Twenty-four banks are already planning to expand their Frankfurt business ahead of the upcoming Brexit – but the actors cannot rest on their laurels, reminds CDU executive committee member Jens Spahn. Especially opposite Paris, Hesse and Berlin would have to exert themselves. There is still much to be done on the Main.
The Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Minister for Special Tasks, Jens Spahn, emphasized on Wednesday at an event of the Hessian CDU how important the further development of the Financial Centre Frankfurt is for the federal government in Berlin. Politicians must work even harder to maintain the metropolis’s leading position, he said. Spahn referred to Germany’s failed attempt to bring EU banking supervisor, EBA, from London to Frankfurt. Instead, Paris won the bid in November. In view of Brexit, and a possible resulting shift in euro clearing, Frankfurt must be more successful than EBA, said the 37-year-old, who was still working as State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance until October.
In order to make the Financial Centre Frankfurt more attractive, some things must be done on site, he said, recalling housing construction and labor law adjustments, especially for investment bankers. In contrast to other EU member states, the Federal Government is still keen to maintain a close relationship with the British in the future. However, it is not yet clear which access to the financial market the British choose: London, like Singapore, could become a financial centre whose looser regulation attracts business or anchor itself to the rules of the EU area.
Money for a light bulb
The phase of confrontation with the digitalization of the financial sector is over: Fintechs pivoted to cooperation with established actors – for which Spahn himself launched a number of initiatives and contributed to bringing the banks into dialogue with Fintechs. His motto: “Talking to each other is half the battle.” Speaking several times about the subject of blockchain, Spahn pointed out that the technology, which makes transactions comprehensible and without a central authority, allows him to see far-reaching changes possible. “Blockchain can make the business model of intermediaries completely superfluous.” Thanks to digital identity management, an investor can then also transfer money “to a light bulb in Malaysia,” said Spahn with a smile. He sees a need for action in the establishment of blockchain companies in Germany. Although a large number of software developers are at home in Berlin, the companies themselves (usually via foundation constructions) are at home in Switzerland – there is the so-called “Cryptovalley” in Zug.
After the Financial Centre event, Spahn made a stopover at the first Portfolio Day of the Deutsche Bundesbank. In his opinion, the German government is still at the beginning of sustainable finance. “Everything is still very timid in comparison to the demands and wishes,” he said. “With all our strength towards green finance is certainly not our motto.” In the recent exploratory coalition talks, Green Finance had been an issue, but in the economic not in the finance department. “However, it was just about a general commitment to it.”
Spahn pointed out three areas in which the federal government is already strengthening itself for sustainable investments: the fund for financing nuclear waste management, into which the nuclear power operators have paid around EUR 24 billion, is to be managed according to ESG criteria (environmental, social, governance). Secondly, sustainability is an issue for KfW, which is owned by the Federal Government and the Federal States: “In 2016,44% of KfW’s funding volume went to environmental and climate protection measures.” In addition, KfW is Germany’s largest and the world’s second largest issuer of green bonds and an important investor. Thirdly, during its G20 presidency, which just ended, Germany fought for a stronger focus on the issue of sustainable investment.
According to Spahn, public sponsors often have different ideas about what sustainability means. “There is certainly a consensus that there should be no investment in companies that rely on child labour. It’s more difficult when it comes to climate issues like nuclear power or coal.” He himself considers nuclear power to be an important bridge technology. “Should the question of how the state invests really be politicized?” He believes that market regulation is more important: the state must ensure transparency, for example. “That would be comparable to the electricity sector: only green electricity can call itself what green electricity is.”
Spahn also made it clear that for him, sustainable investment does not only consist of green capital investment and ESG criteria. This also included the security of the investment and financial market stability. “George W. Bush’s measures to promote home ownership were intended as a social measure, but ultimately contributed to the financial crisis.” Yield is also an important aspect. Spahn has long advocated a higher proportion of equities in federal funds such as the nursing care provision fund.