What's it like to work in ... Germany

Richard Waddington, chief executive, First Protocol

- When did you open?

2005 - we set up in reaction to the work we were doing for Mastercard in Germany for the World Cup. Once we were up and running, we started to win other business.

- Main hurdles?

It's easier to trade in Germany now, but when we started out we found it quite difficult - we wanted to run the German office as a limited company, as an extension of our main UK business, but were told by the authorities we had to set up as a German 'Gmbh' company.

Technically you can set up a limited company, but it is frowned upon in Germany as it tends to be how less scrupulous firms operate. Setting up as a Gmbh involves a lot more legal documentation - and, therefore, time and money - and at the time it also involved putting in a minimum of £17,000, which has since been reduced to around £7,000.

- How does it compare with the UK?

Documentation is quite tricky so I'd recommend getting in a good lawyer and there are lots of hidden costs, primarily around employment - the benefits packages are pretty robust and when you employ ten or more people, making redundancies is not straightforward either.

There have also been a lot of media witch hunts surrounding fat cat salaries, and so many companies will not accept any kind of hospitality, so a lot of what we do is based around meetings.

Culturally, Germany is very formal and process driven and environmentally they are far ahead of the UK. On a logistical level, the infrastructure is wonderful.

- Who are your clients?

Mostly still Mastercard, but also the likes of Fidelity and Norton Rose. A lot of our US and UK clients use it as a stepping-stone for Eastern Europe.

- How's business this year?

Pretty good. It's still early, but we're breaking even, which we're very pleased with as a start-up.

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