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CFS survey: German financial industry now clearly expecting a “no-deal” Brexit

The new UK government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to leave the EU on 31 October, with no agreement in place. Now the majority of the German financial industry is also expecting a “no-deal” Brexit. This was shown in a recent survey by the Center for Financial Studies. Of those surveyed, 55% consider a disorderly Brexit to be probable, and 31% even see it as very probable. Only 11% are more optimistic in this regard.

The majority of respondents (63%) believe the German financial sector is sufficiently prepared for a “no-deal” Brexit, while 36% see a need for further measures.

“Considering how likely a ‘no deal’ Brexit has become, the survey results are rather worrying, as there is little time left for market participants to make adjustments,” Professor Volker Brühl, Managing Director of the Center for Financial Studies, interprets the survey results.

The EU has ruled out any renegotiation of the Brexit deal and should not offer any further compromises in the hope of avoiding a “no-deal” Brexit. This opinion is held by the majority (70%) of the German financial sector. Nonetheless, the respondents also agree (61%) that the financial markets have not yet fully anticipated a “no-deal” Brexit scenario and that market distortions may therefore occur.

“The survey indicates that the financial industry is prepared to accept the potential drawbacks of a ‘no deal’ Brexit if it means finally obtaining clarity about future framework conditions,” Professor Brühl adds.

There is also a broad consensus among respondents (88%) that if the UK leaves the EU in a disorderly fashion, more business activities and employees will be relocated to continental Europe.

Hubertus Väth, Managing Director of Frankfurt Main Finance e.V., highlights: “Should there be a Hard Brexit, which the majority of respondents assumes is the most likely scenario, it will be important for the Financial Centres in continental Europe to demonstrate their efficiency. If we succeed in cooperating across borders, Europe could emerge from the crisis even stronger.”

 

 

CFS Index remains on downward trend

Financial industry records a significant decline in investment volume growth / Financial institutions report rising earnings growth accompanied by weaker revenue growth and fewer job cuts

The CFS Index, which measures the business climate of the German financial sector on a quarterly basis, falls by 2.5 points to 109.9 points. The index thus remains on a downward trend that began a year ago. The current decline can be attributed in particular to significantly lower growth in the investment volume of the financial industry. In addition, the financial institutions report lower revenue growth, though this is offset by higher earnings growth and fewer job cuts. The service providers also indicate a low level of revenue growth. This is coupled with a decline in earnings growth, which is at a very low level compared to the previous year. The service providers are optimistic about the current quarter.

“The declines in the core indicators of revenue, earnings and investment, with overall employment remaining unchanged, underscore the difficult situation faced by the sector, where the deteriorated outlook is now affecting the service providers as well as the banks,” 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, repeating its decline of 3.6 points from the previous quarter, yet remains at a positive level of 119.7 points. The latest decrease reflects the assessment of the service providers. Their index value falls by 11.8 points to 121.8 points. After dropping sharply in the first quarter, the assessment of the financial institutions has been revised upwards again. Their sub-index rises by 4.4 points to 117.6 points. This means the assessments of the financial institutions and the service providers have largely converged.

Dr. Lutz Raettig, President of Frankfurt Main Finance e.V., emphasises: “The differing trends of financial institutions and service providers appear to reflect a wait-and-see attitude. We will probably not know which direction we are heading until after 31 October – the next possible Brexit day.”

Revenue growth of financial institutions declines

The growth of revenues/business volume among the financial institutions declined in the second quarter. The corresponding sub-index falls by 3.0 points to 112.0 points. A further slight decline is expected in the current quarter. The revenues of the service providers, at 110.9 points, remain almost unchanged at the low level of the previous quarter (-0.3 points), though they remain optimistic regarding the current quarter.

Considerable earnings growth among financial institutions / Falling earnings growth among service providers accompanied by a positive outlook for the current quarter

Earnings growth among the financial institutions was positive in the second quarter, as anticipated. The sub-index rises by 3.4 points to 104.4 points. By contrast, the sub-index for the service providers falls by 3.7 points to 103.5 points, which is very low compared to one year ago (-24.2 points). As with their revenues, the service providers remain optimistic about their earnings growth in the current quarter. The financial institutions are anticipating a decline in earnings growth.

Financial industry investment volume is down

The financial industry reports lower growth in investment volume in product and process innovations in the second quarter. The corresponding sub-index for the financial institutions falls by 5.8 points to 106.1 points. The service providers register a decline of 4.9 points to 109.9 points. For the current quarter, the financial institutions are expecting another slight decline; the service providers are more optimistic.

Fewer job cuts at financial institutions / Employee growth among service providers remains constant

Job cuts at the financial institutions have eased slightly. The employee numbers sub-index therefore rises by 2.5 points to 98.7 points. An almost unchanged level of job cuts is expected in the current quarter. The service providers report stable employee growth, with the corresponding sub-index remaining unchanged from the previous quarter at 112.4 points. Employee numbers among the service providers are expected to increase slightly in the current quarter.

 

Eschborn for Business explores an interesting range of topics – Location Magazine 2019

The 2019 edition of the magazine Eschborn for Business has been published. This year’s bilingual magazine, published annually by the Frankfurt Main Finance member, focuses not only on the title topic Pharmacy and Life Science as a growth industry in Eschborn, but also on the changes in the job market. Trainee marketing and the aspirations of the start-up scene play an important role here.

Pharma & Life Science: an efficient Health System for a balanced life

The importance of pharmacy and life science is growing – the healthcare sector has long been one of the main drivers of technological innovation. In this issue, you will find out why Eschborn is a key business location for pharmaceutical and life science activities in Hessen and what makes it particularly attractive for companies like Kaneka Pharma or Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics GmbH. “Hessen is one of the most efficient regions in Europe and is therefore also well ahead in international competition,” says Dr. Rainer Waldschmidt, CEO of Hessen Trade & Invest GmbH. The aim is to maintain and expand this innovative and fast-growing image of the region. Additional interesting interviews, reports and events on this title topic and the advantages of the city of Eschborn can be found on pages 6 through 9.

In addition to the ever more important health sector, marketing to junior staff and especially trainees are decisive factors for future-oriented transformations. This and the effects of economic networks are discussed in more detail in the section “Economy” (pages 20 to 37). The start-up economy is also attracting more attention. How the city of Eschborn, a Frankfurt Main Finance member, supports young companies and employers is also addressed in this section.

Diversity of the City of Eschborn

The magazine offers additional complex topics. How the compatibility of family life and career can be shaped in Eschborn and which improvements Mayor Mathias Geiger sees in the new exit off the A66, are examined more closely on pages 36 through 47.

The 2019 issue of Eschborn for Business also covers the various leisure activities. Find out more about restaurant recommendations or sports tips in the following articles.

  •  “Sports events for the whole family” – keeping the whole family on their toes
  • “Cosy Places, Ideas for Lunch Break” – Interesting Locations, Delicious Food
  • “With the job bike. Without traffic jams” – A cheap high-tech bicycle, also for leisure time
  • “Spectators from all over the world live” – The cycling classic Eschborn-Frankfurt

We hope you enjoy reading!

Frankfurt Main Finance wins five new members for the Financial Centre Initiative

Frankfurt am Main – The Financial Centre Initiative Frankfurt Main Finance e. V. welcomes five new members, growing its ranks to 64. Bloomberg L.P., Consileon Business Consultancy GmbH, Moody´s Deutschland GmbH, Refinitiv and Schalast & Partner Rechtsanwälte mbB join the initiative as sustaining members.

Through their membership, the representatives from academia, the financial industry, public administration and the up-and-coming FinTech sector express their solidarity with the Financial Centre, take up current topics of the finance sector and demonstrate their commitment to the growing domestic and international importance of the Financial Centre Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main region.

“We warmly welcome our new members and their commitment to the Financial Centre Frankfurt. With each new member, the affiliation with Frankfurt Main Finance becomes more attractive for existing members as well, and the voice of the Financial Centre gains significance,” says Dr. Lutz Raettig, President of Frankfurt Main Finance. “Through our growth, we can offer a diverse industry network, the efficiency of which also benefits the Financial Centre. The steady growth is a recognition of our daily efforts to represent and position the Financial Centre around the world.”

New member Bloomberg L.P. is the world’s leading provider of financial information and financial news. “Frankfurt is our largest location in continental Europe. Membership of Frankfurt Main Finance expresses our commitment to this important and growing Financial Centre, and we look forward to the collaboration with the other members of the initiative. As a global company with 176 locations around the world, we are particularly keen to contribute to furthering Frankfurt’s international network,” says Friederike von Tiesenhausen, Head of External Relations DACH Bloomberg L.P.

Dr. Joachim Schü, Managing Partner of Consileon Business Consultancy GmbH, said concerning his company’s accession to Frankfurt Main Finance e.V.: “Especially with the successive decline of London’s importance as a Financial Centre due to Brexit, Frankfurt’s importance as a strong economic area and centre of European monetary policy is increasing considerably. By becoming a member of Frankfurt Main Finance e.V., we are clearly committed to Frankfurt as a business location, which is underscored by the recent relocation of our Frankfurt office to the heart of the city. We hope to contribute all our finance sector expertise to the association and are looking forward to the exchange with other members and stakeholders.” With Consileon Frankfurt GmbH and syracom AG, the Consileon Group bundles considerable expertise to advise banks, insurance companies, FinTechs and other financial service providers.

Carl-Johan von Uexküll, Managing Director Germany & Switzerland at Refinitiv, confirms: “With our membership in Frankfurt Main Finance, we are demonstrating our confidence in the Financial Centre Frankfurt. At the same time, we want to actively contribute to the positive development of the city and we look forward to the exchange with all other financial market actors in Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main region with optimism and enthusiasm.”

Dr. Andreas Walter, Partner and Head of Banking & Finance at Schalast, says, “We see ourselves as a deeply rooted part of the culture of the city of Frankfurt am Main, the most important continental European Financial Centre. Against this backdrop, we are particularly happy and proud that, in addition to advising numerous companies already based in Frankfurt, we have been able to support many foreign companies in the financial industry in opening and establishing their German or European headquarters in Frankfurt. Precisely because banking supervisory issues are, from a legal perspective, coming increasingly to the forefront and FinTech companies from all over the world are interested in Frankfurt, we are all the more pleased to become a formal part of Frankfurt Main Finance.”

Euro-Clearing after Brexit – Hubertus Väth in BBC Radio 4 Interview

The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament just released a statement on the future regulation of Central Counter Parties (CCP). The euro clearing by CCPs is an important part of the financial architecture of the European Union following Brexit. At the moment, the majority of transactions is handled by a London-based company. Currently, it is up for debate whether this will continue to be the case. In an interview with Dominic O’Connell on BBC Radio 4 Hubertus Väth, Managing Director of Frankfurt Main Finance, discusses the recent ECON statement, which is an indicator for how the EU might eventually decide.

While it is not certain what the consequences of Brexit will be for the financial centre London, it can be assumed that euro denominated interest swaps will be under heightened supervision by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and the European Central Bank. Second to London Frankfurt is the most important centre for euro clearing and generally, having more than one euro clearing institution is of importance as it allows for more stability in times of a crisis. While a relocation might have some economic impact, research conducted by asset managers found that a relocation promises to be beneficial to pensions.

Listen to the full interview!

1 Year TechQuartier – FinTech scene in Frankfurt

The Tech Quartier celebrates its 1-year anniversary. Lars Reiner, founder and Manager of Ginmon, Thomas Schalow, founder of AsiaFundManagers.com, Andreas Mang from easyfolio and Christopher Schmitz, author of the EY-study „Germany FinTech Landscape“ take a look at the FinTech scene in Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main-Neckar region.

The FinTech scene in particular continues to grow in the financial centre. These are the findings of the EY study Germany FinTech Landscape – Insights into the respone of financial institutions to FinTechs and inter-FinTech collaboration, which was published in September 2017.  Of the 300 German FinTechs, 73 alone are located in the Rhine-Main-Neckar region. 19 of them have settled in the TechQuartier, between Messe and Tower 185.

Frankfurt offers the best conditions for FinTechs

Lars Reiner, founder and managing director of Ginmon, a Frankfurt-based FinTech company, explains why Frankfurt is a particularly suitable location for FinTech. It enables private investors to invest in an automatically managed ETF portfolio. “The Frankfurt region combines important location factors that are unique in Europe in this combination. The most important financial institutions and regulatory authorities have settled here in the Main metropolis. As a technology company, Ginmon also relies on IT specialists to constantly optimize existing algorithms. The region can exploit the potential of numerous universities, especially the TU Darmstadt.”

Thomas Schalow, founder of AsiaFundManagers.com, shares this view: “Frankfurt has an established financial ecosystem with many relevant national and international players. Especially for B2B-FinTechs this is a decisive factor. Brexit will further increase the importance of the city as THE financial centre within the EU.”

FinTech cooperates with banks

The results of the EY study also show that FinTech’s links with traditional companies in the financial sector are becoming increasingly close. Christopher Schmitz, author of the study and partner for EMEIA Financial Services at EY, explains, “FinTechs and Incumbents are increasingly working together in digital ecosystems. This creates new opportunities and models for the industry.”

A glance at the partners of the TechQuartier shows this. Deutsche Bank, Frankfurter Sparkasse and Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen are among the handpicked but established partners who round off the diverse mix of the world’s best start-ups. The exchange between the “big ones” and “newcomers” is promoted and desired through various networking events and workshops in the TechQuartier. Here, people work together instead of against each other.

This means that Frankfurt can also hold its own internationally, says Andreas Mang of easyfolio, who offers private customers individual investments on a digital basis, “There is more space than just one or two FinTech hubs in Europe. In addition, the Brexit discussion could also make Frankfurt more interesting for international start-ups.”

Thomas Schalow of AsiaFundManagers.com also draws an international comparison, explaining, “If the strengths of AsiaFundManagers.com are used consistently and quickly, in the long run, Frankfurt can also hold its own internationally. The advantages of the location are obvious: an existing financial ecosystem, the position as the most important financial centre within the EU and the infrastructure. However, I also have a direct comparison with other FinTech ecosystems such as London and Singapore. Unfortunately, Frankfurt is still years away from them.”

Short distances distinguish Frankfurt as a location

Nevertheless, Frankfurt has become home to him. He likes the mixture of Hessian down-to-earthness and internationality and is always looking forward to returning to Frankfurt. The founder of FinTech particularly appreciates the short distances between international investment companies, which can be covered well with Vespa or the subway. It is also the short distances that Lars Reiner of Ginmon at the Mainmetrople enjoys. “Frankfurt is the city of short distances. From our office, we can reach important partners in a few minutes. This makes it possible to work effectively,” Reiner explains. “In addition, a broad network has been established in Frankfurt by promoting and inspiring each other.”

Nevertheless, there are still some things that could be done better in Frankfurt. Lars Reiner von Ginmon wants affordable office space and the expansion of public transport. Thomas Schlaow also has concrete wishes like “networks, low-cost office space, simple regulation, venture capital and easy access to B2B partners. All this should go hand in hand. Andreas Mang from easyfolio sums up what all three FinTechs think, simply stating, “We feel very comfortable in Frankfurt.”

The complete EY study can be found here.

 

Rational implementation of the central EBA award criteria supports relocation to Frankfurt

Frankfurt am Main – The European Commission published its assessment of the applications for the seat of the European Banking Authority (EBA). As a result of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU), the EBA must move its seat from London to an EU country. In addition to Frankfurt, seven other cities submitted applications for the EBA. Frankfurt Main Finance welcomes this commendably transparent application process. The EU Commission documents can be found here.

The financial center initiative Frankfurt Main Finance (FMF) believes there are substantial grounds for relocating the EBA in the Financial Centre Frankfurt. “When discussing settling EBA in London, two main arguments stood out. First, that London was one of the leading financial centres. Secondly, London could point to its regulatory competencies. These arguments hold for Frankfurt more than any other city within the EU. This is also confirmed by the majority of banks’ decisions to move to Frankfurt,” says Hubertus Väth, Managing Director of Frankfurt Main Finance.

“As the home of the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), and the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB), the Financial Centre Frankfurt is already the capital of European financial market supervision. Settling the EBA in a location other than Frankfurt would impose needless fragmentation on this unique ecosystem rather than strengthening it. As a direct consequence, this would also impose additional expenses on the banks, already suffering from the costs of Brexit,” Väth continued. “From our point of view, any rational implementation of the award criteria can only speak for relocating the EBA to Frankfurt.”

Contact Person for Media Inquiries:
Dr. Ralf Witzler
Frankfurt Main Finance e.V.
COLOSSEO
Walther-von-Cronberg-Platz 16
60594 Frankfurt am Main

Telephone 069 94 41 80 – 50
Telefax 069 94 41 80 90
ralf.witzler@fmfinance.de

Frankfurt Main Finance
Frankfurt Main Finance is the voice of the leading financial centre in Germany and the euro zone, Frankfurt am Main. The initiative has more than 40 members including the State of Hesse, the cities of Frankfurt and Eschborn, and dozens of prominent actors in the finance sector. Through their membership and engagement, they all demonstrate their close relationship to Frankfurt and desire to position Frankfurt amongst the top national and international financial centres. Frankfurt Main Finance leverages the influence of its members to advocate for the Financial Centre Frankfurt and provide high-caliber dialogue platforms. For more about Frankfurt Main Finance and its members, please visit www.frankfurt-main-finance.com.

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One year after the UK referendum – a Brexit balance

The surprise came overnight, and there was a rude awakening. At 2 A.M., when the first forecasts were published, it still looked like Britain would remain in the European Union. But a next look at the news reports at 6:20 A.M. made it clear: the population of the UK decided to leave, even if the majority was only 52:48. A year has passed since TV cameras from all over the world stood in front of the ECB and journalists wanted to know what was now going to happen and what Frankfurt thinks about it all. London, Brussels and Berlin immersed themselves in consultations. Nigel Farage, the head of the UKIP party that had made Brexit its goal, stepped down. Shortly after, the British Prime Minister David Cameron followed suit.

Our message: Brexit is bad for the UK, it is bad for Europe, and it is bad for Germany. Frankfurt Main Finance (FMF), the voice of Germany’s financial centre, hoped for a different outcome to the referendum, but was also prepared for the results. When these came in, that was the moment to flick the switch. The campaign to promote and advertise our location on the River Main was ready and waiting: as soon as the official referendum result was announced, an information website about Frankfurt went online, a telephone hotline for questions about Brexit was activated, a statement was published on the FMF website, and a campaign started at the same time on Twitter and LinkedIn to spread the word about the merits and advantages of the Financial Centre Frankfurt. The message was clear and relevant: “Welcome to Frankfurt”.

 

Once-in-a-century chance for Frankfurt

On June 24th, interview requests came in from all over the world. The media struggled to understand what had happened and how it would be changing the world we live in. FMF gave interviews in 15-minute intervals: on the phone, in the microphone, on camera, and yet again on the phone… The Brexit vote dominated the news all around the globe. Being in a position to talk while others were still treading their way through channels of coordination and approval gave Frankfurt a key advantage right from the start.

Despite the obvious negative repercussions, Brexit brought the opportunity of a century for the city of Frankfurt and the region. The financial architecture of the European Union was, and up to now, is focused on London. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU – and that was clear straight away – would lead to a relocation of responsibilities and business in the direction of the EU, resulting in a more multipolar financial world. London will undoubtedly remain a major financial centre, but financial centres in the EU will gain enhanced influence – Frankfurt above all. We at Frankfurt Main Finance have never tired of pointing out that it’s not a question of weakening London as a financial centre through our efforts; rather, it’s primarily about installing a stable financial sector within the EU, about building a bridge between London and the EU that starts in Frankfurt.

EBA and Euro clearing are in focus

On day one after the referendum, FMF ventured to make the well-founded estimate of 10,000 jobs that Frankfurt could gain within five years as a result of Brexit – with two essential preconditions: the European Banking Authority (EBA) moves to Frankfurt, as does the lucrative euro clearing market. While the seat of the EBA quickly became a general topic of discussion, it took months before the exceptional importance of euro clearing became clear to the wider public – a rather unwieldy topic at first glance.

The processing of derivative transactions via central guarantee entities, so-called Central Counterparties, and their supervision by the regulator is one of the main ramifications of the financial crisis. When the financial world plunged into crisis, there was in part complete uncertainty as to where the risks were, i.e. who held the actual risks festering in their books at the time. This insecurity led to fear, and the resulting loss in confidence threatened a collapse of the entire system.

Euro clearing: Frankfurt is currently the only real alternative to London

The decision as to where euro clearing operations should be carried out has been recognised as one of the key decisions for shaping the future financial architecture of the EU and Europe, and the issue has been discussed in this vein. And once again, Frankfurt is justifiably confident that it can win the day as the location of choice. Today, in addition to London, only Frankfurt – with the EUREX Clearing subsidiary of Deutsche Börse AG – has a valid licence within the EU and possesses the technical prerequisites, tried and tested in daily operation, to take over euro clearing operations from the City of London. Currently, Frankfurt is already the market leader in the clearing of exchange-traded derivatives. On the other hand, London leads by far in the clearing of euro-denominated OTC derivatives.

This lucrative business will not be able to remain in London as it has. That’s something we stressed at the time and have stressed ever since. After all, the European Central Bank, directly after its founding, wanted the supervisory of such a critical key function for the stability of European financial markets and the euro in its sphere of influence and control. Already now, there are first signs of business moving to Frankfurt, and companies are increasingly testing the clearing opportunities in the Financial Centre Frankfurt.

More uncertainty in the wake of the UK elections

A lot has happened since June 23rd last year. To mention just a few milestones: the British Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, resigned. He was succeeded by Theresa May. She, who for all intents and purposes counted among those in the remain camp, surprised everyone in her first policy address, with the wording used ever since to illustrate the British posture towards future negotiations with Brussels: “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

The so-called cliff-edge Brexit – the running out of the negotiations on withdrawal scheduled for two years without an agreement being reached – came into view and became the most probable outcome. On March 29th, 2017, the United Kingdom formally requested withdrawal pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. As a result, Theresa May set the countdown in motion for the two-year negotiation period. A few weeks later, she again shocked the world by calling new elections to the House of Commons for early June. The professed goal was to receive a strong mandate for negotiations with Brussels. The calculation didn’t pay off. May and her party are now weakened, with incalculable repercussions for the Brexit process, for financial market participants, and for financial centres.

Frankfurt and Germany offer stability

If, from a European point of view, the result of the UK parliamentary election is interpreted as “a glass half-full”, then a lot of things come into the range of possibility again: even a new referendum with an open end. And even the UK remaining in the EU is no longer completely out of the question, albeit hardly likely.

If we interpret the “glass as half empty”, we are then dealing with a weak government that is only capable of making a few compromises in the upcoming negotiations because it lacks a broad mandate and a robust majority in the UK Parliament. A breakdown of negotiations and even a new election within the two-year period are conceivable. The negotiation programme, which is already ambitious to say the least, seems simply impossible to complete. Extensions, interim solutions and deadlines will probably be the result.

One thing remains certain: the decisions made by companies and by the financial and the real economy, on both sides of the Channel, must now be made under an even greater cloud of uncertainty. This speaks for Frankfurt, and it underlines the strength of Germany and Frankfurt as a refuge of stability and predictability.

Frankfurt exploits its pole position

In a host of banks and across the financial sector, Frankfurt is frequently discussed as a potential candidate for the relocation of companies or divisions. Above all, the Financial Centre Frankfurt boasts a stable economy and stable pro-European political conditions, with an excellent infrastructure, a large number of well-trained workers – especially from the financial sector –, a relatively cheap rental index and cost of living, and a high quality of life.

Metaphorically speaking, all this has brought Frankfurt onto the pole position in the race for the chances in the wake of Brexit. And the Hessian metropolis has been doing full justice to its prominent role up to now. This is shown by the successes achieved so far. Already, a Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean and Swiss bank have decided in favour of Frankfurt as their main location in the EU. Goldman Sachs is planning to double its workforce in Frankfurt and Standard Chartered has recently announced its intention of expanding its office in Frankfurt due to Brexit. Around 20 banks are currently in the later stages of talks about either locating or expanding their operations in Frankfurt.

The metaphor of a race also makes another thing clear: the clear winner is uncertain until the finish line is crossed. Frankfurt must continue to promote its merits and advantages and continue to address its weaknesses, rising to the occasion to capitalize on the once-in-a-century chance before it. Ultimately, a number of financial centres will certainly profit from Brexit, but the Financial Centre Frankfurt has every opportunity to become the financial metropolis of the European Union.

“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.

Hessian delegation on Brexit tour in London – a travel report

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.