European countries are the most popular locations for new corporate HQs, according to a new study by international law firm Gowling WLG.
Some 97% of executives considering relocating their HQ are considering an international move, with 46% of those looking at Germany as a potential location.
Gowling WLG surveyed 650 board-level executives, and found 26% were considering a relocation, or had already relocated their HQ. There was a significant discrepancy between countries, with only two per cent of Chinese executives considering relocation, compared with 92% of UK executives. Generally, executives in Asia-Pacific were less likely to be considering it: for example, just 12% of Japanese executives and 10% of Malaysian executives.
The survey found relocations are largely financially motivated: 62% identified incentives and tax breaks as reasons, while 57% cited economic stability. However, access to talent was the third most common motivator, as 52% considered it an important factor.
“Settling on a global HQ location, as you would expect, money still talks,” said Richard Bate, head of real estate at Gowling WLG. “But choosing the perfect HQ location is about so much more than a hefty financial incentive package.”
Those surveyed appear to agree, as 76% of executives who had relocated their HQ said access to talent was an important motivator for them.
Brexit uncertainty is a theme in this survey, with 39% of surveyed executives saying the UK remaining in the EU would make it a more attractive HQ location.(The report does not state if any respondents said the UK leaving the EU would make it a more attractive location for an HQ.)
The issue has also affected UK firms, as 92% of UK executives surveyed said they were considering relocation their HQ. Of these executives, 54% considered Ireland a potential location, significantly ahead of Germany (33%), the Netherlands (31%) and Luxembourg (23%).
“Against this backdrop, a swift resolution to the Brexit impasse and the right policy changes once we have finally exited the EU are essential to enable the UK to take a bigger slice of the HQ market, particularly among North American firms and those beyond Europe,” said Mr Bate.
Despite Brexit, companies in the Americas view the UK favourably, with 67% of Brazilian, 61% of Canadian, and 42% of US firms considering the UK a good location for their next HQ. Overall, the UK was the sixth most popular European country for relocation, behind Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and France.
However, those surveyed did identify key strategies the UK could use to become more attractive to investors, namely to reduce business regulation, make talent more accessible, improve transport links and construct a more favourable tax regime.