The Brexit divide: How the City of London voted in the EU referendum
If Britons in the City of London had their way, the Brexit vote would never have happened. But just because the majority of finance workers voted to Remain, doesn’t mean that everyone is pro-EU and employees in the City are being careful about sharing their views.
Just 25% of British finance workers in the City voted to leave the EU, according to an eFinancialCareers survey of 1,500 UK-based finance professionals. 67% opted to Remain and a further 6% didn’t vote at all.
This all seems clear cut, but there’s still a divide across generations in the City and different sectors. Investment bankers were least likely to vote for Brexit – 19.4% of respondents said they opted to leave – whereas 33% of hedge fund managers, 28% of those in asset management and 30.5% of professional services employees all said that they wanted out of the EU.
“There’s a general assumption that most people wanted to Remain, but it’s still a slightly sensitive topic to talk about,” says one bond salesman working in a bulge bracket bank in London. “Holding forth about the stupidity of Brexit in earshot of whoever is dangerous. A lot of people voted Leave and some of those are in management roles.”
There was also a divide by earning power in the City. Those on packages of £100-175k and £175k+ were more likely to vote Remain than those on relatively lower incomes. Arguably, those on bigger pay packets have the most to lose from Brexit. For a start, assuming investment banks decide to move jobs to either Frankfurt, Paris or Dublin, those in front office jobs can expect to be paid considerably less.
For example, a director in the front office of an investment bank in London earns a median compensation package of £280k, according to figures from pay benchmarking site Emolument.com. An equivalent role in Paris pays £166k and £182k in Frankfurt. Even if cost of living is taken into consideration, higher income taxes mean that take home pay is considerably less on the Continent than in the UK.
Predictably, the older generation were most in favour of Brexit. Over 60s in the City were split down the middle on Brexit. But this is not a huge demographic in the UK finance sector – and it comprised just 4.3% of our respondents. Outside of this group, the majority of finance professionals voted to Remain. 30% of respondents in their 50s voted to Leave, which was the largest proportion of any age group outside of the over-60s. One baby-boomer who voted to leave and confessed his preferences before the vote, has complained of being “victimised” since Leave won and has now been “effectively shunned”.
20.5% of finance professionals under 30 voted for Brexit, while 17.8% of those aged 30-34 opted to leave.
One associate who works in FIG M&A for an investment bank in Canary Wharf said that she voted Leave, but hasn’t been telling any colleagues. “Professionally, I think Brexit will lead to more consolidation in the insurance and asset management sector, so I think my team will benefit despite the impact on other divisions in the UK.
“I know a lot of my colleagues are worried about the potential impact on their ability to stay in the UK. I still feel it will be the right decision for the UK longer term,” she says.