FRANKFURT (Reuters) – “You cry twice when you get sent to Frankfurt – once when you arrive and once when you leave.”
That is the rallying cry of Germany’s financial capital as it tries to shake off its image as one of Europe’s most boring cities and woo bankers to move there following Britain’s decision to quit the European Union.
Though it is decried as a soulless city, with few cultural offerings and lacking appealing architecture, Frankfurt’s official marketing office did not wait long before kicking off an image campaign following the referendum result.
Aiming to court banks and financial institutions considering relocating staff from London, Frankfurt Main Finance set up a direct hotline for interested firms and has scheduled road shows in London and other British cities.
“We want to send the message loud and clear: “Welcome to Frankfurt. How can we help you?'” said the head of Frankfurt Main Finance, Hubertus Vaeth.
“The welcome banner is hung and Frankfurt’s doors are wide open.”
Britain’s relationship with the EU following the leave vote is unclear but EU officials have said UK-based banks and financial firms would lose automatic access to sell services across Europe if Britain does not apply vital EU principles.
Frankfurt, the birthplace of German poet Goethe, has only about 710,000 residents. Despite its glimmering skyscrapers, it appears like a sleepy village compared to the British capital, with travel times to its international airport from the city center only 15 minutes.
The city’s marketing office expects 10,000 bankers to relocate from London over the next five years, a roughly 2-percent share of all financial workers in the British capital.
Frankfurt ranked seventh in global consultancy Mercer’s 2016 quality of living report, well above London at place 39.
Others agree that Frankfurt could turn out to be an attractive continental European alternative, mainly due to its established financial infrastructure and its role as headquarters of the European Central Bank.
But with at least two years of talks ahead to negotiate British exit terms, experts have dampened hopes for any quick influx.
“The next two years will be marked by a lot of changes and uncertainties and banks will wait for things to settle down before making any major moves,” said Jan Pieter Krahnen, professor of finance at Frankfurt’s Goethe University.
(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Angus MacSwan)