In the months following the U.K.'s Brexit vote, Europe's secondary financial centers have offered themselves up to the banking industry, primping and preening in the hopes of winning over firms leaving London. Dublin has bragged that it's the “closest you’re going to get to London and the UK,” an apparent pitch to lazy monolingual Americans. German officials have boasted that Frankfurt – despite being “something between a cemetery and a backwater country” – has very clean air.
France has put its own unique spin on its pitch to financiers.“Tired of the fog? Try the frogs,” billboards at Heathrow airport beckoned. “We’re rolling out the blue-white-red carpet,” a Paris politician enthused.
The cute stuff isn't going to work on Jamie Dimon. To woo JPMorgan, France is going to have to make a banking career as terrifyingly tenuous in Paris as it is in London. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Hollande met with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive James Dimon in late October and asked how France could lure finance jobs away from London after Brexit. Mr. Dimon’s message was blunt: The chances that banks would move more employees to France were slim unless the country softens its strict labor laws.
Mr. Hollande—who had yet to announce he wasn’t seeking re-election—reassured Mr. Dimon that change would come. But it would happen under his successor, he said.
It would be a tough sell to the French public. Attempted labor law reforms last year sparked huge protests across the country. And French finance minister Michel Sapin has sworn against creating a “special status for finance” in the books.
That special status would probably include allowing companies to fire bankers more easily (which you would think a nominally socialist government would secretly kind of appreciate). It's a promise that Frankfurt has held out to prospective Brexit refugees. “You can surely waive strict dismissal rules for those who earn a significant amount of money,” a German official told Bloomberg.
Without such a change, it's unlikely that many JPMorgan bankers will be mumbling parlez-vous anglais anytime soon. As the bank's France head Kyril Courboin told Reuters in November, “It's certain that today we would not move thousands of people to Paris where we would find ourselves facing very, very protected employment contracts.” Otherwise, the bank would be thrilled to use Paris as a place to house a bunch of bankers whom they can immediately start firing willy-nilly, as is customary in the enlightened financial hubs of Manhattan and the City.
It's too bad for JPMorgan's current London bankers, who might rather find themselves in Gay Paree than, say a Hessian cemetery. But at least Paris's existing financiers can breathe a long cigarette puff of relief.