There is apprehension on Bank of America's London trading floor. Ever since the bank announced its intention of moving Sanaz Zaimi, its head of fixed income currencies and commodities (FICC) sales, to Paris last week, there's been a realization that Brexit is deathly serious. BofA is not messing around.
"BofA managing directors are calling and saying they're nervous," says one senior fixed income headhunter, speaking off the record. "A lot of them don't want to go to Paris, but they know that they may have no choice."
Bank of America has a fancy Parisian office in an art deco building that was formerly a postal exchange in Paris's eight arrondissement. The building can house up to 1,000 people, and although there has been talk of subletting unused space, Zaimi's arrival - along with Vanessa Holtz as the Paris-based head of EU FICC and Othmane Kabbaj as the Paris-based head of EU FICC sales - is being taken as an indication that the migration of jobs to "La Poste" will be at the upper end of what's possible. Some claim that the new Paris office will become BofA's global hub for sales, with a big migration of jobs tabled between now and the end of the third quarter.
BofA isn't commenting on its plans, but one senior BAML sales-trader in London says the expectation is that fixed income salespeople and traders will be moved first, with equities salespeople and traders to follow. "We're expecting to be approached one by one and told the terms of our new contract," he said, adding that a lack of communication from the bank is causing confusion. "I need to make plans because of my children, but we have been told nothing. I would prefer to move soon so that I can find a house and school before everyone else."
Moving soon makes sense. Bank of America isn't alone in shunting jobs to Paris this summer. Goldman Sachs said in June that it intends to move "tens of bankers" to the French capital before autumn comes. Bankers who arrive from London early should have first-mover advantage in terms of homes and education.
Some may be able to stay in the UK and to commute into Paris, or to work part of the week in both cities. BofA bankers with French ties reportedly have a history of doing precisely this. Sorbonne-educated Zaimi herself is understood to have had houses in Paris and London for some time, and Marc Tempelman, BofA's former co head of DCM and corporate banking in EMEA (who left for a Paris-based start-up in January), is understood to have spent a few days a week working in London and a few days a week working in Paris for years.
With international schools in London suddenly emptying out, leaving the family in London could yet prove the best option. Some middle-office professionals at BofA tell us they're already working partly in continental Europe and partly in London in preparation for Brexit. However, salespeople and traders who need to be in Paris early in the morning for the market open may yet decide they're better off fully committing to the French city than flitting between the two. For them, this summer is unlikely to be spend on the Mediterranean. There is a lot to sort out.
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