Page 1 of 2

Ella Fitzgerald famously sang that she loved Paris in the springtime, and it’s 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 city’s 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 Association (AFG).

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 Paris’s 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 group.

For executives of trading, fund management, and banking firms that spoke to Institutional Investor, Paris compels. Rather, Paris enchante.

Working in London’s 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 City’s commuters pour out of London’s 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 it’s part of the City’s 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. It’s the King’s 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 City’s 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 stone’s throw from the Champs Élysées.

For Brits, of course, boozing is as important as schmoozing, and London’s after-work pub culture is a key part of corporate bonding. Step out around Liverpool Street, Bank, or Moorgate in the summer and you’ll 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, there’s 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 by.

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.”

Laurens’s 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 in Paris.”

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 city’s 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 believe.

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 city’s 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 city’s 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 encouraged.

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 d’Art 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 get involved.

Single Page    1 | 2