Almost five years have passed since the UK voted to leave the European Union, and the term ‘Brexit’ became commonplace in everyone’s vocabulary. Since then, banks and regulators have been dealing with the practical repercussions of the split. Uncertainties over long-term arrangements in the financial sector continue to rage on.
Currently, London’s traders are at the forefront of the dilemma. Global investment banks are struggling to convince London-based traders to relocate to the EU post-Brexit.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Nomura Holdings Inc. are among the investment banks running into issues. According to reports, when JPMorgan Chase & Co. asked approximately 15 equity derivatives traders to relocate from London to Paris, it was met with contempt. A large portion of the traders chose to quit to avoid relocating.
A key factor preventing London-based traders from wanting to relocate is the reluctance to uproot their families. Many staff members have children in school in London, so leaving the capital wouldn’t just impact their jobs but their family, too.
Other concerns raised include pay, future career opportunities, and the fact that the financial centres across Europe are smaller. The latter referring to the fact that, at present, London remains Europe’s biggest financial centre. However, that may not last forever as banks are looking to bolster operations elsewhere.
Deutsche Bank AG recently decided to relocate approximately 100 jobs in its corporate banking unit out of London and to relatively cheaper locations like Frankfurt and Dublin. Staff are able to move along with their role but at a reduced salary.
Weighing in on the subject, Stephane Rambosson, co-founder of executive search firm Vici Advisory, said, “I’ve got cases of people moving to the Continent and they are really not happy.”
The resistance among traders to leave London is creating waves in the industry. Banks are under increasing pressure to move staff into the 27-nation bloc after Brexit. The European Union is adamant that more businesses, assets, and people need to relocate from Britain’s capital to the EU in the coming years.
As a result, global banks are having to juggle multiple tasks, including managing their business needs and keeping up with the competing demands of EU regulators. Simultaneously ensuring they don’t alienate the employees they want to relocate down the line.
The European Central Bank is among the regulators pressuring lenders to manage risk tied to EU clients inside the bloc. According to reports, different regulators are reviewing where banks have key staff and book trades. The aim is to assess whether risks related to EU clients are accounted for in the bloc and aren’t slipping from their oversight. This process is called ‘desk-mapping’.
Desk-mapping covers the EU units of international banks like Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Barclays PLC. The ECB has asked these banks to answer detailed questions about their risk-management setup. These relate to aspects like where traders and associated risk staff sit and how they process trades.
A spokeswoman for the ECB stated at the end of May that “the desk-mapping exercise is at an early stage and still ongoing. Thus the ECB has not yet given feedback to individual banks on its outcome”.
The repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic are causing disruptions, too. A number of Nomura traders had expressed an interest in relocating to cities like Milan and Paris, which are particularly easy to get to from London. However, ongoing travel restrictions are affecting commuter flights and Eurostar’s schedule, leading to the reduced appeal.
Traders may have been more likely to commit to working in European capitals if they could commute back to London as and when needed. The UK is tightening border control over new covid variants, and as such, travel restrictions are mounting. There is no clear indication when these will be lifted, making it difficult for commuters to plan their work schedules.
The unwillingness of some traders to move out of London contrasts how easily assets have been transferred since Brexit. JPMorgan moved €200 billion in assets to Frankfurt in 2020 and has plans to transfer a similar amount this year. Equity trading has moved from London venues to EU ones now, too.
In the future, such movement of assets is likely to mean an even bigger shift of personnel from London to EU cities. It’s possible that, with time, misgivings about relocating will fade thanks to an increasing number of leadership roles in Europe and tax breaks offered in countries like France and Italy. However, at present, it remains a point of contention.
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