The Rise Of Paris

This week, the Origin team hopped over to Paris to host a drinks reception with our community of dealers, issuers, and partners. The event was very well attended – in fact one attendee told us that if we held a primary markets get together in Paris a couple of years ago, it would have been “a total fail”.

Why Paris? As we know, market participants have not been waiting for Brexit to happen (or not) to enact contingency plans. 2019 was the year of significant personnel movement from London across the Channel, and the destination for the majority of people was the City of Light.

This is true of both sales and syndicate/MTN teams across the majority of our clients. Indeed, our very own Franklin Gilot, who heads up Business Development here at Origin, is relocating to Paris to represent Origin from there.

So, it feels like a great opportunity to provide a high level profile of Paris as a financial and tech centre, specifically how things have evolved post the Brexit referendum in the summer of 2016.

From our vantage point, we’ve seen more relocations to Paris than Frankfurt, Dublin or Amsterdam. This is reflective of the larger incumbent French population here in London, which makes it “easier” for relocations to satisfy needs relating to Brexit. This, of course, is a simplification – uprooting family and moving away from colleagues and support networks is often challenging and disruptive, even if you are heading to a place you call home.

Paris has a lot going for it as a sales and trading hub. It has an established financial market, great travel links to the UK (where a lot of business will continue to be done post Brexit) and of course, world famous cultural attractions. For these reasons, names like BAML, Citi, JPM, BlackRock and many others are moving people there. One estimate puts the number of jobs moving to the french capital at a whopping 20,000. And a recent study shows more and more jobs are moving to Paris.

Of course, this is bound to present challenges with house price inflation, schooling and office space availability. So far these have been manageable, since the actual process of the UK leaving the EU has taken so long to execute. France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, himself a former banker, has been instrumental in luring firms across the channel with the promise of lower taxes and a friendlier business environment.

Macron has also played a pivotal role in attracting tech startups to Paris, and this is particularly interesting for us here at Origin, straddling as we do the complementary worlds of technology and finance. Indeed, upon taking office two and a half years ago, Mr. Macron vowed to make France a “nation of unicorns”. Since then he’s scrapped a wealth tax on all assets other than property, introduced a flat tax on dividends, made it easier to wind down companies and most significantly, created a special tech visa that makes it easier for startups to import talent from other countries. Only last month, he announced a new €5bn public-private investment fund intended to help companies scale up.

In recent years, some interesting private initiatives have launched in Paris to boost entrepreneurship and programming. The telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel financed Station F, the world’s largest startup facility, gather gathering more than 30 startup programs, 35 public administrations, 40 VC funds, 4 mentorship offices and 600 events per year. And in the past few years, Paris has also been graced by several computer programming schools, including Ecole 42 and Le Wagon. The net result is that France’s capital city has the ability to produce great programmers.

All of these measures appear to be working. In the first half of 2019, French start-ups raised €2.79bn, up 43% on 2018. While much work remains to be done, the signs are promising. Speaking anecdotally, it seems like cultures and ambitions are changing as well, with the younger generation in France less interested in traditional career paths like entering the civil service or high finance. Just like here in London, tech and entrepreneurship are seen as exciting, existentially authentic choices for smart people who want to make an impact early in their careers. France’s long standing excellence in on engineering and business education certainly helps.

There are, in fact, 38 cities by the name of “Paris” across the world – in places as diverse as the US, Sweden and even Panama! But there is only one Paris. We’re delighted that Franklin will be representing us across the Channel, providing boots on the ground in a city that continues to evolve and reposition itself as a global business venue. We wish Frank the very best of luck with his move and of course, we look forward to returning to Paris again soon.