Sunday 19 November 2017

Frankfurt lobby group calls for housing boost to deal with Brexit banker influx

Frankfurt Main Finance says a lack of housing could curtail Brexit-related moves to Germany.

Frankfurt sunset
Frankfurt sunset

By Kalyeena Makortoff, Press Association City Reporter

The head of Frankfurt’s financial lobby group is appealing for further housing investments just weeks after launching a fast track work permit programme to deal with an influx of workers ahead of Brexit.

Frankfurt Main Finance has released analysis pointing to rising demand for both residential and commercial property in the city in the wake of the EU referendum, but warned that the inflow of bankers could be curbed if housing is in short supply.

Managing director Hubertus Vath told the Press Association that the lobby group is appealing to investors, property developers and politicians to try to avoid a bottleneck.

He said: “We want to further encourage investment and we further want to sort of speed up some development and planning processes, particularly in the residential area, because where we will see a shortage is in residential.”

He warned that without new homes, “it could curtail (relocations), definitely”.

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London skyline

Andreas Trumpp, Savills Investment Management’s head of research for Germany, echoed those concerns.

“Frankfurt offers a wide range of affordable office space… and could effortlessly absorb a further 10,000 office workers. The inflow could only be limited by the lack of available housing.”

Mr Vath said Frankfurt Main Finance has already successfully pushed for 1,000 additional school spaces as part of its Brexit preparations and also set up a special body that allows both corporate and individual tax applications to be filed in English.

It is now rolling out a programme that helps financial services firms “fast track” their work permit applications.

“It is applicable for companies that relocate in Frankfurt and they get a bit of hand-holding by the city agencies,” he said, adding that existing infrastructure was “at its limits”.

He said that Brexit-related demand for work permits was leading to long queues, with applicants left waiting from morning but unable to have their case reviewed by day’s end.

“We can be helpful and know how to speed up the process and make sure that they’re not in line and being frustrated,” Mr Vath said.

However, he said it was not a long-term solution.

At the start of the year, Mr Vath predicted that between 12 and 20 financial services firms would be filing licensing applications in Frankfurt by the end of 2017.

At present, that number is around 16, he said.

“Clearly by the end of the first quarter 2018, it’s going to be somewhere between 20 and 25. I’m pretty confident about that.”

Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein has been one of the most vocal banking bosses to comment on Brexit plans in recent weeks.

He took to Twitter in October to note that he had just left Frankfurt and would be “spending a lot more time there”, and earlier this week raised concerns that the US banking giant may not be able to fill its new European headquarters in London due to Brexit.

Earlier this month it was reported that Goldman – which employs around 6,500 people in the UK – had signed a contract to lease eight floors of a skyscraper in the city, capable of holding 800 staff.

It is just one bank which has helped Frankfurt emerge as a main EU beneficiary of Brexit.

Standard Chartered has committed to expanding or establishing offices in Germany, while Citigroup has notified its bankers of plans to bolster its Frankfurt office, creating 150 jobs, and Morgan Stanley is on track to move as many as 200 staff.

Mizuho will join a raft of Japanese banks which have chosen the city as an EU hub, including Daiwa, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) and Nomura.

JP Morgan is taking a similar approach to Goldman Sachs by planning to spread staff across a number of European cities, including Frankfurt.

Press Association

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