The UK continues to be Europe’s most attractive location for foreign direct investment (FDI) into financial services – and has accelerated its lead over other European markets – according to EY’s latest Attractiveness Survey for Financial Services.

The UK attracted 108 financial services projects in 2023 – an increase from 76 projects in 2022 – and has extended its lead over second-placed France, which secured 39 projects in 2023, down from 45 in 2022. 

Germany came in third place, recording 38 financial services investment projects in 2023 – seven more than in 2022. In fourth place, Spain’s 17 projects were down from 31 in 2022.

A bar graph that shows the total number of European financial services investment projects from 2014 – 2023. Three other bars show the number of financial services investment projects into the UK, France and Germany across the same period. 

Total financial services FDI across Europe grew to 329 projects in 2023 from 292 projects in 2022 – an increase of 13% year-on-year. This growth outpaced overall (financial and non-financial) European FDI project growth, which saw a 4% decline during the same period, and contrasts with other professional services sectors, such as tech / digital and business services, which both experienced year-on-year project number declines of 19% and 27% respectively.

The UK is now home to a third (33%) of all European financial services FDI projects, having boosted its market share from 26% in 2022. By comparison, France and Germany each secured 12% of Europe’s financial services FDI projects, and Spain secured 5%.

UK records increase in ‘new’ financial services projects and reaches highest market share of new projects in a decade

Alongside the expansion of existing projects, the number of new financial services projects across Europe and the UK reached its highest level since 2019, rising to 233 projects in 2023 from 215 projects in 2022. The UK recorded 85 new financial services projects in 2023, representing a 25% increase from the 68 projects in 2022, and resulting in the UK market share of new financial services projects rising from 32% in 2022 to 36% in 2023 – the highest level in a decade. In comparison, Germany attracted 32 new projects, up from 12 in 2022, and France secured 22 new projects, down from 26 the previous year. 

A bar graph that shows the ‘new’ financial services investment projects into Europe from 2014-2023. Three other bars show the number of ‘new’ financial services investment projects into the UK, France and Germany across the same period. ‘New’ projects represent a new footprint for firms and is a recognised means of assessing a country’s investment dynamism and ability to attract fresh investors.

Job creation linked to financial services FDI increased throughout Europe in 2023, particularly in the UK, followed by Poland and Portugal. Of the projects that disclosed headcount numbers (both new and existing projects), 12,675 jobs were created through financial services investment projects across Europe in 2023 – an increase of 18% from 10,708 in 2022. In the UK, 5,019 jobs were created in 2023 – a sharp rise of 93% from 2022 (2,603 jobs) – meaning the UK generated 40% of all jobs created in Europe last year. 3,259 jobs were created in Poland, 1,340 in Portugal, 1,243 in France, and 418 in Spain.

Anna Anthony, EY UK Financial Services Managing Partner, comments: 

“The UK didn’t just maintain its lead as the most attractive European financial services market last year, it extended it significantly. Even through challenging macroeconomic conditions and geopolitical uncertainty, the stability of the UK’s financial services sector has ensured foreign investor confidence remains strong.

“However, competition is fierce – both from European peers and further abroad – and increasing market attractiveness must be a top priority for both industry and government. Efforts to boost attractiveness should build on our strengths and focus on what matters most to investors; including shaping future frameworks to drive innovation, leading on gold-standard regulation, and attracting the best local and international talent.”

London remains the main centre for FDI, with more than double the number of projects than Paris

London remains the leading European city for attracting financial services FDI, securing 81 projects in 2023, up from 46 in 2022 (a 76% increase). London’s total number of financial services projects in 2023 was more than double that of second-placed Paris (31 projects), which saw an annual 11% decline (35 projects in 2022 to 31 projects in 2023). Madrid placed third, also recording a fall from 22 projects in 2022 to 11 projects in 2023. Fourth-placed Milan similarly saw projects fall from 16 in 2022 to seven in 2023.

In terms of securing ‘new’ projects, London attracted the highest number in 2023 (69), followed by Paris (18), then Frankfurt (12), Madrid (10), Amsterdam (8) and Lisbon (8).

However, survey data of investor sentiment finds that Paris is London’s second biggest rival after New York, and investors ranked it above London as the most attractive European city for future financial investment over a three-year horizon.

The US remains Europe’s main source of FS FDI, with the UK the leading recipient

The largest source of financial services investment into Europe in 2023 was again the US, with projects up 15%, from 79 in 2022 to 91 in 2023. This was the highest proportion of US-backed projects in the last decade and represented 28% of all financial projects into Europe. The UK was again the leading recipient of US investment, recording an 81% increase, from 21 projects in 2022 to 38 projects in 2023. Second placed France secured 15 projects from the US in 2023, an increase from 13 projects in 2022.

Omar Ali, EY EMEIA Financial Services Managing Partner, comments: 

“While FDI in tech and business services sectors fell across Europe last year, it continued to rise in financial services – even amid challenging macroeconomic conditions and geopolitical uncertainty. Foreign investors remain drawn to the trusted capabilities, expertise and skills found in Europe’s major financial centres and place value on the region’s broad business ecosystem that also connects them to leading advisory, legal and tech services. Our future-looking sentiment research finds that investors not only remain confident in Europe’s financial centres today, but that they are looking to increase investment in the region over the next three years – in both established and emerging financial markets.”

The European cities that investors surveyed believe will be the most attractive for financial services foreign investment in the next three years are Paris (40%), London (33%), Barcelona (23%), Zurich and Lisbon (both 20%).

Looking to the future, investors remain confident in the UK and affirm London as most attractive UK region for financial services investment

Further to the European FDI data, a global financial services investor sentiment survey in 2024 examining future investment attractiveness of Europe found that:

  • The UK is seen as the most attractive European country for financial services investment in the coming year (40%), followed by France (30%), Germany, (23%) and Spain (20%).
  • Three in four (75%) investors think the UK will retain or improve its level of financial services attractiveness over the next three years.
  • 57% of investors said they plan to establish or extend financial services operations in the UK over the next year – down from 67% in the 2022 survey.
  • The European cities investors believe will be the most attractive for financial services foreign investment in the next three years are Paris (40%), London (33%) and Barcelona (23%).
  • The global cities identified as London’s biggest rivals for financial services foreign investment in the next three years are New York (38%), Paris (35%), Frankfurt (30%) and Berlin (30%).
  • Investors cite the key areas for future strategic investment as tech and innovation, followed by small and medium sized business support and access to talent.
  • At a regional growth level, investors noted they wanted to see regional grants and incentives for investment, a skilled workforce and access to local business partners and suppliers.

Source: EY

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