European Financial Centres in Transition
FINCITY is a multidisciplinary research project that focusses on how major global events coincide with broader processes of economic restructuring and financialisation in Dublin, Frankfurt/Main, and Luxembourg City —three of Europe’s most significant financial centres. More specifically, it aims to understand how these cities and other major European financial centres have been restructured in re-sponse to Brexit— which has expelled a large number of financial services firms from the UK, and COVID-19— which has redistributed population away from major urban centres toward smaller agglomerations and fundamentally altered the ‘labourscape’ in favour of telework. Both effects may also have ramifications for urban development and planning. The project is inspired by the dual nature of current conditions in continental European financial centres.
On the one hand, Brexit acts as a centripetal force, attracting large numbers of firms and employees to Luxembourg, Frankfurt, and Dublin (among other cities). To date, 7,600 financial sector jobs and €1.5 trillion in assets have relocated from London (Jones, 2021). According to the Financial Times, Luxembourg “has emerged as one of the biggest winners from the shift out of the United Kingdom: 72 companies, nearly all of them in financial services announced plans to relocate their EU operations from London” (Stafford, 2020). Similar figures support the migration of firms and their employees to the Dutch and German financial hubs.
On the other hand, COVID-19 acts as a centrifugal force, with strong evidence suggesting that the cumulative impacts of telecommuting, firm restructuring, long-distance commuting, and firm decentralisation are likely to cause de-agglomeration. Within Europe, a recent EU report found that while only 15% of employees had teleworked before the pandemic, 25% of jobs were ‘teleworkable’ (Fana et al., 2020). Of the EU member states, Luxembourg has the highest proportion of jobs fit for telework (Fana et al., 2020). Similar patterns have emerged in the United States, where cities such as Austin, Texas, and Boise, Idaho, have absorbed a large number of Silicon Valley firms and workers, many of whom may never re-turn to the office. In Europe, further decentralisation is possible if banks’ back-office staff are permanently dislocated from central offices.
Our research programme
To explore the socio-spatial impacts of the current state of affairs, this project first builds an updated profile of each financial centre by investigating how the corporate geography of banks and financial services firms has changed over the past five years. Firm-level data will be compiled from various proprietary databases with a view to understand how Brexit and COVID-19 have reoriented the character and composition of advanced producer services within each city. Second, the reorientation of each city’s services agglomeration will be related to its spatial impact through a detailed investigation of local property markets as key indicators.
The nature of commercial property has changed considerably with a pivot to teleworking, larger floorplates (allowing for distancing) and the requirements of global firms whose foot-print extends far beyond the walls of their offices. Residential property has also been brought into sharper relief, with a greater preference for working from home, meaning that proximity to urban centres is potentially less important than space. This may affect small-but-global financial centres more significantly than global metropolises.
Based on a combination of empirical data, extensive stake-holder interviews and focus group meetings, we interrogate which changes may play out in each market’s property sector, and how these relate to both global and industry trends. Finally, given the importance of regulation, the project concludes by investigating how policymakers and urban planners have responded to these multiple crises and their significance for urban policies and planning.
FINCITY seeks to hire a post-doc in global urban studies (contract with UL; duration 3 yrs) and a PhD-student in urban studies or economic geography (contract with LISER, duration 3+1 yrs). Pls consult the recruiting portals of the two institutions, see the links above. Applications are accepted online only. Both institutes offer a highly inspiring international work environment.
PIs: Prof Dr Markus Hesse, UL, Dr Sabine Dörry, LISER. Partners: Assoc. Prof Dr Thomas Sigler, University of Queensland, Australia/UL, Prof Dr Susanne Heeg, Goethe University Frankfurt/Main, Germany, Prof Dr Martin Sokol, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.
Duration: 1 June 2022 – 31 May 2025. Funding provided by Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR), Luxembourg/CORE.