Why Frankfurt residents may end up resenting London bankers

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There's little sign of a flood of London-based bankers and traders in Frankfurt yet, but the expectation that they'll arrive sometime soon hasn't gone away. When they do, it could cause problems for Frankfurt's existing inhabitants.

A report yesterday from Helaba, the German landesbank, suggested that the 25 foreign banks which have chosen Frankfurt as their base could create 2,000 new jobs by 2020 and 8,000 new jobs longer term. Given that overseas banks only employ 2,500 people in Frankfurt right now, the increase looks substantial.

While the rush of overseas bankers might be good news for anyone operating high-end restaurants or car dealerships in Frankfurt, it could problematic for other members of Frankfurt's population. Helaba notes that Frankfurt's residential housing market is already squeezed and that the situation can only get worse.

Last year, it says 5,000 new apartments were created in Frankfurt - an inadequate amount given that 30,000 new inhabitants arrived in the city between 2013 and 2015. More recent arrivals have been heading to Frankfurt's peripheral areas, but Helaba's real estate expert Stefan Mitropoulos notes that there's a long lead-time on major building projects and that the supply shortage is unlikely to be resolved soon.

All of this suggests that London bankers who are already buying Frankfurt property as a hedge against Brexit are likely to be rewarded as property prices rise. It also suggests that existing Frankfurt residents who find themselves squeezed out of the local housing market (unless they own their own homes) are likely to be less amused. Helaba notes that incoming bankers are unlikely to suffer as a result of rising prices because they will be able to afford to pay the excess and many of the new apartments currently under construction are aimed at the upper price bracket.

Last week, one German banker told us of a colleague from London who was delighted with his purchase of a 200 square metre flat 10 minutes walk from the centre of Frankfurt, with a roof garden, costing only €1.6m. "Frankfurt real estate is super-safe and super-cheap. It's the perfect hedge against the huge downside risk to London and to sterling," he said.

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