certainly not much longer. And what is the path like, when it becomes evident that relaxing leads to an increased number of infections whilst eventually the losses to human lives due to closures exceed the those caused by the virus? Navigating between a rock and a hard stone has never been harder and politicians have to gain nothing but the blame for whatever evil they choose.

Rapidly spread around the globe

COVID-19 is a crisis of global dimension and responses have been mainly national ones. Risks are high that we are making it worse now by making it a crisis of globalization.

Traditional measures to cope with major disruptions to supply chains or monetary transmission won’t work. How are monetary or fiscal policy going to translate into economic activity in an economy shut down? The remedies of the past, such as sourcing widely to avoid supply chain disruptions, such as after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in 2011, or central banks opening the taps, which worked wonders, following the financial crisis in 2008, are obviously insufficient.

In contrast to previous pandemics COVID-19 has spread around the globe within a few weeks. But there is another side of the coin, and that one is positive: Never before in history, scientists from all over the world have identified crucial elements of the disease in a coordinated or competing manner. Knowledge on the pandemic begins to spread like the virus itself from those on the front line of being affected and seeing some success coping with it. They are namely China, Japan and Singapore, lately joined by South Korea.

So, doctors and politicians around the world already know a lot on ways to reduce the risk of an infection, on incubation times, on risks for specific – especially elder – people, and on how to take care of the sick. This definitely will save the life of a large number of infected despite the fact that an effective immunization will only be available in a hopefully not too distant future.

Interconnection is not only cause but cure as well

COVID-19 shows both the risks and the chances of an interconnected world. Even though Governments clearly have to act by restricting free movement to protect human lives, but at the same time better interconnectedness holds the key to a long-term solution. In an ideal world Europe and the U.S. would have had more than two months of time to prepare, if, and that is a big if, there were proper systems and processes in place. Those precious weeks used to stockpile testing material, expand treatment facilities, retrain medical staff, enabling quick testing at the borders, isolate those infected fast and efficiently, would result in a lot of pain, lives and economic damage being avoided.

Now is neither the time for if’s and but’s nor for trading accusations. It’s rather the time to cooperate on a global response. A multilateral approach is needed for a medical and an economic response on a truly global scale. It is time for the G 20 to revive its leadership by providing a framework to share best practice and medical resources in the short term, and to put in place a future alert and containment framework.

Five steps for international cooperation

In this respect, five areas of global cooperation are necessary to be implemented.

1) Global information System

Comprehensive, resilient and comparable information is key for decision makers. In the current crisis, numbers differ among countries that are hard to reconcile. The world wonders e.g. how rates of spreading or mortality rates can vary so widely. Do these deviations hint at solutions (e.g. effectiveness of measures or social norms) or are they only due to differences in the methodology? Information on a pandemic should therefore be standardized. Data origin, time lags, intensity and respective triggers of testing or the attribution of a lethal case to a cause all play a big role in understanding the very numbers.

All those factors can be working either way. Data can mislead people and either create a panic or a delusion of safety, neither of which is desirable. Only a unification of definitions would create a data base that would enable proper decision making. In addition, clear criteria have to be met when an infection should be declared a pandemic.

2) Global cooperation on tackling infections

Epidemiologists, like the Imperial College London in its recent study, expect that “more intensive interventions could interrupt transmission and reduce case numbers to low levels. However, once these interventions are relaxed, case numbers are predicted to rise. This gives rise to lower case numbers, but the risk of a later epidemic in the winter months unless the interventions can be sustained.” The same is true, if there are still undetected cases in places that lack a health sector able to cope.

The decades of struggling for the eradication of smallpox and measles around the globe show how difficult and long lasting this approach will be. Some countries will need practical and financial support to cope with these challenges.

3) Stabilization of economic activity

Like any system in intensive care, the world now faces a severe threat to stability that needs immediate attention. The key challenge now is business continuity, otherwise insolvencies will rise, and lasting damage is done to the productive stock and hence to prosperity and live expectancy as a result. When COVID-19 started in a central part of the global manufacturing ecosystem, it posed right away a challenge to supply chains. This certainly put a lot of pressure onto authorities to delay action. This reluctance was basically repeated in every location the virus spread to. Supply Chains need to be more resilient, to allow fast shut- downs, that are likely to have milder consequences.

Authorities were however quick to respond to the wider economic fall-out of their measures. First and foremost, the global financial system is affected, the canary in the coalmine. It must be ensured that the financial system will be able to maintain to productive stock through the shut-down and then provide the liquidity needed to restart the economies thereafter. Monetary policy, widely applied by almost all central banks, has however already shown that it is a painful inappropriate tool in the wake of the current pandemic, at least yet and left on its own. It is not enough to having central banks lowering rates, buying bonds or otherwise pumping money into the system. Financial Institutions are needed to disburse and allocate the money to those with a fair chance to survive the storm. To enable them to fulfill this scope, a government backed special risk absorption mechanism – call it for the sake of convenience simply “state guarantee” is needed. Otherwise every loan risk assessment in todays’ world can only lead to calling loans, rather than giving new ones.

That instrument should mainly aim at SME’s and key industries. This can realistically only bridge a limited period of time, such as the famed German Kurzarbeitergeld, that allows a temporary lay-off of staff, subsidized by social insurance’ unemployment benefits.

In that respect institutions like AFCA and others have a new role to play. They should research on the impact of fiscal and monetary policy responses, advise on how to allocate the money to those companies which are not fatally wounded and to individuals losing their income. The findings should allow the international community of states to come up with a proven set of measures to avoid structural disruptions and thus maintain economic, social and financial stability on a global basis.

4) Medical provisions against “Black Swans”

Many countries have been overrun by the virus – lacking capacities in hospitals, ventilators, masks and medicine. Pandemics are “Black swans” that need a coordinated response. Hence it is important that the community of states provides for a sufficient stock of critical equipment and establish a dedicated fund which allows affected countries – based on the principles of an insurance – to get additional help within a short period of time. Very much like stocks for oil and other strategically important resources.

5) Maintaining global supply chains by alert and contain chains

Business continuity can only work if the global supply chains are stress resistant. Any supply chain is only as good as its weakest link. Any alert chain is only as good as the willingness and ability to listen. Therefore, COVID-19 calls for the global supply chain being supported by an equally global alert, contain and coordinate mechanism for such a crisis.

Not even the lessons of Fukushima, with its impact on global supply chains, were fully implemented. For some mass medicines the active pharmaceutical ingredients were only produced in one or a few near-by places, with COVID-19 induced disruptions leading to production shortages in a lot of generic medicaments.

The community of states has to find solutions for a sustainable supply system flagging essential products that need more than one source, ideally as independent from each other as possible. The decisions should be based not only on pure geographical aspects but also on aspects such as covering specific risk like natural disasters, civil unrest or pandemics.

A wake-up call for global coordination

The current Corona crisis makes us aware of the interconnectivity of our globe. The world needs a framework to learn as fast as possible from those that had to deal with it early on, medically, economically or financially. This will become important in the coming weeks, as we all need to have a plan on how the economies get back to work, rather sooner than later. A lack of coordination will expose those who go it alone and create a dilemma leading to inaction or resource absorbing off and on decisions.

Getting back to work will only happen as and when the risks to human live are under control. Younger and elder people, younger and elder nations will differ in their views on when that is. But a debate is unavoidable, the choices will be stark. The world has collectively to become more agile to cope with COVID-19 and to be hopefully better prepared for the next virus certain to come, if that one is going to be defeated, as it surely will.

Failure to cooperate however should not be an Option.

Hessian Ministry of Economics informs about Corona Pandemic

The Hessian Ministry for Economic Affairs, Energy, Transport and Housing is supporting Hessian citizens and companies during the Corona pandemic. We have compiled a list of the most important information platforms and hotlines provided by the Ministry of Economics.

 

Information for citizens:

https://www.hessen.de/fuer-buerger/aktuelle-informationen-zu-corona-hessen

Phone: 0611/32 111 000

 

Information for companies:

https://www.technologieland-hessen.de/corona

Phone: 0611/32 111 000

 

Immediate assistance for companies with up to 50 employees:

https://rp-kassel.hessen.de/

 

Loans for companies:

https://www.wibank.de/wibank/

Hotline: 0611/ 774 7333

Three new members join the financial centre initiative Frankfurt Main Finance

Frankfurt am Main – The financial centre initiative Frankfurt Main Finance e.V. welcomes three new members. CRIF Bürgel, Deloitte Deutschland, and European DataWarehouse join the initiative as sustaining members.

“We bid our new members a very warm welcome! With their added support and the support of our long-standing members, we work towards the sustainability and efficiency of the Financial Centre Frankfurt. Our joint efforts significantly benefit the financial centre and have a lasting, positive impact on its worldwide prominence and reach,” says Dr. Lutz Raettig, President of Frankfurt Main Finance.

“Just like CRIF Bürgel, Frankfurt Main Finance stands for openness to innovation. We are, therefore, extremely pleased about our membership and future cooperation with an excellent network within the financial industry. Frankfurt has not only established itself as the leading financial centre in Germany through the strong concentration of financial firms, but is also one of the most important financial centres in the world. We will endeavour to make the best possible use of the resulting synergies with Frankfurt Main Finance and the other members, so that Frankfurt can continue to consolidate its pole position in the financial market. In line with our strategy, we also look forward to the collaboration and contact with one of the most progressive international FinTech hubs,” comments Christian Bock, Managing Director of CRIF Bürgel.

“As Germany’s leading financial centre, Frankfurt is one of Deloitte’s largest and most important locations. The membership in Frankfurt Main Finance fills us with eager anticipation of a noticeable deepening in our relationships with all actors in the financial metropolis. We are certain that our work can provide the Frankfurt community not only with many important stimuli, as it has in the past, but also with many benefits,” says Prof. Dr. Carl-Friedrich Leuschner, Deloitte auditor and partner. Head of Banking Practice at Deloitte Hans-Jürgen Walter adds, “Deloitte has supported the development of the Financial Centre Frankfurt in the competition between European and global financial centres for many years. In addition to the European Competence Centre for the Banking Union, Deloitte is also active in a number of initiatives with banks, associations, universities and politics with the goal of strengthening Germany’s most important financial centre. Membership in Frankfurt Main Finance is an additional resolute and active step in this direction, which includes, in particular, the further development of Frankfurt as an attractive location for the start-up and FinTech community.”

Dr. Christian Thun, Managing Director of European DataWarehouse, emphasises his excitement at the prospect of working with Frankfurt’s financial centre initiative. “We see our membership in Frankfurt Main Finance as a commitment to the Financial Centre Frankfurt, to which we owe a great deal and whose development we aim to pursue and actively shape with the keenest interest. Frankfurt Main Finance provides us with the requisite platform to do this, and we look forward to the exchange with the fellow members and market participants.”

CFS Index on the rise

Financial industry reports: Strong growth in revenue and earnings / Fewer jobs cut at financial institutions

The CFS Index, which measures the business climate of the German financial sector on a quarterly basis, rises by 4.3 points to 114.2 points. This positive development can primarily be attributed to high revenue and earnings growth in the financial industry in the fourth quarter of 2019. The investment volume among the financial institutions has also risen, while job cuts are lower than in the previous quarter. This positive news is offset by slightly slower growth in the investment volume and employee numbers among the service providers.

“Despite all gloomy prophecies the quarterly financial results of sector firms, both banks and financial service firms, are pointing northwards. This is even more true for numbers expected in the subsequent quarter” Professor Jan Pieter Krahnen, Director of the Center for Financial Studies, interprets the results.

The future international importance of the Financial Centre Germany continues to consolidate, as in previous quarters. With a change of -1.7 points, this indicator is now at a moderate level of 117.0 points. The financial institutions and service providers are unanimous in this assessment.

Dr. Lutz Raettig, President of Frankfurt Main Finance e.V., explains: “The Financial Centre Frankfurt will gain in importance due to the Brexit. This development is not self-fulfilling, but rather requires the continuous effort of all parties involved. The further consolidation of the index should be a clear signal and incentive for all responsible persons to continue and intensify their commitment to the financial centre.”

Financial industry revenues and earnings rise

The surveyed financial institutions and service providers surpassed their expected growth in revenues/business volume in the final quarter of 2019. The corresponding sub-index for the financial institutions rises by 5.9 points to 120.6 points, which is 7.9 points higher than one year ago. For the service providers, the sub-index climbs as much as 9.7 points. It is now 1.5 points higher than one year ago, at 122.4 points. The financial institutions are anticipating a decline in the current quarter, whereas the service providers expect to see a slight further increase.

The earnings of both groups also developed very positively in the fourth quarter of 2019. The corresponding sub-index for the financial institutions gains 7.9 points to reach a level of 111.4 points. The huge growth recorded by the service providers substantially exceeds even their positive outlook from the prior quarter. The sub-index for this group rises by 14.4 points to 122.8 points. The financial institutions and service providers are expecting the growth to weaken again in the current quarter.

Growth in investment volume is positive among financial institutions / Slight decline among service providers

The growth in investment volume in product and process innovations among the financial institutions climbs 2.9 points to 108.6 points in the fourth quarter of 2019, yet still remains 3.4 points below the level of one year ago. By contrast, the sub-index for the service providers sees a slight decline of -1.5 points to 112.6 points, which is the same level as one year ago. The financial industry has an optimistic outlook for investment in the first quarter of 2020.

Fewer job cuts at financial institutions

Job cuts at the financial institutions, which have been ongoing for some time, were less severe than expected in the prior quarter. The employee numbers sub-index rises accordingly by 4.1 points to 94.5 points, which is 6 points higher than one year ago. The financial institutions expect to further curtail their job cuts in the current quarter. The service providers are hiring fewer new employees than in the previous quarters, though the numbers remain positive. The corresponding sub-index falls by -2.6 points to 106.1 points. Compared to last year, this is 5.4 points lower, meaning fewer people are being hired. The service providers are anticipating a clearly more positive development in the current quarter.

 

 

The results are based on a quarterly management survey in the German financial sector.

The Center for Financial Studies (CFS) conducts independent and internationally-oriented research in important areas of Financial and Monetary Economics, ranging from Monetary Policy and Financial Stability, Household Finance and Retail Banking to Corporate Finance and Financial Markets. CFS is also a contributor to policy debates and policy analyses, building upon relevant findings in its research areas. In providing a platform for research and policy advice, CFS relies on its international network among academics, the financial industry and central banks in Europe and beyond.

CFS survey: “Outlook for the year 2020”

German financial industry expects more widespread adoption of negative interest rates for savers – Calls for stronger incentives for share ownership

Low interest rates and share ownership 

A CFS survey of financial industry executives shows that over 90% of respondents do not expect the ECB to change its monetary policy this year. Therefore, most financial experts (again over 90%) assume that the trend of banks introducing negative interest rates or deposit fees for savers will continue. Given the profound consequences for private pensions, a clear majority of those surveyed (approx. 87%) advocate stronger incentives for share ownership for the purpose of retirement planning.

“The proportion of people who own stocks or stock funds has increased in recent years. Nevertheless, only around one in six people currently invest in stocks,” says Professor Volker Brühl, Managing Director of the Center for Financial Studies. “The financial transaction tax proposed by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz would therefore be counterproductive.”

The respondents are split on the question of whether the government should adopt measures to protect retail savers against negative interest rates. This course of action is supported by 51% of the financial industry executives.

Hubertus Väth, Managing Director of Frankfurt Main Finance e.V., emphasizes that “the lack of an investment culture in Germany has been criticized for decades. If there is anything positive to be gained from negative interest rates from the investors’ point of view, it is that equity investment must now become the pillar of private pension provisions in order to avoid capital losses.”

Growth prospects and balancing the budget

Furthermore, the CFS survey makes it clear that the majority of the financial industry is not expecting a slump in economic growth this year, despite continuing uncertainties over trade disputes and geopolitical risks. Approximately 51% of those surveyed regard the federal government’s forecast of approximately 0.6% GDP growth in Germany as realistic.

The issue of balancing the federal budget is also provoking considerable debate in the financial industry. A majority of 54% are in favour of temporarily running a deficit to boost public investment or provide tax relief. 44% of respondents are opposed to this.

“The survey results show that there is no clear consensus in the financial sector regarding either the economic outlook or the need to shore up the economy with fiscal policy measures,” explains Professor Brühl.

Hubertus Väth, Managing Director of Frankfurt Main Finance e.V., adds that “the opinion reflects the delicate situation of the very open German economy. On one hand, a record foreign trade surplus, on the other a pandemic, whose course endangers value chains, which are already stressed by Brexit and the yet to be completely resolved trade conflict between the United States of America and China.”

 

 

The results are based on a quarterly management survey in the German financial sector.

The Center for Financial Studies (CFS) conducts independent and internationally-oriented research in important areas of Financial and Monetary Economics, ranging from Monetary Policy and Financial Stability, Household Finance and Retail Banking to Corporate Finance and Financial Markets. CFS is also a contributor to policy debates and policy analyses, building upon relevant findings in its research areas. In providing a platform for research and policy advice, CFS relies on its international network among academics, the financial industry and central banks in Europe and beyond.

New, innovative conference for digital finance

The first Frankfurt Digital Finance Conference brings together decision-makers and innovators from the financial industry – companies, start-ups, politicians, investors, regulatory authorities and academics – on a neutral platform in Frankfurt am Main. We spoke with the conference organizers, Corinna Egerer and Max Hunzinger, about FinTech trends, the Frankfurt location and the added value of the event.

Which services in the field of FinTech are currently of particular interest?

“Alongside with the usual suspects – such as Artificial Intelligence applications, Blockchain solutions and Payment –  Digital Identities are in focus. Open Banking is also still a hot topic to cover the chances that derive from the PSD2 Directive. IT security is and remains a vital challenge. And last but not least services that enable better customer experience – B:B and B:C – are crucial for success. All these and more topics will be discussed at Frankfurt Digital Finance.”

What can events like the Frankfurt Digital Finance Conference do for the various members of the FinTech community?

“Events like Frankfurt Digital finance connect people who have similar interests but come from different companies, institutions and backgrounds: to learn from others’ experiences, to get to know each other, to network and eventually start joint projects, all this can be reached with such a conference. “Better Together” is the motto of Frankfurt Digital Finance. Participants from incumbents and entrants, from academia, from investors and politics all meet on a level playing field. Not least a “Corporate Challenge” will take place at Frankfurt Digital Finance where teams from different companies develop ideas and concepts to better connect corporates and startups, to create value together.”

Why did you choose the Frankfurt Financial Centre as the location for this conference?

“Frankfurt as an ecosystem with incumbents and entrants can develop into a leading digital finance hub in Europe. Here we do not only have the industry expertise but also trusted personal networks and the ability of a financing chain providing the necessary resources for all stages from startups to institutions. This fact we have to communicate better  – Frankfurt Digital Finance shall support here.”

Further information about the event and registration options are available on the website frankfurt-digital-finance.de.

Former Londoner has 100 reasons to love the Financial Centre Frankfurt

Why love living in the Financial Centre Frankfurt? Louise Sagar, former Londoner living in Frankfurt, gives plenty of reasons in her Twitter campaign #100ReasonsILoveFrankfurt. In our interview, she explains what brought her to Frankfurt and why she enjoys life in the city so much.

When and why did you move to Frankfurt?

In 2009, I was living in Luxembourg and my work contract was coming to an end. A friend of mine told me there was a translation/editing job vacancy at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. I did not know anything about the institution or the city, but I was open to working and living anywhere so I just applied. When I came to Frankfurt for the interview, I was feeling very carefree – without any preconceptions about Frankfurt or the job. I vividly remember walking across one of the bridges over the Main after the interview, looking at the skyline and thinking: this feels right! I want to work and live here. The job sounded great and I had an immediate connection with the city. Sometimes life takes you right where you should be. I got the job and that is when my life changed forever. I built my kind of life here.

What was your first impression as a Londoner living in the Financial Centre Frankfurt?

I was blown away by how easy everything was. The main thing I recall was how amazed I was that I could walk to work down beautiful, traffic-light streets and along the river – and I could get a cab home from the city centre to my flat for only 7 euros!!! In London, cabs home cost a fortune and nights out were often cut short by getting the last tube home. Moreover, I loved the feel of Frankfurt. It is a city but it is not hectic or oppressive. I would stroll around leafy Sachsenhausen (where I lived then – I’m now a Nordend girl) at the weekend and have a serene feeling. I was in love with the skyline. During the winter of my first year in the city, it snowed a lot and Frankfurt was sparkling. I remember coming out of a club at 4 am or 5 am one weekend morning and discovering a winter wonderland – it had snowed heavily while we were dancing underground. We walked through the snow to the train station Suedbahnhof where we passed a bakery smelling of fresh croissants, and we ate them warm. It seems to me that we have more defined seasons in Frankfurt than in London. Colder in the winter and hotter in the summer. I like that.

What baffled you about the Financial Centre Frankfurt?

I thought it was strange that there is table service in the pubs. In the UK, we all crowd around the bar while here in Frankfurt we sit at tables and wait to be served. I still find this a bit strange actually! It is a more sedate approach to a night out. However, now when I go home to the UK, I find having to wait at the bar for a drink a bit frustrating. It is a bit more sociable though: I think single people are more likely to meet someone stood at the bar. I also felt that I was the loudest person in Frankfurt: when I laughed in a café or restaurant people would turn and look! This still happens 😉 Furthermore, it took me a long time to get used to shops being closed on Sundays… but this is something I now hugely appreciate because of that quiet Sunday feeling.

Obviously, we are a fan of your Twitter series #100ReasonsILoveFrankfurt. What made you start?

At the time there were several articles in the British press saying things like “oh no, after Brexit we will all have to go and live in boring Frankfurt”. This annoyed me as I thought it is such an uninformed viewpoint. I felt fiercely defensive of my city – I  wanted to broadcast to the world how I felt about Frankfurt as an expat living here. All of this was going through my mind and then journalist Tom Barfield (AFP news agency) tweeted a picture of Berger Strasse Fest against a bright blue sky. He wrote “another horrible day in Frankfurt”. This encapsulated everything I felt. I loved it and it was the catalyst for me to start my 100 Reasons.

We know you have #100ReasonsYouLoveFrankfurt, but what are your top three reasons?

This is a really hard question… Number one is easy though: My absolute favourite thing about Frankfurt is the outdoor pools in summer. As a swimmer, I am never as happy as when I am swimming outdoors at my nearest pool Brentanobad and relaxing on the lawn afterwards. I also love that nearly every weekend in the summer there is a street festival to go to. In comparison with the effort I used to make to attend an event in London, in Frankfurt I just walk down the road to a street fest – and  when I am ready to leave I walk home. For me that is really important. Some will prefer the bigger choice and bright lights of the big city, but for me this is better. I think the thing I love the most is simply the feeling of my life here. It is hard to describe. It is the buildings in various architectural styles and the parks, walking everywhere – it’s the quality of life. I feel safe too. I love Frankfurt in every season. Right now, winter in our city is giving me so much joy.

Anything you want to add?

I now feel like I do not completely belong in the UK anymore which is a really strange feeling. I miss my family, the British sense of humour and the fact that people in Britain talk to each other in the street and in shops. However, my life is abroad. I am used to an international life. It is also quite easy to visit my family from here, given that Frankfurt airport is so easy to get to from town and the many flight options. When I arrive back in Frankfurt after going away, I love seeing the skyline and feel I am home. If I ever live anywhere else, which is entirely possible as I would like to live in different places in my life, the next city will have a lot to live up to.

Winterlichter Palmengarten Frankfurt

Magical mystical winter lights

“Winter Lights” brighten the nights in Frankfurt’s Palmengarten 

The illuminated windows of the bank towers shine brightly in the south, the telecommunications tower with its magenta-coloured top shimmers in the north. In-between lies Frankfurt’s West End, where a magical, mystical world of shapes and colours enchants the visitors. The Christmas season has begun, and so has the season of romantic winter lights. Immerse yourself in the magic on a stroll through Frankfurt’s botanical gardens with Wolfgang Gerhard.

Winterlicher Palmengarten Frankfurt _ Hintergrund: Frankfurter Skyline

Penguins, fish and a piggy bank

Some 700 spotlights, 18 light objects, and 6 video installations turn an evening walk through the Palmengarten into an experience of festive cheer. Lighting effects can be seen all over the park, allowing the imagination to run wild.

Where in summer, ducks waddle happily across the grass, almost three dozen penguins now march in strict formation along the banks of a stream. Below the rose garden, blue fish swim in the moonlight. Not far away, a runner untiringly tries to toss a coin into a piggy bank. Tall yellow and red tulips almost touch the branches of the trees, and seven snowdrops glisten where their natural counterparts blossom at the end of the winter. Five colourful globes symbolise the five continents.

The trees, plants, and monuments are bathed in glowing colours. The statue of Perseus and Andromeda shines in bright white in front of Christmassy evergreen shrubs and a huge deciduous tree. The hill above the waterfall at the Great Pond changes its colour from pink to violet and back again, appearing almost eerie in the dark. Experimental video installations, often reminiscent of a kaleidoscope view, are projected onto a 15-meter-wide water curtain in the Octagon Fountain – known as a “hydro shield” – as well as onto the outer wall of the Gesellschaftshaus convention centre.

Winterlicher Palmengarten _ Farbenfrohe Lichtinstallation

German Design Award for the planners

For the last seven years, the winter lights were designed by Wolfgang Flammersfeld and Reinhard Hartleif from Unna, who will receive the “German Design Award 2020” in the category of “Light Architecture” next February.

A sound installation by Lasse-Marc Riek, composed by the sound artist for the 150th anniversary of the Palmenhaus, can also be heard in the great conservatory. The “Sound Dialogues” combine jungle noises with contemporary rhythms to form a flowing tapestry of sound. Visitors can listen to stories of mysterious creatures and distant lands in the fairytale tent in the gallery.

Winterlichter Palmengarten Frankfurt_Farbenfrohe Natur

Find out more about the “Winter Lights” and opening hours until 12 January 2020 (daily, closed only on 24 and 31 December) on the Palmengarten website.

Text and photos: Wolfgang Gerhardt

Frankfurt Christmas Market

Regional specialities and a festive sea of lights: The Frankfurt Christmas Market attracts visitors from around the globe

The Frankfurt Christmas market has a long tradition and is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany. Up to the year 1393 it can be proven that markets took place in Frankfurt on Christmas. The traditional centerpiece of the market is the Römerberg, which with its historic half-timbered houses provides the backdrop for one of the country’s most beautiful and largest Christmas markets. The approximately three million visitors can enjoy the festive atmosphere between the city center and Römerberg from November 25 to December 22, 2018.

The highlight of the opening ceremony will be a live-concert by Dana Winner on November 25. And until December 22, the musical offer ranges from the performance of international Christmas carols, the playing of the tower musicians of the Old St Nicholas Church to the big ringing of the city with the simultaneous ringing of 50 bells.

What would a visit of the Frankfurt Christmas Market be without a taste of the market’s traditional mulled wine or any other of the beverage specialities on offer? Featuring a brand-new design, this year’s mulled wine mug has been awaited with much anticipation, especially by the many collectors amongst the market’s visitors.

Frankfurt Christmas Market – © #visitfrankfurt, Holger Ullmann

Over 200 Christmas stalls

Over 200 Christmas stalls attract visitors with lovely products and treats. In addition to the classic roasted almonds, mulled wine and sausages, you can enjoy typical Frankfurt Christmas specialties such as Bethmännchen (“a little Bethmann”), hot cider and Quetschemännchen. In addition to the culinary diversity, visitors can expect classic Christmas market decoration and folk art articles, as well as modern handicrafts and typical Frankfurt goods such as ‘dippe’ (ceramic pot) and earthenware products. On the adjoining craft market in the Roman halls and the St. Paul’s Church, there is also the opportunity to search for an extraordinary Christmas present.

At the gates of the city there are also a variety of romantic Christmas markets in Odenwald, Rheingau, Taunus and Wetterau.

Christmast market tours

On December 15, the Christmas market tour “Glühwein, Geschichten & Gebäck” (Mulled wine, stories and pastries) will be offered in many languages as well as for the blind and visually impaired and the Frankfurt Christmas market specialties will be presented. Also stories about the historic and modern Frankfurt, the Christmas market and famous Frankfurt personalities are part of the tour.

Another highlight is a guided tour through the winding alleys of Frankfurt’s new Old Town

Rosa Weihnacht

At the Frankfurt Hauptwache (Main Guard) there are more Christmas market stalls, which extend the classic Christmas market area up to the shopping street Zeil and thus form a passage to Christmas shopping. On Friedrich-Stolze-Platz there is also the so-called “Rosa Weihnacht”, which is organized by the gay community of the Rhine-Main region and creates a special atmosphere with its colorful lights, unusual decoration and design.

More information.

 

Photo: © #visitfrankfurt, Holger Ullmann, www.frankfurt-tourismus.de

Fostering Franco-German dialogue at the Financial Centre Frankfurt

Amid an unbeknownst Brexit outcome, cooperation between Financial Centres in continental Europe is essential in tackling the challenges of European integration. On December 10th, L’Agefi, one of the leading French press groups, will host the European Investors Day at the Financial Centre Frankfurt to facilitate the debate amongst the German and French financial industry. The following aspects will be part of the agenda

  • The future of monetary policy: is a stronger consensus possible under Lagarde’s presidency?
  • What role will the Franco-German relationship play in sustainable finance?
  • Is infrastructure investment the key to future growth?

We discussed the event with Philippe Mudry, L’Agefi, in an interview.

What role does the Franco-German relationship play in fostering cooperation in the continental European financial sector?

If and under which circumstances the UK will be leaving the European Union is still unknown. However, the continental European financial sector is already engaged in the process of transition. It knows that it will have to draw on its own resources to overcome the current difficulties to reassert itself on the world stage. And once again, as soon as it comes to thinking about and building the future of Europe, Germany and France stand shoulder to shoulder, partners and competitors at the same time, in a dialogue with their European partners. True to its tradition and convictions, L’Agefi wants to facilitate this debate.

 Why did L’Agefi decided to establish a new event in Europe?

On the 10th of December 2019, we will be holding the second European Investors Day (EID) at the Financial Centre Frankfurt. The aim of the event – inaugurated in June in Brussels – is to involve all of those who want to foster an integrated investment and finance industry in Europe, and to sketch out a vision for the future of such an industry. A few simple questions will build the basis for discussion: What consensus on monetary policy can be achieved? Can a relaunch of European integration give an impetus for renewing infrastructures in continental Europe, including, of course, the now core issue of tackling the challenges created by global warming in each of the countless dimensions? What role can European financial stakeholders, from institutional investors to portfolio management companies, regulators, politicians, banks, and insurance companies play in contributing to the common goal?

Why did L’Agefi decide to host the event at the Financial Centre Frankfurt?

Being a French media outlet, our decision to host the event at the Financial Centre Frankfurt in the wake of crucial European elections is by no means a coincidence; it reflects our strong belief that the Franco-German dialogue can once again crystallize ideas currently circulating in Europe.  In our opinion, one of the questions that need to be answered to support the financial sector in continental Europe in becoming aware of its full potential is: “Can the Paris-Frankfurt axis assert itself in the field of sustainable finance?” Considering that in 2019, L’Agefi has launched the new English-speaking, Europe-oriented media outlet “Asset News” hosting the EID in Frankfurt seemed to be the best way to participate in the emergence of an integrated finance and investment union European professionals are calling for.

 

Please register on L’agefi’s Website.