If you live and work in banking in London, you probably don’t want to leave. – Especially for Frankfurt, which has a bad reputation among some people in the “City.”
Personally, I’ve worked in M&A for international banks in both cities. They both have their advantages and Frankfurt has more going for it than you might think. Don’t dread a move there, but don’t expect it to be like London either.
1. London’s an international city. Frankfurt’s a traditional town
London’s a global financial hub and a global city. Frankfurt is the second biggest financial hub in Europe, but you can feel the difference. Frankfurt is a lot more laid back and still retains its traditional cultural heritage. It’s also small – much smaller than London. This has its advantages when it comes to meeting up with people. However, it’s not that hard to meet people in London either – most bankers live in Zone One and the tube is a pretty efficient way of travelling.
2. London speaks English, Frankfurt speaks German
This might seem self-evident, but while London is an international city where everyone speaks English, German is still very much the working language in Frankfurt. There are some international bankers in Frankfurt who speak English, but they’re the exception, not the rule.
3. London is a cultural melting pot. Frankfurt is culturally homogenous
London is a place where different cultures come together. There are Britons, Germans, Italians. French, Americans. Australians, Asians and so on….London attracts the smartest and brightest people from everywhere and because of this you can build a brilliant network there. Frankfurt is far, far less international.
4. London is socially varied. Frankfurt is good for socializing with colleagues
London has a huge variety of bars and clubs. You can choose the more fancy West End or the more hipster East End. In Frankfurt, it’s a lot more limited. You can however, have good fun clubbing with a bunch of bankers when you finish work.
5. In London you eat at your desk. In Frankfurt you get an hour to do what you like
If you’re working in London, you’ll probably eat at your desk. For some reason, this is normal. London bankers sit there with their food and browse the web. This isn’t great: the office smells of everyone’s lunch.
In Germany, this would be considered anti-social. One hour lunches, outside the office, are standard in Frankfurt.
6. In London it’s hard to meet people at other banks. In Frankfurt, it’s easy
If you’re working in M&A in London, you’ll probably hang out with colleagues from your own bank after work. Because the finance industry is spread across the city – in Canary Wharf, the City of London and Mayfair – it can be hard to socialize with people from other firms in other areas.
In Frankfurt, this isn’t a problem. Around 90% of the meeting and greeting between M&A bankers happens in one street – the “Fressgass”. Go there, and you’ll meet almost everyone.
7. In London, you’ll pay a fortune to live. In Frankfurt it’s cheap by comparison
If you’re working long days in banking in London, you’ll probably want to live in Zone 1- close to the office. However, you’ll have to pay for this privilege. In my experience a rented flat in Zone 1 can cost double (ore more) the price of a comparable flat in Frankfurt. You’ll also end up spending a lot more in London when you go out to bars or restaurants after work.
8. London bankers are mad about sports. Frankfurt bankers are more relaxed
London bankers have a culture of playing sport and visiting the gym. In the summer, it’s not unusual to run to work. At lunch, it’s not unusual to go to the in-house gym, which can be nice if you don’t mind seeing your colleagues pumping iron. For this reason, most London banks have showers on site. There’s a lot less of this in Frankfurt.
9. In London, you’re expected to drink with colleagues after work. In Frankfurt, you go home
In London, “pub culture” is deeply entrenched. After a hard week, it’s usual to go to the pub with colleagues and have a few pints on Friday evening. There’s no excuse for avoiding this as pubs are ubiquitous in London. In Frankfurt this doesn’t happen – although it’s a ritual that the city could benefit from!
Alex graduated from the University of Mannheim and Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. He worked as an analyst in investment banking in London and now works as an M&A professional in corporate development in London. Prior to that, he gained investment banking working experience in London and Frankfurt. Alex is now dedicating his time to sharing career advice via the ‘M&Academy’ platform, where he discusses how to get into M&A, ECM, corporate development, private equity and leveraged finance.