In busi­ness, as in ro­mance, the French are masters of se­duc­tion

The Daily Telegraph - - Saturday Comment -

‘Were your par­ents ar­chi­tects, be­cause you sure are well-built?” says the se­duc­tive car­toon woman. “Nice line. Can I of­fer you a drink?” says the well-built car­toon Ger­man. He then in­tro­duces him­self: “Furt. Frank Furt.”

As pro­mo­tion­als go, it’s hard to find worse than this hammy, awk­ward, toe-curl­ing ef­fort. It’s the brain­child of Frank­furt Main Fi­nance, a body tasked with pro­mot­ing Frank­furt as a fi­nan­cial cen­tre. With Brexit cast­ing un­cer­tainty over the City of Lon­don, its con­ti­nen­tal ri­vals are mak­ing moves to poach busi­ness.

Un­for­tu­nately, Frank­furt’s rep­u­ta­tion as a truly te­dious place to live is clearly hin­der­ing its ef­forts. Gold­man Sachs boss Lloyds Blank­fein might claim to en­joy the weather, but his bankers are cross­ing their fin­gers that they don’t have to be the ones to move there.

This, ac­cord­ing to Frank Furt’s sales pitch, is very un­fair. “I en­joy

France’s propo­si­tion for banks is sim­ple: move here and we’ll cut your taxes

dishes from all over the world,” he says: “Mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture. High-end shop­ping suites. Bustling farm­ers’ mar­kets… Ex­cit­ing events.” The woman per­sists: “Aren’t you re­ally provin­cial?”

“What!” he ex­claims. “Do I look like a farmer?”

Ger­many’s bustling fi­nan­cial jug­ger­naut is home to the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, Mr Furt boasts, be­fore adding, im­plau­si­bly: “Dozens more banks are on the way!” If Frank­furt wanted to make it­self look am­a­teur, sec­ond-rate and des­per­ate, this ad­vert would be a good place to start.

Lon­don shouldn’t get too com­fort­able, though, be­cause when it comes to mer­can­tilist eco­nomic pol­icy, the French re­ally know what they are do­ing. Rather than pro­duc­ing em­bar­rass­ing videos, France has a sim­ple propo­si­tion for banks: move here and we’ll cut your taxes. And if you don’t, we’ll make it im­pos­si­ble for half of your busi­ness to op­er­ate. And it has been ham­mer­ing home these mes­sages up and down its gov­ern­ment and reg­u­la­tory struc­ture for two years. That’s what a real com­mer­cial threat looks like.

Frank Furt’s dis­mal chat-up lines are un­likely to woo bankers

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