Tobias Vogel made a career for himself in London’s financial district. After Brexit he returned to Frankfurt and is now on the Board of UBS Europe SE in Opernturm. What does he think about his new home and how does he view the region?
Mr Vogel, why did UBS decide to make Frankfurt its hub for EU business?
That was a fairly simply decision. We considered: Where is the bank already strong, where are the general conditions best? It was relatively obvious that only Frankfurt could fit the bill.
What general conditions do you mean?
There are several factors that play a role: the size of the market, the volume of business, regulatory considerations, not to mention the entire financial market eco-system. What is the infrastructure like? What are the fiscal conditions like, and so on?
How many other employees also came to Frankfurt from London? And what were their first reactions like?
The decision did not exactly meet with enthusiasm but neither did we have a single instance of someone not coming with us. All in all, we are talking about a low three-digit number. It was more of a problem settling people in other locations.
You yourself had already spent four and a half years in Frankfurt…
Yes, I started at UBS Deutschland in 2004 before being chosen to work in London in 2009. We were located downtown in Stephanstrasse and took the decision back then to move to the Opernturm. I was able to watch the tower being built from my living room window although I had already relocated by the time UBS moved in.
Now you are located high up in the Opernturm and live with your family in Frankfurt again. How does that feel?
I have always liked Frankfurt, especially the cosmopolitan feeling that the city and the people really do thoroughly exude. So, I would say Frankfurt is a city that is easy to settle in and where you are given a good welcome.
What would you tell your employees to convince them of Frankfurt’s qualities?
The quality of life here is really very high. There is a lot of parkland wherever you look, everything works, the infrastructure is excellent, and so is the health system. If you combine all these factors, then FrankfurtRhineMain has a really strong advantage over many other regions. Even though Frankfurt does not play in the same league as London, Paris or Moscow. But I’m also seeing a new trend.
Before the pandemic some employees would have preferred to be in larger metropolises. Now they say: Oh, we would prefer to be in smaller metropolises after all. Something Frankfurt is also profiting from. In the last 12 months I’ve had many such inquiries.
And what about the behavior of younger people who come straight from university?
They go where the jobs are and where they have good career opportunities. Years ago, especially in investment banking, careers were made via London. Now – and once again due to Brexit – continental Europe also has an advantage. So, I think the pendulum is swinging back.
In a different context you once suggested that Frankfurt should position itself more strongly as a commuter city. Why?
Because there is probably no other city where you can reach the airport as quickly as in Frankfurt – and that includes using public transport.
Do you have something like a favorite place in Frankfurt or the region?
The Opernplatz, right on our doorstep. Name me another city where you can eat as well as here at a central location. In most other cities you get some sort of tourist stands that you just don’t fancy. Or the bridge at the ECB with the Hafenpark, Frankfurt really feels like a big city there. I also find the Rheingau very, very beautiful.
So, everything is ideal? Or do you see room for improvement?
Naturally, lots of people who come here initially have to deal with the bureaucracy. That’s an area where Frankfurt could do better.
Any ideas? Frankfurt could set the tone by offering everything in German and English. That would surely be a popular move among many of the people who are not from Germany. And Frankfurt is the only city apart from Berlin, I think, where you could do that.