Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Brexit Risks 30,000 U.K. Jobs and 17% of Bank Assets, Study Says

  • About $1.9 trillion of assets could move to EU, Bruegel says
  • Estimates based on no U.K. access to EU single market

Global banks in London may have to relocate 1.8 trillion euros ($1.9 trillion) of assets to the continent after Britain withdraws from the European Union, putting as many as 30,000 U.K. jobs at risk, according to Brussels-based research group Bruegel.

The assets potentially on the move represent 17 percent of the U.K. banking system, Bruegel said in a report published Wednesday. Based on discussions with market participants, the researchers estimate that 35 percent of wholesale banking activity in London can be attributed to dealings with customers inside the EU.

Financial firms will have to move that business to countries inside the trading bloc after the U.K. leaves the EU in 2019, likely spelling the end of passporting, where firms seamlessly service the rest of the single market from their London hubs. Banks, and their clients, are most concerned about a "cliff edge" Brexit, whereby all access is cut off after two years.

To safeguard against that loss of access, banks are already in discussions with European regulators about setting up new bases inside the EU and have said they will start the process of moving people within weeks of the government triggering Brexit talks, expected in March.

"At a minimum, it is expected that the new EU27-based entities will need to have autonomous boards, full senior management teams, senior account managers and traders, even though much of the back-office might stay in London or elsewhere in the world," researchers led by Andre Sapir said in the report.

London-based firms will likely have to move about 10,000 employees into these new EU entities, Breugel estimates. An additional 18,000 to 20,000 people in associated professions, such as lawyers, consultants and accountants, may also have to relocate.

Bruegel’s estimates are at the conservative end of the spectrum. TheCityUK industry lobby group forecasts as many as 35,000 banking jobs could be relocated, rising to 70,000 when including associated financial services. London Stock Exchange Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Xavier Rolet has said Brexit would likely see 232,000 jobs leaving the U.K.

The U.K. financial-services industry generates as much as 205 billion pounds of revenue annually and employs 1.1 million people, according to a report prepared by Oliver Wyman on behalf of TheCityUK.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon said last month that “it looks like there will be more job movement than we hoped for,” while HSBC Holdings Plc chief Stuart Gulliver said staff generating about 20 percent of London investment banking revenue may move to Paris.

If Europe’s financial markets -- currently centered in London -- fragment across the 27 EU nations, then borrowing costs would likely increase as banks seek to offset the higher expenses, the study said. That could cost households and corporates within the EU an extra 6 billion euros to 12 billion euros annually, or up to 0.1 percent of regional output, the Bruegel researchers estimate.