The repercussions of Brexit for the financial industry and which European cities can benefit

Ben Harris 17.04.2020

Morgan McKinley sent a one question survey asking, ‘Which city will benefit from Brexit and why?’ Here is what we found...

Remember when Brexit was the focus of attention? Filling up the newspaper inches and the majority of our notifications from news sites. Back when Sky News, BBC News, The Guardian and The Daily Mail’s ‘Breaking News’ notification was to tell us whether the ‘Malthouse Compromise’ got through the UK Houses of Parliament or not. Ah, simpler times!  

Since then, the world has been turned upside-down by Covid-19 and the notifications are now of a much scarier nature. Our attention is rightly focused for the short-to- medium-term on how to tackle this crisis and get to the other side. 

But Brexit and its implications cannot be ignored; the transition period is still set to expire at the end of the year and governments, businesses and individuals need to prepare for this. Before the current crisis, we asked those working in banks, asset management firms, insurance companies and financial services organisations across Europe which city could benefit most from Brexit and why.

The results from our survey

The headline from the results is that our network doesn’t predict there to be a clear winner from Brexit. Rather than one city replacing London as the financial capital of the continent, it seems the benefits will be spread among the other major financial hubs of Europe. Frankfurt and Paris were ahead of the rest (with 24% and 27% of the votes respectively), followed by Dublin and London (both receiving 18% of the votes). Luxembourg was next up with 8% and the remaining cities (Amsterdam and New York predominantly) received the remaining 5% of the votes. 

What is more interesting than the raw quantitative data is the qualitative element of the survey; why do people think these cities will benefit most? Let’s look into that.

Paris - 27% of the vote

We had a range of reasons as to why people thought Paris is best placed to pick up business from the London market, but the most common answers were:

  • Proximity to London – At Morgan McKinley, we are seeing many of our clients strengthening their Parisian branches for this reason. They can move headcount from London to Paris and can attract candidates from the local market in Paris but also London. People even have the option of catching the train to Paris from London on Monday and returning Thursday night. 
  • Incentives offered by the French government – President Macron has been driving through reforms since entering government, such as lowering the corporation tax, offering tax incentives, and other schemes that are incentivising companies to relocate.
  • An already established financial market – Large international banks had set up offices and operations in the city already and Paris has a well-developed financial ecosystem with the necessary infrastructure to support it (HR, educational system, transport, etc.).

Frankfurt - 24% of the vote

The most common answers we received from our network in favour of Frankfurt were:

  • Existing infrastructure and financial market place (including the ECB) – Quite a few people believe that the ECB being headquartered in Frankfurt is an important factor, as well as Frankfurt already being the European hub for many foreign banks (Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citi, Santander were mentioned) and German institutions with a global presence (Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank).
  • Strength of the local economy – Over the long-term, it seems that people have more confidence in the stability and competitiveness of the German economy. It was also noted that regulations are relatively quicker to adapt to changes. 

Dublin & London - 18% of the vote each

Dublin:

  • Pro-business government and low taxes – A common answer in support of Dublin; the government wants companies to see Dublin as the ‘easy choice’ and their tax laws and incentives reflect this.
  • Similarity and proximity to London – Dublin’s proximity to London is seen as a strong plus and the city has similar conditions to London. 
  • The English language – The most repeated answer was English being the native language of Dublin and how that makes relocation easier. 

London:

  • Deregulation – by a considerable margin the reason that was given most frequently was that after transitioning out of the EU, the City will have the independence to set its own regulation to compete against other European cities. 
  • Existing workforce, infrastructure and companies – Some believe that rather than companies going through the process of relocating offices, staff and systems to other cities, they will stay in London and take advantage of what is already established. 

What does this mean?

One recurring theme from the survey is that people don’t expect only one city to reap the benefits from Brexit. Each European government is offering incentives to attract businesses to their cities, and they all have their advantages. In the future, this may result in companies being more decentralised with their workforce spread across multiple jurisdictions. London will remain a vital city for many companies but their offices in Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin will be more central to their plans going forward.

At Morgan McKinley, we are seeing our clients adding to their teams across Europe. If we look at Corporate Governance in particular (Compliance, Risk & Audit), whereas five years ago 95% of these departments would be based in London, this is already changing. That’s why our recruitment capability is not limited to London only; our network spreads across Europe and we work with clients in Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Dublin, Brussels, Geneva, Luxembourg and Zurich to find the best candidates (whether they are local to that city or from our London network). 

One area that has seen considerable growth over the past eighteen months has been in the financial crime/AML space, with many of our institutional clients wanting highly specialised people on the ground. This is a difficult area to recruit with a small pool of candidates and our clients want to get access to candidates across Europe to find the best person rather than only the local market. We help them do this.

What is your company’s strategy post-Brexit? Where do you expect to redeploy staff? At Morgan McKinley, we would be keen to hear from you about this and assist in building out your teams across continental Europe. 

If you would like to discuss these points in more detail, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Jamie Browne, who leads our EMEA recruitment effort.

Ben Harris's picture
Senior Manager
bharris@morganmckinley.com

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