Representatives of the Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Regional Development in the Federal State of Hesse have been in Brexit mode for a number of months. Communication across all channels and preferably in a personal dialogue – when it comes to promoting the benefits of Frankfurt as the EU’s financial centre, every opportunity is exploited. As was the case during the trip made by Hessian Economics Minister Tarek Al-Wazir and his delegation to London. The journey, which was originally initiated for companies in the cultural and creative sector, was the ideal framework for a small-scale financial delegation from the ministry. Armin Winterhoff, Head of the Financial Centre Frankfurt Division at the ministry, was part of this team and knows the details and background of the three-day London tour.
Ten banks, two associations, three days. The programme in store for the financial delegation headed by Economics Minister Tarek Al-Wazir was packed to the full when they set off for London for three days from May 9th to 11th. So it goes without saying that it had already been determined in advance and in detail who would be taking part at which appointment during the busy schedule and with which priority. “We are seeking a personal dialogue with those responsible at the banks and within the organisations. We want to promote the merits of Frankfurt by providing information and offering a constructive exchange with specialists. The Financial Centre Frankfurt is to become the ‘Gateway to the EU’,” as Armin Winterhoff describes the fundamental objective. The facts speak for the advantages of the Main metropolis, he maintains, and so he never grows tired of underlining how important it is to convey well-founded information to the right places – i.e. especially to the large, internationally operating banks that are likely to be losing their access to the EU financial market in the wake of the Brexit.
The days are jam-packed with appointments and precisely scheduled – working lunches and the Hesse Evening included. All the more important that the small core team functions together effectively – up to 10 specialists from the Ministry of Economics, the Brexit Office at the Hessian State Chancellery, the Hessian Ministry of Finance, the Bundesbank, and institutions like the Verband der Auslandsbanken in Deutschland e. V. (Association of Foreign Banks in Germany), Frankfurt Rhein Main GmbH and Frankfurt Main Finance e. V. “We were already in close contact with most of the addresses before the trip,” Winterhoff explains. But it’s essential, he adds, to point out in situ and in personal conversation what makes the Financial Centre Frankfurt particularly special.
There were also reservations to be eliminated and misconceptions to be straightened out: “Those who look at Frankfurt from a global perspective are often already apprehensive when they hear the population figure of 700,000. The fact that no less than 5.6 million people live in the catchment area of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region, many of them highly qualified and with an international background, has to be elucidated.” Winterhoff can specify many such examples – because ultimately everyone is concerned about the same questions. That’s why the “Welcome to the Financial Centre Frankfurt” brochure is always part of the hand luggage on such trips. The leaflet puts “10 Points for Frankfurt” in a nutshell.
Winterhoff found it striking how openly and constructively the delegation from Frankfurt was welcomed wherever it showed up: “For us, that’s an indication that all international institutions have the greatest possible interest during this phase in carrying out a far-reaching and substantive discussion with the different financial centres in the EU.” Needless to say, he adds, every bank has its own analyses, but to underpin them with first-hand information is evidently highly rated. “In this respect, we’re certainly sought-after dialogue partners in our capacity as the official federal state representatives,” the Head of Division points out.
Even if providing information about the location and promoting its merits is at the top of the list –such a trip is time and again just as fertile and rich in insight for the representatives from Hesse themselves. “We are able to gain a vivid impression of what is being discussed in London and what the sticking points are for the companies,” Winterhoff explains. He points out that such crunch issues aren’t merely the hard location factors, the hard facts, especially with regard to existing regulation. There is also great interest in the soft factors, such as the presence of resources in the region as well as the leisure activities and cultural programmes on offer. After all, anyone considering moving with his or her company and family from the Thames to the Main would like to know what can be expected. “We attach great importance to such factors and realities because it’s ultimately not just taxes and labour law that decide where people feel comfortable,” Winterhoff is convinced. It’s much easier in a face-to-face conversation to tell people what it’s like to live in and around Frankfurt, he adds. That’s why the Hessian representatives will continue to seek every opportunity they can to present the merits of the Main metropolis.