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FinTech location Germany set for growth

Germany’s segment of emerging technology companies operating in the financial services sector (FinTech) is increasingly successful in establishing itself as a dynamic and diversified cluster on its own steam. This is one of the key findings of the recent study “Germany FinTech Landscape” carried out by auditing and consultancy company EY which, together with Frankfurt Main Finance, analysed the German FinTech sector and outlined additional opportunities for its promotion. According to the study, there is a clearly discernible trend among financial institutions to respond more vigorously to the challenge posed by the products and services offered by FinTech companies. The majority of the ten biggest banks are today investing in and/or cooperating with FinTechs. The study also shows that the business models of the FinTechs are becoming more mature, and that the companies are entering the next development phase, e.g., through cooperative ventures with each other, in order to strengthen their market position sustainably.

In the first half of the year, the number of FinTech companies in Germany rose by five per cent year-on-year to 295 (2016: 280). The inflow of capital had already reached 307 million euros in the first half of the year, whereas the FinTech companies in Germany collected 400 million euros for the full year 2016. The number of deals also went up, as did the average size of the deals, rising slightly from 7 million to 7.3 million euros.

While absolute growth rates may have levelled off slightly, consistent positive momentum persists for all key metrics. This showed that the FinTech landscape in Germany continued to be on an encouraging path, said Jan-Erik Behrens, co-author and partner at EY: “The trend we are observing here in Germany is headed for another record year, and it impressively demonstrates the innovative power of Germany as a location, with differing regional strengths.”

FinTech sector shifts focus, with business models gaining maturity

The German FinTechs are increasingly moving in on the core functions of the financial services providers. This applies, for example, to payment systems via the Internet or mobile devices (Payments), loans (Lending), but also to offerings for the property sector (PropTech), the insurance industry (InsurTech), the investment sector (InvesTech) and electronic marketplaces (Financial eMarketplaces & Aggregators). Approximately 67 per cent of the new FinTechs come from these core segments, 33 percent are start-ups in the field of Enabling FinTechs, which includes financial and process control software (Processes & Technology), financial data analysis and regulatory management services (RegTech).

The study reveals that there has been a shift in FinTech activities. The segments that had been strong growth drivers in recent years were InvesTech, Financing & Funding and InsurTech. In the first half of 2017, however, there was a very high level of activity in the PropTech area, which is probably due in part to the robust real estate market in Germany, as the study assumes.

Berlin and Rhine-Main-Neckar are the leading FinTech locations in Germany

The regions of Berlin and Rhine-Main-Neckar in particular are consolidating their status as FinTech hotspots within Germany: Berlin currently boasts 80 FinTech companies, while 72 corporations are active in the Rhine-Main-Neckar region. Munich, the third-ranked FinTech location in Germany, is a distant third, with 45 FinTechs based in the Bavarian capital.

The study confirms that the Rhine-Main-Neckar region, led by Frankfurt, is making significant progress towards establishing itself as the leading destination for settlement of FinTechs. The study identifies the special strengths of the Rhine-Main-Neckar region as being events & networks, as well as in infrastructure. Numerous incubators, accelerators, investor meetings and networking initiatives have been initiated and launched successfully. However, the region still has further potential for growth in terms of image and financing opportunities. “International investors continue to focus on London or Berlin,” Behrens notes. “For this reason, the FinTech community needs to work on its international visibility, so as to attract foreign investors as well.”

Amongst the trends that will influence the development of FinTech in the future, the study suggests that Brexit –the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) –is likely to enhance the appeal of GermanFinTech centres. Like many financial institutions that have already decided to relocate business units from London to the EU, and especially to Frankfurt, FinTech companies are likely to follow suit.

“Frankfurt’s strong appeal to banks makes the region even more interesting for FinTechs,” says Hubertus Väth, managing director of Frankfurt Main Finance. “The EU’s leading financial centre is well placed to attract FinTechs and become a leading location for young, innovative and agile companies. It is a matter of further enhancing the location’s appeal to FinTechs. Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main-Neckar region are facing global competition, and for the foreseeable future London is likely to remain the benchmark in Europe against which company founders will judge us. In particular, we still need to improve in terms of our openness to cooperation with company founders, the social acceptance of failure and subsequent new starts, and the tax treatment of venture capital losses sustained.”

Financial institutions becoming increasingly active in the FinTech segment

The growing presence of FinTechs in the financial sector has prompted banks and other financial institutions to launch various initiatives in an effort to respond to the challenge posed by FinTechs. Nine of the ten largest banks in Germany have already entered into co-operative ventures with FinTech companies; some of them have invested in FinTechs themselves, such as Commerzbank via its investment vehicles Commerz Ventures and Mainincubator, or Deutsche Börse via db1 Ventures. “The banks are closely monitoring the FinTech companies and their solutions – they cooperate with the start-ups and in some cases invest in them directly. However, they still have some catching up to do in the development of their own innovative solutions and products,” observes Christopher Schmitz, co-author and partner at EY. The banks’ current initiatives are still isolated and largely uncoordinated responses to the FinTech challenge. An extensive range of services on a digital platform, where both own products and those of external service providers are offered, would be an appropriate response to FinTechs – banks are working on it, but as yet there has been little by way of tangible added value for customers.” Such digital ecosystems could also be created in co-operation with FinTechs. The DZ BANK Group’s travel bank, with its Bankomo Smartphone Banking product, is in the process of establishing such an ecosystem.

FinTechs cooperating with FinTechs

While financial institutions are still busy working on finding an appropriate response to the FinTech challenge, more and more FinTechs are expanding outside their core market segment, Schmitz observes. In doing so, they are increasingly relying on partnerships with other FinTechs. It is also noteworthy that the more mature FinTechs are already attempting to build their own ecosystems around their core product portfolios. This can be clearly seen in examples such as N26, which have rapidly expanded their range of services by co-operating with other FinTechs. The PSD2, which will be establishing access for third parties to payment accounts from 2018 onwards, in combination with the expected further opening-up within the framework of “open banking” efforts, is paving the way for the digital platform economy in the financial services sector. Competition with established financial institutions will therefore intensify, according to Christopher Schmitz: “Financial institutions should now consider strategies that will be appropriate to the competitive environment and establish their digital ecosystems with recognisable added value for customers, in cooperation with innovative players.”

The study is available as a pdf document here.

Crumbs or Pie? How much will Frankfurt’s property market benefit from Brexit?

A recent study from Deutsche Bank Research has just been released which outlines the potential effects of Brexit on Frankfurt’s property market. The study examines the Financial Centre Frankfurt’s office and residential markets, current and future pricing trends, as well as trends in demand and availability. Furthermore, the analysis from Deutsche Bank compares several European financial centres, showing that Frankfurt is in several ways an obvious and affordable choice for financial services relocated from the United Kingdom.

Executive Summary

“In view of the high level of political uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, it will be some years until the size of the Brexit pie, i.e. the relocation of companies and employees, can be determined fully. Regardless of the final outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the EU, the city of Frankfurt is likely to benefit.

Frankfurt is already continental Europe’s main financial hub, and compared to other European cities, it can boast a range of additional advantages such as low rents and residential property prices, good infrastructure and a highly dynamic economy. However, considering the strengths of its European and also non-European competitors, Frankfurt will end up with only a piece of the Brexit pie.

Frankfurt’s property market would gain considerable momentum even if only a relatively small number of British companies and employees moved here. Growth in employment in the wake of Brexit should stimulate demand for office space, thus contributing to a reduction in vacancies and rising rents in the office market close to the city centre. Following the referendum on Brexit, we have raised our average rent increase expectations in the top segment to over 2% per year by 2020 (double what had previously been anticipated for the 2018-2020 period).

Bottlenecks have existed in the housing market for some years. A large demand overhang – the shortage of housing runs to several tens of thousands of homes – and a lack of undeveloped land are the main reasons why prices have risen by around 25% since 2009. An additional Brexit effect could drive prices up significantly. The rule of thumb in this context is the price per square metre increases by EUR 25 for every 1,000 missing homes. Assuming additional demand for 5,000 homes, residential property prices will increase by EUR 125 or around 4% compared to current levels.”

The complete study from Deutsche Bank Research can be downloaded here.

Financial Centre Frankfurt emerges as major winner of Brexit

Germany’s financial industry is in firm agreement that the Financial Centre Frankfurt will profit from a British exit from the EU, although the outcome of the British vote largely came as a surprise to the industry. The potential impacts on the German economy are also regarded as neutral to positive. These were among the results of a survey of financial institutions and service providers in the Financial Centre Germany. Securities trading and settlement in the Financial Centre Frankfurt will receive a particular boost, according to 78% of respondents. Just over half the survey participants believe the European Banking Authority (EBA) will move from London to Frankfurt. Regarding potential shortages in Frankfurt in case of an influx of business, 72% of the surveyed financial firms are concerned about adequate living space.

“The survey results confirm that many financial market participants had not expected the Brexit outcome at all. This surprise effect is reflected in the high level of stock market volatility we can expect to see in the coming months,” Professor Volker Brühl, Managing Director of the Center for Financial Studies, interprets the results.

For almost all companies surveyed (95%), the Financial Centre Frankfurt emerges as the major winner. In addition, just over two thirds see Paris as another beneficiary of a British exit. 15% expect Amsterdam to profit. Just 6% see a positive effect for London. Hardly any respondents expect to see Milan or Madrid benefit, but one third expect positive impacts on other financial centres.

For almost all companies surveyed (95%), the Financial Centre Frankfurt emerges as the major winner. In addition, just over two thirds see Paris as another beneficiary of a British exit. 15% expect Amsterdam to profit. Just 6% see a positive effect for London. Hardly any respondents expect to see Milan or Madrid benefit, but one third expect positive impacts on other financial centres.

“Frankfurt was well prepared for a Brexit. We will make every effort to take advantage of this once in a century chance. It is clear to us that London will maintain its position as the central financial centre. We hope that the Financial Centre Frankfurt will become the bridge between London and the Eurozone,” explained Hubertus Väth, Managing Director of Frankfurt Main Finance e.V..

When asked in which business areas the Financial Centre Frankfurt could benefit in particular, 78% of respondents pointed to securities trading and settlement. Half the participants see opportunities for the areas of asset management and corporate banking, followed closely by professional services (43%). By contrast, only 7% named retail banking in this regard.

“The results reveal the market participants’ high expectations about the future role of the Financial Centre Frankfurt. Yet other financial centres are also hoping to benefit. I therefore anticipate stiff competition between various locations, so it will be crucial to highlight Frankfurt’s specific strengths to top decision-makers,” adds Professor Brühl.

It is unlikely that the European Banking Authority (EBA) will be able to keep its headquarters in a country outside of the EU. However, it remains to be seen where the EBA will choose as its next location. The majority of the German financial industry (57%) believes the EBA will move to Frankfurt. However, 33% of respondents expect the EBA to relocate to another city.

The German financial industry is also anticipating certain bottle-necks in case business activities shift from London to Frankfurt. Almost three quarters of those surveyed (72%) point to a shortage of living space; half (53%) are concerned about having enough qualified personnel; 27% believe the transport infrastructure may not be sufficient; 22% point to the availability of office space. By contrast, only 11% see Frankfurt’s IT infrastructure as a potential bottle-neck.

Majority of the financial industry in favour of limiting Britain’s access to the EU interior market and expects a Brexit to have neutral to positive impacts on the German economy

In the opinion of most financial institutions and service providers surveyed (68%), the EU should not grant Britain unrestricted access to the EU interior market after a Brexit. By contrast, 22% advocate not introducing any restrictions in spite of a Brexit. Around half the respondents (48%) regard the potential impacts of a Brexit on the German economy as neutral, while 35% see them as positive. Just 15% are anticipating negative impacts.

The results are based on a quarterly management survey of around 400 companies 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.

BCG Study: Frankfurt Most Attractive Destination for London’s Bankers

A recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) examines financial centres which could be viable alternatives to a post-Brexit London. Nearly 360 decision makers from banks in the United Kingdom, USA and Germany evaluated nine potential locations on fourteen criterion, including but not limited to infrastructure, business environment, stability, lifestyle factors, access to markets and institutions. The results of the online survey, conducted in June 2016 before the UK’s EU referendum, shows the Financial Centre Frankfurt am Main leading the ranks. Dr. Wolfgang Dörner, Senior Partner and Director of BCG’s Frankfurt office, explains that “the economic and political stability in Germany combined with access to a highly qualified talent pool make Frankfurt am Main a leading choice in location.” According to the study, around twenty percent London’s financial services jobs could shift to other global financial centres. Uncertainty still prevails for most in London’s financial centre, but one thing is certain: Frankfurt is ready and well positioned to welcome those in need of a new home.

 

Press release from Boston Consulting Group (German).

On the Continent Financial Centre Frankfurt Pulls Ahead

Frankfurt has taken the lead amongst the financial centres in continental Europe. In their 10-year anniversary study, Financial Centre of Frankfurt – Making Further Headway, Helaba economists found Frankfurt to be ahead of other European financial centres. Frankfurt especially leads in terms of institutions like the European Central Bank, outstanding IT-infrastructure, comparably low rent and cost of living and the excellent transportation network.

The Financial Centre Frankfurt scored particularly well in two core areas. First, the city has made substantial progress in terms of financial research and teaching, even gaining in international stature. The combination of Frankfurt’s Goethe University and Frankfurt School of Finance & Management offers a top-quality range of teaching and research opportunities. Next, concerning trends in the financial sector, digitalisation is the dominating theme. Technological change in the finance industry is being primarily by FinTechs and large internet corporations. Efforts in the continued expansion of Frankfurt and the surrounding region as a German and European FinTech hub have not gone unnoticed. Helaba’s Chief Economist and Head of Research, Dr. Gertrud Traud explains, “For Frankfurt to maintain and develop its position, expanding the city’s status as the German and Continental European fintech hub as well as further strengthening its intellectual infrastructure in respect of a financial centre’s capacity for innovation will be of crucial importance.” One significant achievement in this area will be the forthcoming FinTech hub, slated to open in September 2016.

In their current assessment of the financial centres of Frankfurt, Paris and London, Helaba’s economists applied five core criteria, which they consider indispensable for an international financial centre to position itself successfully in the long term. These are: banks, stock exchanges, finance-related teaching and research, trends in the financial sector as well as location-specific qualities.

Download the complete study.

Study the Future: first Bachelor’s programme with concentration in FinTech

Beginning in the winter semester of 2016/17, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management will offer a new concentration, Digital Innovation and FinTech, in their Bachelor’s in Business Administration. The launch partner and initiator of this first of its kind study programme is Germany’s FinTech Group AG, who will provide 50 percent scholarships for 20 outstanding students. In return, students will receive a traineeship with FinTech Group where they can begin to gather practical industry experience.

“These IT driven innovations are creating enormous potential. Here in Frankfurt, this is especially true for FinTechs,” explains Professor Dr. Udo Steffens, President of Frankfurt School. “Now we have created the first degree programme that prepares young people to take advantage of these products and services’ opportunities. FinTech Group has proved to be a competent sparring partner in the development of this programme. The cooperation will absolutely be a benefit for our students.”

The new concentration is the concept of FinTech Group CEO Frank Niehage. He explains, “In order to secure the future of digitalisation in Germany’s financial sector, we will require committed and well educated employees, especially in Frankfurt. Only with them will we be able to realise our growth and market opportunities. We are excited to have found such an excellent partner in Frankfurt School, with whom we were able to efficient and effectively implement the concept for the first FinTech degree programme. Our larger, shared goal is to offer students diverse career perspectives and to invite other companies to participate in this.”

To provide the students even more motivation, FinTech Group plans to offer permanent positions to the top three students in each graduating class. Frankfurt School introduced the new concentration at their biannual recruiting event, Bachelor Day, where FinTech Group was also on present with an information stand.

The bachelor’s programme in Business Administration with a concentration in Digital Innovation and FinTech will last seven semesters and be offered in a three-day model. This means that students will attend lectures for three days of the week and have three days in which to gain work experience. Frankfurt School hopes to be able to pair students with additional companies as interns, work students or trainees. The programme will begin on August 19, 2016 and the application deadline is June 30. Tuition is EUR 6,650 per semester, half of which will be subsidised by FinTech Group.