A year after Brexit, Frankfurt emerges as biggest banking winner

German artist Ottmar Hoerl's sculpture depicting the euro logo in Frankfurt. The German city is emerging as the biggest winner from the Brexit vote, with many of the world's biggest banks choosing to base their new European Union headquarters there.
German artist Ottmar Hoerl's sculpture depicting the euro logo in Frankfurt. The German city is emerging as the biggest winner from the Brexit vote, with many of the world's biggest banks choosing to base their new European Union headquarters there.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) - Frankfurt is emerging as the biggest winner from last year's Brexit vote, with many of the world's biggest banks choosing to base their new European Union headquarters in the German city.

Standard Chartered, Nomura Holdings and Daiwa Securities Group have picked Germany's financial capital for their EU base to ensure continued access to the single market. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley are weighing a similar decision, said people familiar with the matter, asking not to be named because the plans are not public.

"Frankfurt is well-positioned to receive foreign banks," said Stefan Winter, chairman of the Association of Foreign Banks in Germany and head of UBS Group AG's investment bank in the country. "It's in the heart of Europe, has fantastic infrastructure and affordable office rents."

Frankfurt is a natural pick given a financial ecosystem featuring Deutsche Bank, the European Central Bank and BaFin, seen by many as the only regulator outside of London capable of handling the banks' complicated derivatives business. Even as prospects for a United Kingdom deal maintaining some sort of access to the single market gain traction, banks are still preparing for the worst and want to have new or expanded offices up and running inside the bloc before Britain formally departs in 2019. 

London could lose 10,000 banking jobs and 20,000 roles in financial services as clients move 1.8 trillion euros (S$3.19 trillion) of assets out of the UK after Brexit, according to think-tank Bruegel. Other estimates range from as many as 232,000 jobs to as few as 4,000.

Bank of America 

Bank of America views Ireland's capital as its default destination for a new EU hub if Britain loses easy access to the single market, one of the firm's top executives in Germany said in March.

The bank will likely move some jobs to other cities across the region, including Frankfurt, Madrid, Luxembourg and Amsterdam, said Nikolaus Naerger, Bank of America's head of corporate banking in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. No final decisions have been made. "You've got to get your legal entity structure correct so you can operate in two different environments: one inside the UK and one outside," Bank of America president Brian Moynihan said in Davos, Switzerland, in January. "We already have a lot of that structure set up. Then you have to start to think about where the locations are."

Goldman Sachs

The Wall Street firm plans to more than double its number of staff in Frankfurt to 400 as it begins withdrawing personnel from London, the firm's vice-chairman of the international business Richard Gnodde told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

The firm is scouting for office space in Frankfurt that could serve as its new trading hub inside the EU and could ultimately move as many as 1,000 employees to the city, including traders and senior managers, according to a person familiar with the matter. Goldman Sachs plans to start moving client-facing staff to various EU cities next year, Gnodde said in April. Chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein has publicly said the bank has shelved plans to move more key operations to the UK.

JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase & Co plans to move between 500 and 1,000 London-based bankers to expanded offices in Dublin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg.

"We are going to use the three banks we already have in Europe as the anchors for our operations," the firm's head of investment banking Daniel Pinto said in May. "We will have to move hundreds of people in the short term to be ready for day one, when negotiations finish, and then we will look at the longer-term numbers."

The firm's EU investment banking operations will likely be based in Frankfurt, while custody will be located in Dublin and treasury services will be handled in Luxembourg, a person familiar with the bank's plans said at the time. Before the British referendum, CEO Jamie Dimon said as many as 4,000 of its 16,000 UK employees could be moved to the continent after Brexit.

Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank's top compliance executive said as many as 4,000 UK jobs at the lender could be at risk of being moved to other locations as the country leaves the European Union.

About 2,000 jobs would be affected if all of the bank's client-facing staff had to move, and an additional 2,000 could be at risk in associated functions, Sylvie Matherat, the German lender's chief regulatory officer, said in April.


Chairman Axel Weber said in March that the bank would make a final decision on whether to move as many as 1,500 of about 5,000 UK investment banking staff soon after the triggering of Brexit.

"Yes, we will have to move bankers - we have an SE in Frankfurt, we have an appropriate setup in Spain," Andrea Orcel, head of UBS Group AG's investment bank, said in Davos, referring to the Swiss bank's German subsidiary, which is licensed to do investment banking. "We still have flexibility to decide where to go, but we will definitely have to move."


HSBC Holdings CEO Stuart Gulliver said in January that staff generating about 20 per cent of its London investment-banking revenue may move to Paris, where it acquired a French commercial bank more than a decade ago.

Before the June referendum, Gulliver said a Brexit vote would likely result in about 1,000 of the bank's 5,000 London-based staff relocating to the French capital.

HSBC's investment bank chief Samir Assaf said on June 15 that a hard Brexit was now unlikely after the UK election, and that could mean more jobs staying in London.


The firm's CEO Jes Staley said in April that his bank would pull the trigger on its relocation plans within six months. Barclays has settled on Dublin for its expanded EU base and is planning to add only about 150 staff there, people with knowledge of the decision said earlier this year.

Staley has struck a different tone to other bank bosses. He said in Davos that it would be "very difficult" to dislodge a financial centre like London. If needed, Barclays may reassign its Frankfurt branch to its Irish subsidiary, he said.

"Same people, same traders, you have to book a trade in Ireland as opposed to London, but that's not a wholesale move of our capability from London to Ireland," he said.

Standard Chartered

The bank is in talks with the German regulator BaFin about setting up a subsidiary in Frankfurt and getting a licence to operate across the EU from there, the firm's chairman said on May 3. Only a small number of London-based staff will be affected by the move, Jose Vinals added.

As recently as December, Standard Chartered had been edging towards picking Dublin for its new legal base inside the EU, Bloomberg News reported at the time. Vinals said Frankfurt made more sense as the bank already does its euro clearing there.


Citigroup is evaluating locations for parts of its London broker-dealer business, including Ireland, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, Jim Cowles, the bank's top executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said at a conference in Dublin on Jan 24. Cowles said he expected the bank would make a final decision by the end of the first half.

Bloomberg News reported in November that the firm was in discussions with BaFin about moving some of its London-based equity and interest-rate derivatives traders to Frankfurt. Citigroup is also in discussions with the ECB and regulators in EU nations including Ireland about relocating other parts of its operations.

Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley is close to picking Frankfurt for its enlarged EU hub, people with knowledge the matter said on June 22. London-based staff will also be relocated to cities around the EU, including Paris and Dublin, one of the people said.

The bank may initially move about 300 workers out of London, Bloomberg News reported in February. Before the UK vote, Bloomberg reported that the firm would likely move 1,000 of about 5,000 London employees out of the country in the event of Brexit.

Morgan Stanley executives have said New York would likely be the big winner from Brexit as US firms would probably move jobs away from Europe altogether.


Daiwa said on June 22 it will establish a subsidiary in Frankfurt to host the European operations it moves out of London. The firm, the majority of whose 450 European staff work in London, will make an application to the German regulator BaFin accordingly.

Lloyds Banking Group

The UK bank plans to convert its Berlin branch into a subsidiary, making that its base inside the EU, chief financial officer George Culmer said in February. A small number of people would move from London. The bank has yet to apply for an extension of its German banking licence.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse Group AG is exploring options for expanding in Dublin after Brexit, two people with knowledge of the plans said in January. Chief financial officer David Mathers said in February that losing access to the EU would endanger 10 per cent to 15 per cent of income at its two UK subsidiaries.

Bank of China

Bank of China Ltd is in talks with Irish officials about potentially moving some of its UK operations to the country after Brexit, Ireland's Sunday Independent newspaper reported in January.


Nomura has picked Frankfurt for the headquarters of its EU operations on Brexit, and will look to transfer fewer than 100 employees from London to the German city, according to people with knowledge of the decision. The bank will start the process of setting up the new base in June.


Mizuho Financial Group Inc is considering Amsterdam and Dublin among potential locations to base its brokerage unit if it is impacted by a "heavy Brexit", president Yasuhiro Sato said in January. Mizuho changed the name of its Netherlands unit to Mizuho Bank Europe on Jan 1, reflecting its role as a subsidiary overseeing a number of countries in the region, including Belgium, Austria and Spain.