Paris Eyes Luring 20,000 Bankers From London Amid Brexit Rupture

  • French lobby group sees banks ‘accelerating’ their planning
  • Europlace will argue Paris has skills, markets to draw talent

Paris Competes for London Talent as Brexit Nears

Paris could lure as many as 20,000 workers from Britain’s finance industry with the exodus potentially starting within weeks as the U.K. begins its withdrawal from the European Union, according to Europlace, the French capital’s lobby group.

Paris will make its case to London-based executives in a series of February meetings as it competes for talent with rival cities such as Frankfurt. Europlace’s marketing materials show it will extol how Paris already employs more than 180,000 financiers, is home to the region’s biggest bond market and boasts the second-largest pool of asset managers.

The continental race to take advantage of Brexit is heating up as British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger the start of negotiations by the end of March. Global bank chiefs have warned May that they will soon start shifting operations and jobs from the U.K. to elsewhere in the EU unless she can protect their easy access to its market.

Arnaud de Bresson

Photographer: Lucas Schifres/Bloomberg

“We feel decisions will be taken in the first semester of the new year," Arnaud de Bresson, Europlace’s managing director, said in an interview in London. "We see institutions are accelerating their process of thinking."

With time at a premium, bankers say they want to establish new or expanded offices in the EU before the U.K. leaves, which is currently set for sometime in 2019. May says she wants to strike the best possible deal for banks, yet hasn’t detailed what she will seek and has also declined to fully endorse the transitional phase industry wants to smooth the departure.

Selling Points

In the run-up to the June referendum, HSBC Holdings Plc said that it planned to move as many as 1,000 employees to Paris from London if voters backed Brexit, while Citigroup Inc. is now considering relocating some of its London-based equity and interest-rate derivatives traders to Frankfurt. TheCityUK lobby group warns that almost 70,000 jobs are up for grabs.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. could, in “some scenarios,” move 4,000 jobs away from the U.K. because of Brexit, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in an interview with Financial News published Tuesday, reiterating a figure he laid out before the vote. Dimon said the shift would take place over several years and could be accelerated if an interim agreement on banking services isn’t reached.

Ireland Interest

The state agency for winning investment in Ireland said Tuesday the country is among a small number of European locations being studied by businesses to mitigate risks from Brexit. IDA Ireland says it has received a “significant volume” of queries from firms in the U.K., U.S., and Asia since the referendum vote.

Europlace will argue Paris is better placed than other aspirants for London’s crown. It touts the city as the top hub in continental Europe for interest-rate swaps trading with some $141 billion of the derivatives changing hands in France every day. That compares with $1.18 trillion in the U.K.

It will also promote itself as a city of requisite skills, contrasted with Frankfurt employing fewer than 100,000 people in finance and Dublin just 30,000. Another asset in its eyes is that French corporations are typically based in Paris, whereas German ones are sprayed around their country.

Although it hosts some of Europe’s biggest banks, including Societe Generale SA and BNP Paribas SA, France has nevertheless long lagged behind the U.K. and Germany as an international hub for banking.

The country is perceived as hostile to financial companies and ranks 29th in the Global Financial Centres Index, only one spot above Casablanca. Even its stock exchange, Euronext NV, is threatened by Deutsche Boerse AG’s planned takeover of London Stock Exchange Group Plc, which would create Europe’s dominant market operator.

France’s tight labor laws have also put off banks that value longer work weeks and an employment regime that allows easy hiring and firing. De Bresson said Europlace is pushing lawmakers to relax such curbs.

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