Brexit watch: What’s it really like working as a trader in Dublin anyway?
While experienced traders in London are fearful of ‘juniorisation’ – or being replaced by cheaper 25-year-olds – those in Dublin are quietly hoping for an injection of new blood.
“I would say that the average age of traders in Dublin is 45,” says one derivatives trader working in the Irish capital. “There are a lot of highly-experienced and qualified traders whose morale has been zapped over the past 10 years.”
Despite all the bullish sentiments of expansion in Dublin from the likes of IDA Ireland – which claims 10,000 new finance jobs are on the way over the next four years (again) – traders in the Irish capital are hopeful that Brexit will bring some much-needed front office opportunities in a city dominated by the support functions of international banks.
“Turnover in trading roles in Ireland is incredibly low,” agrees Paul Smyth, managing director of front office-focused headhunters Top Tier Recruitment in Dublin. “A lot of the bigger firms tend to hire people as graduates and they stick around, simply because there are not a lot of other options.”
There are those touting Dublin as the obvious choice for big investment banks seeking to relocate their trading floors in the event of a Brexit. Credit Suisse has moved 40 traders from London to Ireland, but these roles are restricted to prime services. And Citadel Securities is planning a new Dublin office in 2017, which will house around 12 people across trading, programming, quants and support.
SIG Susquehanna, an options trading firm, is one of the biggest employers of traders in Dublin – it has 350 staff across all functions - and then there are the high frequency players like Virtu Financial and Geneva Trading. Asset managers Pioneer, Mediolanum and Fideuram all employ execution traders and portfolio managers. Local banks like Bank of Ireland and AIB still have their capital markets functions.
“The local banks banned bonuses in 2010, but still no one really moved,” says the trader. “Traders have really suffered because of this, along with the lack of other opportunities for them to move into.”
Junior traders in Ireland typically earn base salaries of €40-50k (£31-38.5k, $45-56k), which rises to €60-70k after five years, says Smyth. More experienced traders can earn salaries of €80k+. The derivative and HFT firms usually pay ‘multiples of salary’ in bonus, he says, but domestic banks pay little in variable compensation
“Work-life balance is a lot better in Ireland,” adds another trader who moved from Dublin to Ireland in 2010. “Lower wages means firms can afford to employ more staff to do the work.”
Why Dublin could benefit from a Brexit
Dublin has an English-speaking workforce in the same time zone as London, but is a decidedly cheaper place to do business. As well as the financial services expertise, the wave of tech firms setting up in Ireland in recent years means a highly-skilled pool of programming talent is available for any bank that decides to shift its trading floor to the Irish capital.
And then there are rumours - lots of rumours - that Credit Suisse’s move is the start of bigger things. “A lot of banks are in talks with the regulators about moving front office people to Dublin,” says one headhunter speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The stumbling block is often the requirement to hire from the local workforce.”
Standard Chartered and Royal Bank of Scotland are reportedly in talks with the Irish government about relocating both traders and support staff. Citigroup has moved its retail headquarters to Ireland and has bulked up its already sizable office in Dublin as a result. Brexit could prove the tipping point.
“We’re speaking to a lot of Irish expat traders who are nervous about a Brexit and want to find out about opportunities back home,” says Smyth. “This is the big trend in 2016 and means that a lot of trading firms can cherry-pick the best talent.”
“The trend of firms relocating to Dublin will continue regardless of a Brexit,” says the London-based trader. “This will lead to more opportunities.”
“There are some highly-profitable traders receiving no bonus,” adds the derivatives trader. “The hope is that Brexit will provide some new jobs and Ireland’s traders can show what they really have to offer.”
Even so, there are some practical considerations. There's a shortage of office space in Dublin, which has led IDA Ireland to start developing some "advanced office facilities" outside of the city. Moving from Canary Wharf to the outskirts of Dublin might be a step too far for a lot of traders. What's more, pro-Brexit campaigners are now arguing that leaving the EU could create 200,000 jobs in the City of London.