Financial Centre Initiative Resonates Worldwide

FMF knows how to make use of expertise and appreciation in all matters and interests of the financial industry

Lutz Raettig

By Dr. Lutz Raettig, President of Frankfurt Main Finance

This month, Frankfurt Main Finance (FMF) will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary – not without pride of what has been achieved, not without self-criticism as to what could have been done better, and not without respect for what foreseeably still lies ahead of us – but also with confidence and well-founded and justified hopes.

FMF has now been the voice of the Frankfurt financial centre for a decade. This does not only mean the City of Frankfurt, but the region as a whole. The initiative to establish the association is attributed to former Prime Minister of Hesse Roland Koch and the former Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt, Petra Roth. Both wanted to remedy an obvious deficiency. After all, according to a very apt analysis by “Börsen-Zeitung” in August 2008, what was lacking – unlike the situation in France or in Great Britain – was an effective, overarching marketing drive for the national financial centre. Another factor in this important and so vital industry for a highly developed economy like Germany was the lack of an independent and clearly audible mouthpiece.

The purpose of the association, as formulated in its founding charter, logically and primarily was to reinforce Frankfurt’s position and that of the Rhine-Main region as a business centre and, in particular, as a location for financial services in international competition. A task that those responsible have been pursuing over the last ten years and have not lost sight of to this day.

“Frankfurt Main what?” This is how the already mentioned article of this newspaper managed to pinpoint the probably most common response to the question concerning Frankfurt Main Finance – appropriate and provocative in the year of its foundation. Today, ten years later, it can be claimed with all justification, backed up by figures, that the financial centre initiative meets with a worldwide response, is appreciated as a competent contact in all matters relating to the financial industry and knows how to benefit from this for positioning the location as such.

This certainly did not happen automatically. One example: Frankfurt Main Finance was ready when Brexit triggered an absolute storm in the European map of the financial industry literally overnight. In the early hours after the officially announced outcome of the Brexit referendum, of all European financial centre initiatives FMF was the first to raise a response, succeeding in drawing the attention of the world press alone. Interviews were given every quarter of an hour.

This elevated FMF to the position of a highly coveted contact. Until today, FMF has been quoted in over 90 countries in the world in just under 6,500 articles in almost 2,000 different media in connection with Brexit alone. The media equivalent value achieved is in the region of 100 million dollars.

No Simple Task

However, in the early years after its foundation, the task at hand was to establish the association, set up work flows, establish topics and work through the financial crisis. It was important to find resonance at all, to be of relevance and to raise money to this end. This was only possible by broadening the membership base. It is never an easy task to collect private money for the public good. This was even more difficult in our foundation phase.

All of us can recall August 2008: the financial crisis had almost reached its peak with the failure of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers. The financial industry was busy reducing its risks and avoiding expenditure like the plague. Therefore, we are all the more grateful to our members, the twelve founding members and some 50 members who have joined us since. Without them, we certainly would not exist today. Many thanks!

The financial crisis and the course it took laid down the topics not only for the media, but also for FMF. To this day, it is a key interest of the financial centre initiative to regain trust and confidence lost in the financial industry, to draw attention to the indispensable services of the financial sector for the welfare of a state and its societal relevance, as well as to raise interests of budding talents for the industry as such.

Additional topics included the following: first of all, RMB Clearing, then Fintech, Regtech, Insurtech, Legaltech – the settlement, promotion and financing of young start-up enterprises in the region that transfer digitisation to the processes of all these industries. In this way, not least thanks to the efforts of FMF, it was possible to establish Frankfurt as a fintech cluster alongside Berlin, virtually at the very last minute. It goes without saying that the region justified this trust and confidence and has since regained a great deal of lost ground. Whereas at the beginning we were asked whether we knew that fintechs would compete with the established banks, today “Coopetition”, a term combining cooperation and competition, has become quite common: it has a secure future, much like sustainability. We are just as willing to lend the Green Finance Cluster our voice as well as many other invaluable initiatives.

“FMF has now been the voice of the Financial Centre Frankfurt for a decade. This does not only mean the City of Frankfurt, but the region as a whole.”

However, the last two years have been characterised by Brexit, by the possible impacts of Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and, immediately associated with this, the changing role of Frankfurt as the key financial centre within the EU. Brexit brought Frankfurt into direct competition with other financial locations in Europe, after it was clear that London would foreseeably surrender its role as the leading financial capital within the EU. One of the immediate consequences of Brexit was a self-reflection of Frankfurt and the region on the strengths and advantages of the city and its surroundings.

The level of cooperation with the various institutions fostering economic development, with state and municipal policymakers, as well as with consultants, lawyers and other players at this location has become closer and more efficient in recent years. This is beneficial for the work of FMF and the financial centre. An entity that is all too frequently forgotten is the supervisory sector. Yes, it is true to say that German regulators are a strength of this financial centre. The watchdogs are internationally perceived as competent, clear, challenging and reliable.

Despite the financial centre’s well-founded self-confidence, it was a wise decision not to be aggressive or even divisive when it came to competing for the relocation of jobs from the Thames to the Main River. Frankfurt wants to build bridges rather than tear them down. “Welcome to Frankfurt”“ and “Let’s build a new London Bridge” were the mottos of our campaign with which we competed for banks to settle here following Brexit, a process that is still ongoing. This orientation has certainly proved its worth.

A huge success story

Until today, 25 banks have decided to establish or expand business in Frankfurt, and jobs will be next to follow. The importance of the financial metropolis is growing. Undoubtedly a huge success story. However, it is an achievement that needs to be secured and extended if possible. A task in which the FMF will assume its role.

An anniversary is not only an occasion to celebrate, but also an opportunity to say thanks. This expression of gratitude by the FMF goes to all our fellow campaigners and critics. And of course we are also grateful to our football club, Eintracht Frankfurt. With the three Frankfurt Main Finance Cups in the years 2014 to 2016, we succeeded for the very first time in reaching a broader public in the region and – a matter that is close to our hearts – perhaps it was also possible in this context to finally bring the financial centre and the Eintracht a great deal closer again. If our football club now manages to play an enduring leading European role, that would be quite overwhelming. I now wish to close by quoting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, one of Frankfurt’s most famous sons: “It’s not enough to want to do something – it also needs to be done.”