"Senior bankers are silently leaving London. I should know"
There is an exodus from banks in London. Few people in the industry are talking about it, because even in banking Brexit raises high emotions, but people are trickling away in large numbers and it is only going to get worse.
I am one of them. I spent over ten years in London and was a managing director at a major European bank, but this autumn I am going back to work in my home country. I'm not alone. I know many more people at my level who have decided to relocate to continental Europe. More people are choosing to leave London than at any time during my career - far more than after the financial crisis in 2009 and 2010, for example.
The disappearance of a layer of senior Europeans from London is rarely discussed in banks themselves. The exodus is too political. Senior bankers are as passionate, loud and opinionated about Brexit as the rest. Better just to let people silently slip back to Europe. Just don't presume it's not happening.
For me, a preemptive exit seemed best. I know what's coming: I was part of the internal discussions on the bank's strategy. As part of the sales team, I knew we were going to be asked to move soon: the bank simply can't afford to be left in a position where licenses are removed post-Brexit and it's unable to serve clients in Europe. A forced migration was coming: I decided to jump before it arrived.
For my colleagues and I, Brexit comes at the end of a difficult decade in London. First we had the financial crisis. Then we had vicious cost-cutting - in the past three years my team was cut again and again. Brexit is an excuse for more cuts, and a trigger for more upheaval. Look around you on a London trading floor: the gaps are obvious and the exodus of people to Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich and Milan is already well underway. It's gathering pace.
A lot of us have sound financial reasons for returning. European countries have begun competing for talent with generous tax packages: if I go to Milan now I can pay a flat rate of €100k a year instead of income tax on my overseas earnings; if I go to Paris, I can get a tax break as an expat. London has become an expensive place to be.
Of course, this might change. But for the moment, London is not where the opportunities are. Banks are not investing in London: there are fewer good job opportunities in the City than there used to be. This has not gone unnoticed. People in finance are flexible - they will move to Asia if this is where the best jobs are found. For the moment, though, some of the best opportunities seem to be in Paris, Frankfurt or Milan - many of these markets are under-developed, particularly on the buy-side. Senior bankers have sniffed an opportunity to position themselves ahead of time, and like me plenty are acting on it.
Henri Ouvrard is the pseudonym of a managing director who recently left a European investment bank in London
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