Parisians are often stereotyped as being a little rude.
While this may ring true with anyone who has ever tried to catch a waiter’s eye in one of the city’s restaurants, yesterday it was all charm and warmth as a delegation from the French capital set out their stall to City execs.
Paris joins the likes of Dublin, Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Milan in seeking to capitalise on a restructuring of finance jobs once the UK leaves the Single Market, and the French hosted a conference at the top of the Shard yesterday to make their pitch.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and Gerard Mestrallet, chairman of the Paris-based financial services lobby group Europlace, told the assembled business leaders that Paris could offer them stability along with the benefits of being a global city.
If this wasn’t enough to lure London’s talent, Valerie Pecresse, president of the Paris region, extolled the virtues of the city’s food, culture and romantic charms, asking “when was the last time you took your partner for a weekend in Frankfurt?”
But if Paris wants to be more than a weekend hot-spot, it will have to confront some serious obstacles – both real and perceived. French President Francois Hollande has previously described financial services as “the true adversary” and while the mayor of Paris put on a good show yesterday, her other passion is taking on the likes of Amazon and Uber for “destabilising the commercial equilibrium of Paris”.
In other words, France isn’t a place that springs to mind when one thinks of an environment conducive to serving the needs of the global financial elite.
Nevertheless, the Parisians’ pitch was a pragmatic one. The vice-mayor, Jean-Louis Missika, said: “We are not here to steal business from London.”
He later added that he doesn’t expect businesses to leave the UK en masse but instead look to establish a foothold on the continent.
Paris has joined the voices from Dublin and Luxembourg who have also said that their plans to benefit from any restructuring of corporate footprints is dependent upon London remaining a global financial hub.
As our front page reports today, such a goal is entirely within the UK's reach, provided the right policies are pursued.