GTAI’s two-man team in London works to foster German-UK business ties: Robert Scheid helps UK-based companies looking to expand to Germany; while Marc Lehnfeld provides market intelligence for German exporters seeking new business opportunities in the UK.
Robert Scheid (left) and Marc Lehnfeld © GTAI/Alexandra Kowitzke
The two of you have been sharing duties for a few months now. What motivated GTAI to increase its presence in London?
Scheid: The UK is one of our top trading partners and one of the most important source countries for businesses looking to expand to Germany. It made sense to have dedicated roles for these distinct target audiences.
Lehnfeld: We have a similar structure in cities like Paris, Shanghai and San Francisco. It was just a matter of time before we increased our presence in London, and Brexit made us speed things up a bit.
So was Brexit the driving factor in this decision?
Lehnfeld: Not exactly. The bilateral economic ties between Germany and the UK are important and will remain so in future. But Brexit was a catalyst. German companies are looking for up-to-date and reliable market information because they are unsure how they should prepare for Brexit.
What about British companies? How are they reacting to Brexit?
Scheid: We’ve noticed a significant uptick in enquiries from the UK since 2016. At first companies were contacting us just to know about the business environment in Germany and legal framework for starting a business. More and more enquiries are now turning into concrete investment projects. In our preliminary statistics for 2019, the number of investments is up, and the size of the projects has increased significantly. The number of manufacturing projects is rising, which indicates a long-term commitment to Germany.
The Tower bridge in London © Pierre Blaché on Pixabay
»Just don’t call us Team Brexit.«
Robert Scheid & Marc Lehnfeld
GTAI’s representatives in London, UK
Do you have any banner examples of companies coming to Germany because of Brexit?
Scheid: It’s important to underline that most companies expand to Germany because they have growing business there, but Brexit has indeed sped up the decision-making process. BAP Pharma, for example, set up recently in Höchstädt with help from GTAI. They are investing several million euros and hiring hundreds of employees over the next five years. For them, the proximity to clients and suppliers in Germany was a key factor.
Which is more challenging: helping UK companies expand or finding answers for German companies?
Lehnfeld: The challenges are quite different. Take for example the German auto industry: companies have to examine every detail of their supply chain and deal with potential changes to customs regulations, rules of origin etc. For British companies, the question typically centers on the need to set up an office in the EU to reinforce business links after Brexit. In both scenarios, general responses are not enough. We need to ask many questions and provide precise information.
How are things evolving? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel with regards to Brexit?
Scheid: I think Winston Churchill said it best: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” It looks like we will be dealing with Brexit and its effects for a long time.
A stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, GTAI’s London office is located in Mecklenburg House, which served as a residence for members of the British Royal Family in the 18th Century. The historic ‘Changing of the Guard’ military display takes place almost daily in front of the office. It is colocated with the German-British Chamber of Industry & Commerce.
Germany Trade & Invest
16 Buckingham Gate