Executive Briefings

As Brexit Looms, Paris Tries a Business Makeover

The phone rings a lot at Paris Region Entreprises, a one-stop shop for companies deciding whether to move employees to the City of Light. Typically, callers ask about visas and minutiae of employment law. But not long ago, an executive from Japan called with a stumper: Where, he asked, are the dancing clubs?

“It was a certain kind of club that nobody here had ever heard of,” said Robin Rivaton, the organization’s chief executive. “Kind of a social club for executives and their wives. One of the guys here called around and found one in the western part of Paris.”

Until recently, this kind of personal service was unimaginable. France has long been known for its open hostility to corporations and its suspicion of personal wealth. Taxes were high, regulations were baffling and “It’s not possible” was the default answer to any question — if a company could even find the right person to ask.

Now, the country is in the midst of a sweeping attempt at national rebranding. Labor laws are being changed to make hiring and firing easier. New legislation has slashed a “wealth tax” that was said to drive millionaires out of the country. Courts with English-speaking judges are in the works, and a new international school is under construction to cater to the children of foreign executives.

There’s a sense of urgency behind these changes. Hundreds of financial companies may need to relocate thousands of London-based workers before Britain leaves the European Union by the end of March 2019, the withdrawal known as Brexit. Otherwise, these companies could lose their financial passporting rights, which grants them privileged access to the 27 countries that will remain in the European Union.

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“It was a certain kind of club that nobody here had ever heard of,” said Robin Rivaton, the organization’s chief executive. “Kind of a social club for executives and their wives. One of the guys here called around and found one in the western part of Paris.”

Until recently, this kind of personal service was unimaginable. France has long been known for its open hostility to corporations and its suspicion of personal wealth. Taxes were high, regulations were baffling and “It’s not possible” was the default answer to any question — if a company could even find the right person to ask.

Now, the country is in the midst of a sweeping attempt at national rebranding. Labor laws are being changed to make hiring and firing easier. New legislation has slashed a “wealth tax” that was said to drive millionaires out of the country. Courts with English-speaking judges are in the works, and a new international school is under construction to cater to the children of foreign executives.

There’s a sense of urgency behind these changes. Hundreds of financial companies may need to relocate thousands of London-based workers before Britain leaves the European Union by the end of March 2019, the withdrawal known as Brexit. Otherwise, these companies could lose their financial passporting rights, which grants them privileged access to the 27 countries that will remain in the European Union.

Read Full Article