As Brexit drives them across the pond, even as a Dutch cap on bank bonuses keeps financial firms away, Amsterdam is seeking to lure companies and the European Medicines Agency.
Including broadcasters and services firms, as they seek to lock in prime locations, the city’s top economic official is in “serious conversations” with 60 companies.
“Companies that need to spread out from London into other member states don’t want to be standing at the back of the line,” Kajsa Ollongren, 50, Amsterdam’s deputy mayor in charge of economic affairs, said in an interview at the mayor’s official residence this week.
The city of bicycles and the home of the world’s oldest stock exchange sees itself as better positioned than other European cities to attract companies even while Frankfurt is rapidly becoming the location of choice for banks like Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. The Frankfurt stock exchange has drawn the likes of Netflix and Salesforce in recent years. Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin and others are making pitches on everything from infrastructure to international schools and all of them are offering incentives and this effort by Amsterdam pits it against those cities.
“The fact that you can cycle here and don’t have to sit in a very hot subway” is an added plus for a country that can draw on its deep talent pool, is centrally located in Europe and has the right infrastructure, Ollongren said.
“In which other European capital can you get from the airport to your office by train within seven minutes?” she asked, making her case for the EU medical agency to be based in the city.
Ollongren acknowledged that banks have been deterred by the bonus cap even though they would have been lured by these elements.
The Netherlands is made stricter than other European countries by the regulation that the Dutch cap which stipulates that banks can award a maximum bonus of 20 percent of the fixed annual salary. And politicians there have been called to change it by the Dutch employers’ association VNO-NCW.
After the general elections on March 15, one of the four parties in discussions to create a coalition government is Bottom of Form
Ollongren’s party — the progressive centrist D66. Whether the bonus cap puts the Netherlands at a disadvantage is being asked by her colleagues, she said. she said that the honest answer is “yes”. Whether they want to create a level playing field would be determined by people discussing the new coalition, she said.
Still, pointing out that “the City will remain the City,” she warned against focusing too much on the banks.
“London, the City, will not empty out,” she said. “It’s not like all those banks will pick up their things and go somewhere else in Europe.”
Paying more attention to the value they’ll add to the local economy and the kind of jobs they’ll create, she said that Amsterdam would like to focus on the quality of the businesses it can lure.
Ollongren said it should not be seen as “some sort of match”, while the jostling for Brexit businesses and jobs has created a sense of cities battling against each other.
“I’m not sure you should look at it like that,” she said. “At the end of the day, companies pick the place that suits them best. And that is often Amsterdam.”
Amsterdam is put in competition with other regional cities like Bonn and Porto in Lisbon by its lobbying for the European Medicines Agency.
Ollongren is promising a to-be-built office in the Zuidas area of the city, home to companies including ABN Amro Group, NV and Akzo Nobel NV, that has “5,000 hotel rooms in the vicinity apart from a seamless transition — in which the agency can close its doors in London on Friday and open shop in Amsterdam on Monday.
(Adapted from CNBC)