Brexit risks 30,000 UK jobs and 17% of bank assets, study says

Shoppers are reflected in a shop window as they walk along Oxford Street in London.
Shoppers are reflected in a shop window as they walk along Oxford Street in London.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Global banks in London may have to relocate 1.8 trillion euros (S$2.73 trillion) of assets to the continent after Britain withdraws from the European Union, putting as many as 30,000 UK jobs at risk, according to Brussels-based research group Bruegel.

The assets potentially on the move represent 17 per cent of the UK banking system, Bruegel said in a report published on Wednesday (Feb 8). Based on discussions with market participants, the researchers estimate that 35 per cent 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 UK 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 chief executive officer Xavier Rolet has said Brexit would likely see 232,000 jobs leaving the UK.

The UK financial-services industry generates as much as £205 billion 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 chief Stuart Gulliver said staff generating about 20 per cent 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 per cent of regional output, the Bruegel researchers estimate.