France eyes Brexit banks

While most London-based bankers are brushing up on their German to prepare for a move to Frankfurt post-Brexit, senior staff at French investment banks expect to say ‘oui’ to government pressure to bring jobs home to Paris.

Most international banks in London have declared where they will move their European business in the event of a hard Brexit, in which the UK would give up access to the single market, including financial passporting rights.

Although French banks have been wavering about their plans, the bankers who work for them in London believe pressure from the government of Emmanuel Macron, himself a former investment banker, makes a Paris move almost certain.

“The Macron administration is really pushing for the French banks to move some of us to Paris, setting up international schools there and talking tax breaks,” said a senior London-based banker at one of the three main French investment banks.

“Personally, I am preparing for life in Paris. Unless we get a (soft) Brexit deal, it’s almost inevitable,” he said.

That sentiment was echoed by a second London-based source from another top bank. “Most of the Americans are moving to Frankfurt and a lot of them are very advanced in their plans, so there’s a lot of pressure for us,” he said.

A source at France’s finance ministry maintained there was no undue pressure on the banks, but acknowledged the government was keen for domestic lenders to base more jobs in France.

“This government is doing a lot in terms of attractiveness like getting rid of the wealth tax.

We want the banks to live up to promises they have made, we want them to make a concrete gesture.”

French banks feel they can afford to wait until the details around Brexit become clearer because they already have EU licenses through their Paris headquarters, unlike their US counterparts which conduct nearly all of their European investment banking business out of London.

France’s two biggest investment banks in London, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale, have not set out firm plans, though SocGen chief executive Frederic Oudea told Reuters in June it could move 300 to 400 out of the 2,000 investment banking jobs to Paris.


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