Regional Focus

Talent, taxes and target market: a trip round Europe’s treasury hubs

Published: Jul 2024

Europe’s cities are jostling to attract MNC, but the continent is not homogenous and different cities offer different opportunities. Proximity to customers and a deep talent pool are the most important criteria.

Person putting pins in a map

For a business looking to expand into Europe, selecting the right location is an important step. The decision rests on where companies’ customers are based and where they can access the right talent; the cost of compensation and taxes, and the wider business environment that treasury teams will have to navigate.

European cities jostling to attract MNCs looking to set up a European hub all offer safety and stability, cultural riches and a good quality of life. But the continent is not homogenous. When it comes to talent some cities have deeper talent pools than others. Companies must also consider what language requirements they need and how hiring and firing policies differ. It’s worth while getting up to speed on the differences as this will impact treasury’s ability to scale once landed. Join us for a pros and cons, spin around the continent’s treasury centres.


First stop London, with its deep talent pool and easy access to a large local market. Post Brexit, corporates continue to use their chosen banking partners for every kind of product or service because of the UK’s approach to open borders. The city has an innovative financial services sector and is emerging as a crypto and non-traditional finance centre with vibrant fintech’s selling everything from TMS to hedging instruments. In another scoop, London has retained its crown as the most attractive European destination for FDI into financial services, according to EY.

“There is no other single European centre like London regarding financial services. The city has a long history of global business, and people think they can’t afford not to have a presence in London,” says Mike Wardle, CEO of the Z/Yen Group, publisher of the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) which rates the competitiveness of global cities and their ability to attract investment.

On that point, raising money in London’s deep capital markets isn’t always easy for some companies. Like e-therapeutics, a biotech firm developing computational and genetic medicines platforms, which has decided to delist from AIM in the wake of lacklustre investor interest following a capital raise roadshow in February. CEO Ali Mortazavi links the problem to the UK’s risk averse institutional investment community – something the government is trying to address in its Mansion House reforms.

“The Board was extremely disappointed by the lack of institutional UK interest in our innovative, technology-driven value propositions. We struggled to get sufficient engagement from the vast majority of the institutions who were approached, reflecting the risk appetite of the UK markets,” explains Mortazavi.

For now, e-therapeutics will tap private capital, and Mortazavi says he will consider a listing on the Nasdaq in the future “where the large gap in the valuation of e-therapeutics compared to its US peers can hopefully be narrowed.”

Corporates wanting to access customers in Europe from London must also consider the lingering impact of Brexit. For example, goods will carry a duty if they don’t qualify as tariff free trade under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) because they don’t fulfil rules of origin requirements.

Brexit has also created challenges around hiring. Although London’s talent pool is deep, the end of freedom of movement means foreign workers now require work permits. “There is a time and cost dimension for businesses getting the right talent in place at the right time,” says James Caldecourt, Head of International Trade at Deloitte. The government recently brought in higher salary thresholds for skilled workers as part of an effort to cut migration which saw a number of employers withdraw job offers to foreign graduates in the UK.


Luxembourg, nestled in the heart of Europe, is drawing its share of MNCs. The landlocked Grand Duchy provides easy access to Paris, Brussels and Frankfurt and is the European home of companies like Amazon, ArcelorMittal and PayPal. Elsewhere its Space Resources initiative is positioning the country as a leader in the industry and has already clustered around 50 companies involved in space mining and related technologies.

Luxembourg can lure MNCs with tax breaks via its extensive network of double taxation treaties with over 80 countries. It has also introduced rules around intellectual property (IP) that allow companies to benefit from significant tax reductions on income derived from IP.

It has a strong insurance and banking sector, and a growing reputation around alternative investment and green finance. The Luxembourg Green Exchange is the world’s first and leading platform dedicated exclusively to sustainable finance which now includes a full suite of sustainability-orientated products.

Banks are starting to set up shop. Like Bank of America (BofA) which opened a new office in the country a year ago to roll out services to MNCs, and other non-bank financial institutions that have started to arrive.

Luxembourg is the second largest investment fund centre in the world after the US, managing over €5trn in assets. BofA is eyeing future growth in global cash management services to NBFIs and is busy offering a suite of services like setting up local bank accounts and providing in-country transaction banking products.

“The opening of the Luxembourg branch demonstrates our ongoing commitment to supporting clients in key countries where they have cash management requirements and providing strategic advice with building resilient enterprises,” said Matthew Davies, head of Global Transaction Services (GTS), EMEA and Global co-Head of Corporate Sales, Bank of America.

Geneva and Switzerland

Travel south to Switzerland, and Wardle says cities like Geneva are gaining in prominence to leapfrog European rivals in the popularity stakes. Switzerland’s draw rests on its favourable regulatory environment, low levels of corruption and strong infrastructure. Other plus points are access to the EU via EEA and a culture that allows companies to remain out of the public eye. According to pharmaceutical group IQVIA, 20% of European biotech companies are now headquartered in Switzerland.

Companies can tap into favourable tax incentives offered by the Swiss cantons if they employ local people, explains Bella Nokes, Founder and CEO of At Home Switzerland which provides corporate housing solutions to multinationals in France and Switzerland. She says deep local talent pools have also flourished off the back of institutions like the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. Based in Lausanne and Zurich, EPFL and ETHZ (respectively) have global reputations for AI innovation and contributed to the Human Brain Project. “Switzerland is expensive, but you can hire easily,” says Nokes.

Felix Meyer at ABB Limited, the Zurich-based corporate treasury arm of Switzerland’s industrial conglomerate ABB Group, agrees. He believes the country’s highly educated, experienced workforce, especially in finance and technology, gives Switzerland an edge. “The legal and taxation environment is also corporate friendly and there is excellent infrastructure.”


Paris is an obvious location for MNCs with operations in the Franco-speaking world in Africa and parts of Asia. Paris’s position as a financial centre is supported by lifestyle arguments in its favour and tax benefits for new arrivals. Wall Street’s biggest banks have moved more than 1,600 people to the French capital in the aftermath of Brexit and are still building out their French operations in strategies that favour Paris over Frankfurt or Dublin.

On the flip side, Paris has a smaller English-speaking talent pool. And a bigger challenge corporates face lies in their ability to let staff go. Notice periods can be a brutal one to two weeks in New York with scant employee protections. Yet that pendulum swings the other way in favour of protective labour laws in France and sky-high dismissal costs for employers.

Treasury Today interviewees say once the probationary period (during which time both employers and employees can end a working relationship) is over, employers must follow protocols that include formal notice periods, additional training or alternative placement within the firm before they can process a termination.

“There is good availability of senior management, but Paris is rarely selected as a European HQ for US businesses,” write the authors of ‘Where to Land? Selecting your European HQ,’ which offers advice to US companies looking to expand in Europe.


Dublin’s position as a hub is bolstered by major MNCs and their treasury centres including IBM, Pfizer, General Electric, Google, Microsoft, Meta, Apple and Ikea calling the city home. Dublin’s low corporate tax rate at 12.5% acts as another magnet. That said, ‘Where to Land’ report authors caution against giving too much weight to taxes in a location decision. “Choosing the most favourable location for taxes and then struggling to find the talent you need or being too far from your customers will only lead to a painful waste of time and capital,” they warn.

Fortunately, Dublin boasts a deep, multilingual junior talent pool and a liquid job market. With four universities, Trinity, UCD, DCU and the Technological University Dublin, the latter recently upgraded, the city produces 27,000 graduates per year. Dublin also has a reputation for high-quality leadership talent, particularly with VC-backed technology company experience.

Still that liquidity comes at a price. “Companies must be prepared to offer attractive packages when hiring and to defend their talent pool through career progression and development opportunities,” flags John James Dunne, President of the Irish Association of Corporate Treasurers.

The IACT recently established a strategic partnership with Trinity College Dublin, introducing a pioneering direct route into treasury through a rotational 18-month Graduate Programme which will develop new and specialised talent and Dunne describes an enthusiastic and vibrant treasury community. “Our broad range of events include our Black-Tie Dinner and our flagship two-day Treasury Management Conference, with recent additions of Young Treasurer and EDI events. The IACT has grown over the past 38 years in tandem with Dublin’s well-developed and experienced Treasury industry. Dublin is recognised as a centre of excellence and a destination of choice for Treasury Centres by many sophisticated and complex global companies.”

MNCs flying into the city should prepare for a shortage of housing and high cost of living. And air is the only realistic transport to other financial hubs; nor does the city have the depth in capital markets of other financial centres which has led to several indigenous companies moving their stock listing to London or New York.

Other alternatives could include Frankfurt, city of the euro, and home to the European Central Bank and Germany’s Bundesbank. It has a renowned university and a network of financial services and strong skills base. But the German financial hub is small by global standards and does not directly compete with other financial centres. Elsewhere Amsterdam has a growing reputation in fintech and as a base for leading creative industries bolstered by companies like Netflix.

Government benefits, tax breaks and low real estate costs all feed into location decisions. But the ability to tap talent and customer demographics are, perhaps, the most important factors for MNCs hunting a European home. As Europe’s cities lay out the red carpet, it’s worth remembering they aren’t just competing against each other. Dubai and Saudi Arabia continue to rise up the popularity league tables with compelling tax breaks and easy access to the rest of the world.

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