Brexit may mean thousands of banking jobs leave London. It may mean that people who are looking for jobs this summer need to cut their pay expectations. It may even mean that European bankers living in London leave the country in disgust, but it could also enable London’s finance recruiters to start fishing in an international talent pool again.
“There are positives to this,” says James Findlay, head of risk and compliance recruitment at Selby Jennings in London. “In future, we should again have the ability to cherry-pick the best talented globally – not just from the EU. There’s going to be a ‘glocalization’ of talent in London. We’ll be able to get the best people from anywhere in the world.”
During the campaigning in the run-up to the referendum, ‘Leave’ supporters like Boris Johnson spoke about implementing a points-based system which would, “suit the needs of business and industry.”
London banking recruiters look back with particular fondness to the UK’s Highly Skilled Migrant Programme which came to an end in 2008. Under that programme, students at top global MBA schools like Harvard and Wharton were automatically awarded 75 points – the threshold for getting into the UK.
“The Highly Skilled Migrant Visa was great,” says Andy Pringle, director of recruitment firm Circle Square. “People from the top 50 business schools in the world had an automatic right to come and work here. We could hire from the best schools in the U.S.”
Unfortunately, the UK’s Highly Skilled Migrant Visa was done away with in 2008 and replaced by the Tier 1 Visa system. Tier 1 Visa rules were then tightened considerably, leaving non-EU finance workers struggling to get into the UK through punitive routes like the intracompany transfer scheme, which obliges them to leave the country for 12 months every five years and doesn’t grant them the right to remain – irrespective of how highly qualified or well paid they are.
Philip Barth, head of immigration for Europe and Asia at law firm Withers, points out that the UK already has a points-based immigration system but says it needs improving: “The government needs to design an immigration policy which reflects who they want to attract, and to devise rules which reflect that.” The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme wasn’t perfect, says Barth: “You had a lot of people who made the grade and were working in the City as mini cab drivers.”
Meanwhile, not all London-recruiters are excited about the opportunity to hire from outside the EU. “At this stage, suggesting that a points based immigration system will be good for the City seems to be looking at things through rose-tinted spectacles,” says Oliver Rolfe, founder of London recruitment firm the Spartan Partnership. “We still don’t know how things are going to work out and while a points-based system might be a good thing in practice, it’s simply speculation for the moment.”