Amidst all the talk of food rationing and blood stockpiling and following the European Union's steadfast refusal to condone "enhanced equivalence" for financial services after the UK leaves the EU, it seems finance professionals in continental Europe are taking matters into their own hands. They are applying for jobs in the City of London in far lower numbers than before.
An analysis of the number of applications from candidates in the three largest EU economies - Germany, France, and Italy - for jobs in London advertised on eFinancialCareers, reveals that applications have fallen 43% in two years. In the first six months of 2016 nearly 80,000 people from Europe's largest economies applied for finance jobs in London; in the first six months of 2018 that was down to 43%. Brexit hasn't even happened yet.
The data suggests the problem is not so much one of European finance professionals already in London wanting to go home (although this may be the case too) as of Europeans in Europe not wanting to come to London in the first place. The change of heart is most noticeable in Germany, where applications have fallen 55%.
Analysis the problem worsens as bankers become more experienced. While junior bankers' enthusiasm for working in London is less than it was, it's candidates with over six years' experience who have become particularly averse to applying for jobs in London. Applications from German candidates with one to two years' experience have fallen 37%, for example, while those with six to 10 years' experience are down nearly 50%. This makes sense: even as banks make preparations for Brexit, junior jobs and traineeships are still firmly based in London offices. Michael Ohana, founder of AlumnEye, a company that helps prepare French students for jobs in finance, said his clients remain focused on moving to London: "Intern geography will only change as teams are moved," he told our French editor last month.
There are early signs that this is happening. Bank of America is expected to start moving fixed income salespeople to Paris this summer, and there are rumours that Morgan Stanley is prepping its equities salespeople - although insiders suggest these rumours are premature. Goldman Sachs has already been hiring for its equity derivatives business in Paris and has announced plans to move "tens" of London-based staff to Paris this summer.
In the long term, the danger to the City of London is clear. With applications from Continental Europe already down significantly, as bankers leave London the brain drain threatens to become permanent. Once they're settled in Paris, Frankfurt, or Milan there's a strong chance that London's lost bankers won't want to come back again.