London to lose €800bn to Frankfurt as banks prepare for Brexit

30-Nov-18
Kate Evans


City firms are in the process of moving operations to Frankfurt before Britain exits the EU.

London will lose up to to €800bn (£700bn) in assets to rival financial hub Frankfurt by March 2019 as banks start to transfer business to the German city before Brexit day.

The lobby group Frankfurt Main Finance released the figure after it was confirmed that 30 banks and financial firms had chosen the city as the site of their new EU headquarters.
But with several banks – including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley – planning to spread their operations across a number of cities including Dublin and Paris, the lobby group believes the number of firms committed to expanding or setting up offices in Frankfurt will be closer to 37.

Ultimately it will mean draining billions of pounds worth of assets from London to companies’ German operations within months.

Bank of England says no-deal Brexit would be worse than 2008 crisis

“All in all, we expect a transfer of €750bn to €800bn in assets from London to Frankfurt, the majority of which will be transferred in the first quarter of 2019,” said Hubertus Väth, the managing director of Frankfurt Main Finance.

Banks, insurers and other financial services companies are in a race against the clock to clinch licences and bolster their continental workforces before Britain leaves the EU.

Without a comprehensive trade deal between the UK and EU that covers financial services, companies risk having no replacement for lost passporting rights, which currently allow firms to serve clients across the bloc.

The proposed Brexit withdrawal agreement has yet to gain parliamentary approval, putting in doubt a transition period that would extend cross-border access for banks until December 2020. This means firms have little choice but to shift employees, assets and clients from the UK in preparation for a no-deal and no-transition scenario.

“Banks are faced with the choice of either relocating only what is absolutely necessary or preparing for the relocation of the entire business,” Väth said.  “In any case, it is clear that considerable second-round effects will follow,” he added, highlighting the possibility that further job losses and asset moves were on the horizon.

Lloyds, Standard Chartered, Credit Suisse, Citigroup and Nomura are among the banks that are planning to expand or set up new offices in Frankfurt in light of Brexit.

The City minister, John Glen, last month backed Bank of England estimates that Britain is likely to lose about 5,000 City jobs by the time the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.

But Frankfurt Main Finance believes that up to 10,000 jobs could move to Frankfurt by 2022.

This month Germany moved one step close to loosening its labour laws, which have been seen as a hurdle in attracting alarger number of banking jobs.

The changes were first proposed as part of a government coalition agreement after the German elections in March, and will make it easier to firms to sack high-earning bankers.
“Politicians have listened, promised and delivered,” Väth said. “This is a clear sign that the banks’ relocation to Germany is desired. It is a sign that is seen and appreciated.”