Americans don't do Frankfurt. So says Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. In an interview with the Le Figaro, Blankfein said Goldman will be opening offices in Frankfurt and Paris post-Brexit because, "many Americans would prefer living in Paris than Frankfurt for various reasons." In other words, Goldman's senior Americans want their own Parisian enclave.
However, one senior U.S. banker who spent over 20 years in London says Goldman bankers' Parisian pretensions are misguided. - Frankfurt has much going for it, Americans just need to get to know the German city a little bit better.
"I’ve worked extensively in Frankfurt and would feel comfortable living there," he says. "All business people in Frankfurt are fluent in English, the countryside just outside Frankfurt has great castles and vineyards, and the people are friendly. The lifestyle is very healthy - believe it or not, not all the food is sausages and beer!"
He suggests that his American colleagues only like Paris because it's older and it's bigger. "Paris is a larger, more cosmopolitan city. The population of Paris is ~2.2 m versus Frankfurt at ~750k. Americans who've lived in London, like Paris because of its size - they think it's going to be like London. Paris also has great architecture, whereas Frankfurt has very few old buildings because of the war and it feels a lot more modern."
However, Paris also has its disadvantages. He points out that comparatively few French people speak English. That the food isn't as good as it's supposed to be, and that Paris has had terrorist attacks and isn't necessarily safe. "It's a sprawling city that's difficult to get around."
Paris is seen by some U.S. bankers as a kind of extension of London. "Americans like Paris because it's just a hop away from London on the Eurostar," says another American banker in the City. "But the bonuses there tend to be lower - you're going to get paid less."
Having also spent time working in Frankfurt, he too says that U.S. bankers should be more receptive to the German city. "If you live in the countryside outside Frankfurt, you can have a better quality of life than you can in the countryside outside Paris. People in Frankfurt seem to be fitter and healthier than people in Paris because of all the wonderful places to go and take exercise. - You don't get those in Paris. It's nicer for families."
Blankfein told Le Figaro Goldman's bankers will be able to choose where they're located. If he's right, there's a risk that U.S. staff (who are typically senior management) who are currently in London will occupy the Paris office, leaving Frankfurt to the juniors and mid-ranks.
Senior U.S. bankers with families will, however, need to defer to their spouses when choosing their locations. Here, Paris is likely to win out. " Americans see Paris as quite romantic, while Frankfurt is seen entirely as a business center," says another U.S. finance professional."- There is no musical titled, "An American in Frankfurt" for a reason."
Another says his wife doesn't want to move out of the UK and will insist he changes jobs if he's compelled to go. And if it comes down to a choice between Paris and Frankfurt? He says she'd almost certainly choose Paris: "She's not aware of the beautiful countryside outside Frankfurt. I guess we ought to visit soon."
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