Facing Brexit: On social networks and corporate relocations

Abstract: Brexit, the decision of Britain to leave the European Union, is expected to have major consequences for the locational geography of the financial industry in Europe. Many notifications in the media document either announcements or actual decisions by financial services organizations to relocate from London to other European financial centers. In the case of Germany, experts estimate the relocation of up to 10,000 jobs in banking from London to Frankfurt. The trade with “futures” and the expansion of digital capacities in local data centers or office spaces indicate the high costs of such insecure and risky decisions. While traditional conceptualizations in financial and regulatory perspectives on relocation processes often address hard locational factors, this research project uses a relational perspective to understand the process of relocation. Based on expert interviews in several financial centers and on a social network analysis of interlocking directorships within the financial sector, this study integrates insights from the interlocking directorship literature into theories of relocation and internationalization. Specifically, this talk focuses three issues: i) the relationship between the composition of boards of directors and ongoing preparations for Brexit, (ii) whether the network of interlocking directorships affects the relocation processes, and (iii) how these processes are associated with broader organizational strategies and characteristics.

Robert Panitz is a research associate in the economic geography research group at the Heidelberg University. He received his Ph.D. in 2016 with the cumulative thesis: “On individual interactions and firm networks: The wealth of context and meaning in relational research”. He studied Geography, Business Administration and Computer Science at the Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt and at the University of Nottingham. He is a visiting scholar at the Heidelberg Center Latin America in Santiago de Chile and currently a short-term associate at the University of Oxford.
His research focuses on the impact of technological and organizational change on regional development and the role of social networks in economic and social life. Robert Panitz participated in various projects and contributed to different case studies on companies, regions, and markets from a relational perspective. Recently he studies relocation activities of financial service firms due to the expected impacts of the Brexit.