European Financial Centres in Transition

  • Dörry, Sabine (PI)
  • Hesse, Markus (Partner PI)
  • Sigler, Thomas (CoI)
  • Heeg, Susanne (Non Contracting Partner)
  • Sokol, Martin (Non Contracting Partner)

Project Details


FINCITY is a multidisciplinary research project that focusses on how major global events coincide with broader processes of economic restructuring and financialisation in Luxembourg, Frankfurt, and Dublin—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 response 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 (McCarthy and Smith, 2020), and fundamentally altered the ‘labourscape’ in favour of telework (Belzunegui-Eraso and Erro-Garcés, 2020). The project is inspired by the dual nature of current conditions in continental European financial centres. On one hand, Brexit acts as a entripetal 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 UK: 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 orkers, many of whom may never return to the office. In Europe, further decentralisation is possible if banks’ back-office staff are permanently dislocated from central offices. 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 lobal firms whose footprint 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. Based on a combination of empirical data, extensive stakeholder 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 have responded to these multiple crises and their significance for urban policies.

Layman's description

The projects seeks to discuss the future of financial market places (such as Luxembourg City) in the light of current socio-economic events, most notably the decision of the UK to leave the European Union (Brexit) and also the implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic. There is some indication that these two events or developments have contrasting implications for the centres of the services industries in general and financial market places in particular: changes associated to Brexit have made corporations to leave London, UK, and to re-locate to other financial centres such as Amsterdam, Netherlands; Praris, France; Frankfurt, Germany; or Luxembourg. The COVID-19 Pandemic has shed some light on the crowding of people (workforce, population) which is considered critical for the spread of infections; also, measures undertaken in order to stop the disease from spreading further may hinder the free flow of people or workforce, which seems essential for these services capitals. The project takes these recent developments as a starting point and aims at exploring its short and long-term implications for the financial centres. As a result, the more general pathways of urban development will be studied as well. We propose to explore these processes through the analytical lens of land markets (property), as we guess this is one of the most useful indicators not only for assessing the sectors’ demand for ’space’ (most notably office floorspace, associated buildings, districts), but also for identifying its impact on concurring sectors such as housing (in particular), and thus on urban policies in more general terms. For conducting field research, we have selected the cities of Dublin, Ireland, Frankfurt/Main, Germany, and Luxembourg City -- all three have in common that their economies are dominated by the sectors above, while they are of comparable size (small or mid-range metropolises) and facing similar challenges as of housing, mobility and urban development.
Effective start/end date1/06/2231/05/25


  • Fonds National de la Recherche-FNR


  • Financial centres
  • Geography
  • Property markets
  • Urban development
  • Luxembourg city
  • Frankfurt/Main, Germany
  • Dublin, Ireland