When the Brexit referendum result was announced on 24 June 2016, Europe was in shock. On the same day, the city of Frankfurt, Germany, launched a website full of information about the Rhein-Main area, clearly targeted at UK businesses panicking in the aftermath of the unexpected referendum outcome.
However, Frankfurt is not the only city hoping to profit from Brexit relocations and many believe Paris, Amsterdam or Dublin to be the more viable candidates.
With its 700,000 inhabitants 'Mainhatten' is considered too small, too provincial and too boring to do serious business with in the UK. But Germany's financial centre seems confident that cheaper office rents, a lower cost of living and its central location in Europe will convince business to move some of their employees to the city anyway.
Gearing up for post-Brexit business
Is Frankfurt punching above its weight when trying to compete with the likes of Paris, Amsterdam or Dublin? Eric Menges, CEO of Frankfurt RheinMain GmbH, would disagree. The group was specifically set up to attract business to the Greater Frankfurt region (an area where 5.5 million people live) and has already organised several trips to the UK to speak with companies thinking about relocating. Menges believes Frankfurt will profit from a hard Brexit in some form even if it is unclear how many businesses Frankfurt will be able to attract.
Why banks could prosper in Frankfurt
170 foreign banks are already located in Frankfurt as well as the European central bank and the German central bank. One of the key questions for Frankfurt is how many bankers could possibly move to the city when companies need to look for alternatives to London's financial hub. Dr Oliver Wagner, managing director of the Association of Foreign Banks believes the number could vary between a few hundred and a few thousand, a small percentage of the British financial sector.
British banker: Why I came to Frankfurt and never left
One person who knows all too well about the negative attitude towards Frankfurt is retired banker Nick Jefcoat. The chairman of the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft Rhein-Main first moved to Frankfurt 23 years ago, after working for many years in Japan. Contrary to all initial expectations he made a home here and is vocal about the surprisingly high quality of life this city has to offer: restaurants, museums, theatres and the opera attract visitors from the wider region and the whole of Germany.
A housing crisis in the making?
While many in Frankfurt hope to profit in some form from Brexit, some warn about the potential negative consequences for Frankfurt's residents. Years of building mainly expensive luxury apartments have left the housing market in Frankfurt lacking affordable rental flats. Rolf Janßen, of the Renter's Protection Association, worries that bankers moving from London to Frankfurt could drive the prices up, making it difficult for ordinary people to pay inflated rents. He speculated Frankfurt is incapable of accommodating an influx of even a few thousand people with a higher than average income.