Why British and American bankers will be at a big disadvantage after a Brexit

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London’s financial sector is a multi-cultural place, but the default language is (of course) English. U.S. investment banks also mean that a large contingent of Americans and – even if they’re occupying lowly jobs – Brits, of course, proliferate.

This could be a problem if the UK opts for a Brexit. Frankfurt and Paris have emerged as the locations of choice for large investment banks looking to relocate staff. This will not be an insignificant move – Morgan Stanley said it could move its entire European HQ to Frankfurt.

British, American – and even Irish – bankers, which are the most prevalent nationalities in the City, according to our own stats, are among the least likely to speak French or German. The well-represented Indian and Chinese finance professionals in London are also not likely to be proficient in either language.

The figures below are based on the proportion of finance professionals by nationality who speak either French or German (excluding native speakers). Continental European bankers have an edge over their primarily English-speaking counterparts.

There are just 10% of Brits who speak any sort of French on our database, and 4% speak German. While 14% of Americans on our database speak French, not enough speak German to even feature in the top 15 countries.

It’s unlikely that English would remain the business language of choice within large American or British banks. Thousands of English-speaking financial services expats get by in Zurich without speaking much German, for example. But as anyone who’s been to Paris or Frankfurt can affirm, speaking the local lingo certainly helps to get by elsewhere. Avez vous une CDS?

Photo: kaan tanman/Getty Images

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