Ella Fitzgerald famously sang that she loved Paris in the
springtime, and its easy to see why.
The sidewalks buzz with chatter, the weather is warm, and
the sweet scent of pastries fills the air. For the tourists
whiling away the hours in the citys cafés and
bars, there are few better ways to forget about the stresses of
work than chatting with friends in the Parisian sunshine. Yet
amid the tourists, deals are being struck and meetings are
taking place. For those relocating from London, the change in
lifestyle is stark.
It would be easy to dwell on the corporate case for Paris.
The district and national governments have worked hard to
establish an attractive regulatory environment and favorable
tax rates, and to embrace English law contracts. But these are
unlikely to be the defining characteristics shaping the lives
of the workers relocating from London.
In recent weeks the French capital has emerged as a likely
economic winner from the U.K.s vote to leave the European
Union. Thirty asset management groups have applied for new
offices or repatriation from London since the June 2016
referendum vote, according to the French Financial Management
Then there are the banks. HSBC Holdings already plans to
move 1,000 jobs to Paris. Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have
commissioned external consultants to weigh Pariss
benefits, according to a recruiter in the City, and JPMorgan
Chase & Co. which opened its first banking operation
in Paris back in 1868 as Drexel Harjes has yet to
confirm its game plan. About 70,000 London finance jobs could
be on the move thanks to Brexit, estimates TheCityUK, a trade
For executives of trading, fund management, and banking
firms that spoke to Institutional Investor, Paris
compels. Rather, Paris enchante.
Working in Londons financial hub is frantic.
Everything seems to happen in excess. Londoners work hard,
drink hard, commute hard, study hard, train hard, shop hard.
Every action has a purpose, and every minute of every working
day is in some way allocated.
When the Citys commuters pour out of Londons
transportation hubs in rush hour, tourists know to move out of
the way. Many disapproving out-of-towners loathe the purposeful
gait of City slickers, labeled the London walk. But
to locals its part of the Citys efficiency.
Paris is different. Take, for example, Gare du Nord, the
main rail terminus for Charles de Gaulle Airport and the
Eurostar train to London. Its the Kings Cross or
Grand Central Terminal of France. But although Gare du Nord has
people in abundance, they lack the urgency of travelers in
those other rail hubs.
Alasdair Haynes, chief executive officer of the pan-European
Aquis Exchange, lived in Paris for four years before returning
to London. He acknowledges the difference between cultures but
says Paris is a great place to live. Is it different?
Yes, but wherever you go in Europe, each country has its
culture, and the French, just like most other Europeans, are
very proud of their culture. If you ask people which of the
cities would they like to live in, I suspect Paris would come
pretty near the top.
The slower pace of Parisian life has its perks. Incoming
Brits will find business meetings far more delicious than they
ever were at the Citys mediocre eateries or in the
artificial, glassy environs of Canary Wharf. France boasts the
most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world: According to
the revered gastronomic guide, France had 600 in 2016, compared
with 333 in Italy, 290 in Germany, 174 in Spain, and just 163
in the U.K. (Ireland, by the way, has ten.)
Amid plenty of choice, there are some must-eats for
financial services folk in France.
Sormani, a French-Italian restaurant, is a favorite with
buy-side bosses (including Jean-Louis Laurens, former head of
Axa Investment Managers), famed for impeccable service and an
extensive wine list. Those looking to rub shoulders with
sell-siders should stop in at Taillevent, a traditional French
restaurant with two Michelin stars that is a popular haunt for
Parisian traders. Then there is Laurent, which offers seasonal
menus and a garden terrace a stones throw from the Champs
For Brits, of course, boozing is as important as schmoozing,
and Londons after-work pub culture is a key part of
corporate bonding. Step out around Liverpool Street, Bank, or
Moorgate in the summer and youll see pubs surrounded by
swarms of thirsty punters in suits. The good news for
soon-to-be-expats is that Paris can more than match London for
its watering holes. In fact, a postwork drink is as popular in
Paris as it is in Blighty, according to those who work in
France. And if Parisian café culture becomes too much,
theres even a British boozer for a taste of
home: The Pop In pub features live indie acts covering classic
rock and offering original compositions to sip your suds
Language is a hotly debated subject by lobbyists from all of
the European cities.
Most Brits working in financial services have a broad
education and a decent skill set, but the school systems in the
U.K., public and private, have never prioritized European
languages. A British Council poll conducted in 2014 found that
75 percent of Brits could not hold a basic conversation in a
foreign language; only 15 percent of the population speaks
French. This presents another challenge for those receiving, or
seeking, a relocation notice.
Parisians have a reputation for stubbornness when it comes
to speaking English. The stereotype is of a reluctance to learn
and an aversion to exercising the skill, but lobbyists for the
city are keen to stamp it out. Former Axa Investment Managers
boss Laurens is now the French asset management ambassador,
tasked with promoting the city to buy-siders in the U.K. He
says doing business in English is as easy today as it would be
in Dublin or Frankfurt, and notes recent efforts by the French
government to make English compulsory in the education system.
We now have European classes from the age of 11, and the
very young children take English classes, Laurens says.
All graduates are fluent in English, and somebody who
just speaks English can work perfectly here.
Laurenss comments are echoed by Arnaud de Bresson,
managing director of Paris Europlace, a trade group that has
been one of the key players lobbying London directors to
reallocate jobs to Paris. Yes, it has been said that
English is not widely spoken in Paris, but that has very much
changed, he explains. Many French workers are
coming back from London and abroad, and I would say that as
many people in Frankfurt or Luxembourg are now speaking English
It is true that many Parisians now have a grasp of English,
but the language is by no means universally spoken. During a
recent financial technology conference at the citys old
stock exchange, a group of fintech entrepreneurs gathered at a
nearby café. Of these half dozen individuals all
recent graduates only one said she felt she had a good
enough grasp of English to use it in a business environment.
Though anecdotal, this suggests that the linguistic picture may
not be as clear as Parisian campaigners would have you
Aside from language, there are, of course, cultural
differences. While London pubs are the traditional hangout for
workers after a busy day, corporate sports teams and activity
committees within financial companies have gained social
prominence over the past decade. In London companies commonly
sponsor staff teams in soccer, rugby, running, hockey, and even
table tennis. The trend has spawned the frequent sight of
workers in corporate kit wandering around the City after-hours,
as well as a side industry offering events, venues, and
services for these sporty bonding activities. Five-a-side
football centers, astro pitches, golf centers, and
sports clubs are widespread in London, as are the running clubs
that trot through the citys parks and gardens. Paris
offers fewer facilities in its central district, with the
exception of basketball, for which there are ample concrete
courts. For soccer addicts the citys main five-a-side
complex, Le Five, is out in the suburbs, in Porte de la
Chapelle. A British expat community has established regular
Friday night competitions, and postgame beers in the bar are
In the polls conducted by the French delegations promoting
Paris to London bosses, the city scored highest for culture.
Aside from the obvious tourist haunts of the Louvre (think the
Mona Lisa) and the Center Pompidou, there are plenty of smaller
museums and galleries. But where to begin? Well, the city-run
Musée dArt Moderne de la Ville de Paris hosts
guest exhibitions and family-friendly seminars, as well as
health and well-being workshops during the week. Yoga and Wu
Tao dance workshops can be booked on their own or as part of a
visit to one of the exhibitions. There are also parent-and-baby
classes on offer. Alternatively, there are rotating exhibitions
at the Musée Picasso, a gallery dedicated to the work
of, you guessed it, Pablo Picasso.
Those looking for a smaller, more intimate setting should
head to Place des Vosges, in the Marais district, home to the
Modus and Royal Turenne galleries. Or venture out to the art
district, in the north of the city, for artists selling
paintings, crafts, and canvases perfect souvenirs to
bring back to your former British countrymen. If manuscripts
are more your thing, the Paris Choral Society might be worth a
look: The society holds regular rehearsals and performances of
classical works, and international volunteers are encouraged to