September 26 2018, 12:01am, The Times
There may be all-out war among MPs over a possible second referendum on Brexit and whether to tear up Theresa May’s Chequers plan, but ministers should feel quite comforted about one outcome. Banks have begun to move staff to the Continent to prepare for life after Britain leaves the European Union, but at this stage the numbers are lower than anyone thought likely and — crucially — many of those employees are going on short-term contracts.
According to Iain McCluskey, a partner at PWC, the movers fall into three categories: those going to a new permanent contract, usually for roles required by the local regulator to be carried out by someone fully accountable under its laws; commuters, that is people who will fly out on a Monday and back to London on a Thursday or Friday, while their families remain in the UK; and finally “secondees”, bankers agreeing to move for two years (and in some cases as little as one) with the strong probability that they can come back to a good job in London. As Mr McCluskey notes, the smallest group is the first one, the permanent movers.
Admittedly, those numbers will get bigger. Rumours suggest that Bank of America Merrill Lynch is planning to shift more jobs to Paris than it had earmarked originally, while Jamie Dimon, the boss of JP Morgan Chase, has said repeatedly that the bank may shift 4,000 of its 16,000 British roles inside the EU if the eventual Brexit deal is poor.
Yet the fact is that the number of banking employees prepared to move permanently to Frankfurt, Luxembourg or even Paris is small, made up either of people from those countries who wanted to be in London for only a while anyway, or younger employees without the complications of family members with their own jobs or children at school.
Most continue to believe that if you want to have a career in banking in Europe, the place to be is London. So some will go to another city for a while, but they want to come back to the City or Canary Wharf, despite its lack of obvious charms, because they think that is where the best chances of career advancement and good jobs will be in future.