Financial industry

Frankfurt is Germany's undisputed financial powerhouse

Frankfurt is by far Germany's most significant banking and regulatory center, but it still has room for expansion on the international scale. The metropolis at the river Main holds a special position when it comes to banking employment. Contrary to the nationwide trend of job reductions in the industry, Frankfurt is adding positions overall.

Frankfurt is Germany's undisputed financial powerhouse


One of the peculiarities of the financial sector in Germany is its fragmentation, with several smaller centers and the dominant force being Frankfurt. The city holds a unique position, not only in terms of the density of banks and regulatory bodies, but also due to the fact that the number of banking employees in Frankfurt has been steadily increasing in recent years, while it is declining nationwide.

Ranking behind Paris and Amsterdam

However, in the prestigious annual ranking of 120 international financial centers compiled by the Z/Yen Group, Frankfurt only ranks 17th.

London, the best ranked European city, holds the second overall position, trailing only New York. In continental Europe, Paris ranks highest at 14th, ahead of both Amsterdam (16th) and Frankfurt. Among other German financial centers, Munich has made it into the top 20, moving up from 24th to 18th compared to the previous year when Frankfurt occupied that spot. Berlin remains at 26th, Hamburg has dropped from the 38th to the 43rd place, and Stuttgart has slipped from 39th to 47th. Düsseldorf and Cologne/Bonn are not to be found in the "Global Financial Centres Index 33."

Poor sentiment

Opinions about the German financial sector diverge. For instance, Theodor Weimer, CEO of Deutsche Börse, believes that not only Germany but also Europe as a whole is globally lagging behind in banking and asset management. He considers the markets too fragmented and the regulation too excessive. Currently, bank managers are also more pessimistic, as reflected in the quarterly sentiment index produced by the Center for Financial Studies (CFS). They rated the future international importance of the German financial sector significantly worse in the second quarter than before.

"A wake-up call" for Frankfurt

Therefore, Gerhard Wiesheu, President of the Frankfurt Main Finance financial center initiative, speaks of a "wake-up call." He states: "The past successes, such as the high number of banks relocating business to the Main River region after Brexit or the establishment of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), provide numerous opportunities for further growth that we should seize more boldly. Frankfurt can achieve more." CFS Director Rainer Klump, on the other hand, believes that the current sentiment is worse than the actual situation due to economic downturns.

Plenty to offer

Ulrike Bischoff, a financial center expert at Helaba, also considers it appropriate for Frankfurt to have some self-confidence. She believes that Frankfurt has a lot to offer and potential for further development with a wealth of location qualities. In intense competition among financial centers, it is crucial for the metropolis at the river Main to focus on its strengths and long-term success factors. She notes: "Frankfurt should expand its role as a pivotal banking hub in Europe and sharpen its profile as a location for significant institutions in monetary policy, banking supervision, and sustainability." With the right marketing and collaboration among stakeholders, Frankfurt can continue to grow as a "place to be in the banking world."

Characteristics essential for a sustainable positioning in the financial world, according to Bischoff, include not only banks and stock exchanges, but also financial education and research, trends in the financial industry, financial institutions, and location-specific qualities.

One in ten employees

Bischoff states that the Main metropolis remains the undisputed leading banking center in Germany, accounting for nearly 11% of German banking employment. In total, around 66.200 people, or approximately one in ten socially insured employees of banks, the Bundesbank, and the stock exchange, work in Frankfurt. These numbers do not include employees of the ECB, insurance companies, and fund management companies. As per estimations by Helaba, this number is expected to increase by 1,000 to 67,200 by the end of 2024. For comparison, ten years ago, there were 62,200 employees. Helaba has been publishing financial center studies since 2006 and will release its new forecast for Frankfurt's banking employment in the fall.

As Frankfurt gains, the number of employees nationwide declines. From 2003 and 2013 to 2019, the number of employees in banks and savings banks in Germany decreased from 740,000 and 683,000 to 629,000, according to data from the Deutsche Bundesbank, which no longer updates these statistics. The Association of Private Banks, on the other hand, defines bank employment differently and reports lower figures. However, the trend is clear: from 2013 to 2022, the number of employees in banks and savings banks in Germany has shrunk from 645,550 to 535,600, a decrease of 17%.

Munich as the second-most important German location

Overall, one-third of employees in banks, the Bundesbank, and stock exchanges work in one of the German financial centers. As estimated by Helaba, there were approximately 35,000 employees in Munich just over two years ago, accounting for nearly 6%. Hamburg/Kiel and Berlin followed next, each with more than 4%, while Cologne/Bonn stood at 3%, and Stuttgart and Düsseldorf were just below 3%.

The Statistical Office reports the gross value added by financial and insurance services in Hesse at €22.1 billion, which accounts for 17.9% of Germany's total value of €123,2 billion. Data for Frankfurt is not available, but the city is likely to have a significant share. The Statistical Office writes: "Regarding the overall economic gross value added and the gross domestic product of Germany, Hesse's share was 8.4%." The comparison of the aforementioned 17.9% with the overall value illustrates the quantitative importance of Frankfurt as a financial center for Germany.

Frankfurt benefits from its concentration of corporate headquarters, where regulatory, sustainability, and digitalization experts are brought together, as well as the establishment of significant regulatory institutions like the ISSB, which is expected to boost the city's position as a sustainability hub. Seven of the ten largest banks in Germany have their headquarters in Frankfurt. The combined balance sheets of Deutsche Bank, DZ Bank, KfW, Commerzbank, J.P. Morgan SE, Helaba, and ING Deutschland add up to €3.9 trillion, representing 35% of the total German banking balance sheet of €11 trillion. Munich is represented by HVB and BayernLB among the top 10 banks, while LBBW represents Stuttgart.

Nonetheless, the Brexit effect has been much weaker than initially expected. Instead of the previously estimated 8,000 to 10,000 positions, approximately 3,500 positions were relocated or created in Frankfurt as a result of the UK's exit from the EU. According to Helaba, 111 of the approximately 200 foreign banks in Germany have their headquarters in Frankfurt.

Supervisory authorities have also expanded their personnel in the Main metropolis. This is particularly evident at the ECB, which started with around 500 employees in 1998 and now has over 4,100 employees in Frankfurt, with approximately 30% of them in financial supervision. In addition, Frankfurt has around 4,700 Bundesbank employees, 860 BaFin employees, and 140 employees from the EU Insurance Supervisory Authority EIOPA. Hopes are also pinned on the planned European Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA), which is expected to have 250 employees in Frankfurt.