If Britain leaves the EU, thousands of finance jobs could disappear from London. – Bob Parker, senior adviser at Credit Suisse, puts the potential departures at 45,000. One day soon, people currently working in London could therefore find themselves working in Frankfurt, and they might find Frankfurt a surprise.
Contrary to expectations, life in Frankfurt isn’t necessarily easier than life in London. Yes, the cost of living is lower, but pay is often less. And the hours? The hours are the same.
“I work 70 to 90 hours a week,” says one junior at a European bank in Frankfurt. Another investment banking junior says 60 hour weeks are “good weeks”, that 80 hour weeks are usually the “minimum” and that, “100 hour to 120 hour weeks are standard when on a live deal and tight timetable”. Banish the thought, therefore, that working in Frankfurt is a lifestyle choice: “I am definitely working too many hours,” one junior tells us.
Working in Frankfurt as a banker can also feel more parochial than working in London. London is a ‘rainbow city’ – our research suggests that around 30% of front office staff in the City are not British. In Frankfurt, 20% or less are not German. “80% of my colleagues are German,” says one banking junior. “Approximately 90% of my colleagues in the Frankfurt office are Germans,” echoes another.
The upshot of this is predictable: when you work in Frankfurt, daily life in the office is conducted in the German language, even though the work itself is often done in English.
The pay for bankers in Frankfurt
Despite working hard, Frankfurt bankers are paid less than bankers in London. The most recent annual reports for Citi, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America in Germany suggest that their average pay per head at major US banks in Frankfurt is as follows.
By comparison, Goldman Sachs International (based in London), pays an average of €483k (£375k, $530k) – in other words, 40% more.
After German income tax, the Frankfurt-based single Goldman banker on €348k ends up with around €200k (£155k). After British income tax, the London-based Goldman banker on £375k ends up with £209k (€269k).
Living in Frankfurt is cheaper
Needless to say, money goes further in Frankfurt. It ranks 98th on Mercer’s cost of living index; London ranks 12th.
There’s a reason for this. The junior Frankfurt bankers we spoke were paying anything from €700 (£540) to €1,000 a month on rent. One of the juniors was paying €700 including all utility bills. In London, a room in a house share in zone 1 will typically cost you twice that, with bills on top.
Frankfurt bankers aspire to live in the Westend district, a popular residential area near the city centre. Rent is comparatively high here, however. “If you want some more action Sachsenhausen is another great option as there are quite a few bars and Applewine bars/ restaurants in that area,” advises one junior. Nordend and Bornheim are also considered acceptable addresses.
But bankers are everywhere
Most junior bankers don’t have time for this stuff however. “I’m usually working at weekends,” says one. “I’m working too much to get out, and when I do everywhere is full of bankers,” complains another.