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How banking wives are breaking banks’ best Brexit plans

Brexit bankers wives

One of London’s leading financial regulation lawyers has a problem. His client, a major European bank, has been contemplating moving trading jobs to continental Europe in preparation for Brexit. But the spouse of one of the key members of the team doesn’t want to go. Neither, therefore, does her husband. The bank wants to keep hold of the husband and is therefore being forced to rethink. “This couple want to stay in London, and the bank will do anything it can to keep them,” he says, speaking on condition of anonymity.

This isn’t an isolated case. While bankers with European nationalities are often keen to return to their home countries, senior non-European bankers, especially Americans, are wedded to London. Lloyd Blankfein admitted as much in November when he said Goldman was opening offices in Frankfurt and Paris because American bankers prefer Paris to Frankfurt. For some, it’s London or nothing. “My wife doesn’t want to leave London and will insist I change jobs if we’re compelled to go,” one U.S. banker told us last year.  Before yesterday’s revelation that Deutsche Bank will be shifting hundreds rather than thousands of staff to Frankfurt because of Brexit, Deutsche CEO John Cryan said, “bankers, technology experts and traders work in London and they want to stay there.”

This recalcitrance highlights the extent to which banks remain hostage to top staff. In an era where banks have supposedly become utilities where success is about the power of the franchise rather than the individual, individuals still hold a lot of sway. UBS acknowledged this when it asked its bankers where they want to live after Brexit. The results have yet to emerge, although UBS has also indicated that job moves out of London are likely to be less than first anticipated.

Of course, the impetus to stay in the UK may be related to more than just the availability of schooling and an established community. Yesterday’s statement by Stefan Hoops, head of Deutsche’s capital markets division in Germany to the effect that legal and support staff will moved to Frankfurt along with trade booking facilities, while the actual traders will remain in London, suggests Deutsche has espoused the views of pro-Brexit lawyers like Barnaby Reynolds. They say that “back to back” trading, where trades are made in London but booked in the EU, will be perfectly possible after Brexit has taken place.

The regulatory lawyer suggests an additional explanation. “There’s been a change of sentiment recently on the basis that it seems there will soon be some sort of transition arrangement in place,” he tells us. “Firms are under less pressure to sort things out before March next year.”

On this basis, he suggests banks are simply being pragmatic: why upset your key staff by preemptively insisting they move to Europe when it may not be necessary. In Frankfurt, meanwhile, most of the finance hiring right now is for the middle and back office, but local recruiters are confident this will change soon. “For the moment banks are just preparing a minimum set-up here,” says Tim Zühlke, partner at Frankfurt-based Fred Executive Search. “No one knows what will happen after Brexit actually takes place, but I suspect will see some recruitment in the front office this summer.”

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com
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Comments (6)

  1. This article is riled me. My banking friends HUSBANDS are not prepared to relocate either to follow their bread winner wives.

    Rachael Ferguson Reply
  2. I am appalled that this article has been published by eFinancial especially given the recent movement across the globe for equal pay for women. What makes it far worse is that it’s written by a woman. The assumption, or rather the bold judgment, that is made with this piece, that all bankers are men therefore have wives, is preposterous. Clearly the author of the piece hasn’t walked around the city very much and met any of the women that surround her on a daily basis, including myself. Shame on you, Sarah Butcher, for dragging us back into the dark ages and writing an article littered with both conscious and unconscious bias towards the role of women in 2018.

    Cathy O’Leary Reply
  3. Hi Cathy and Rachael. If came across this written by someone else, I suspect I might be annoyed too… I’m very aware that women in banking have husbands and those husbands are sometimes supported by them. In this instance, though, I wrote “wives” instead “spouses” because the evidence I had suggested it was wives specifically who didn’t want to move to Europe. The lawyer specifically stated that it was the wife of a senior banker who didn’t want to go and I spoke to a quant and to his wife and it was his wife, again, who was averse to moving. Sarah

  4. Most of the European are more than happy to be relocated to Paris or Milan. I worked for a US IB in London for over 5 years and all my European married colleagues were desperate to return home. Seriously who on earth would like to raise his kids in London? Unless you want to live in a basement in zone 3 and you are happy to pay 30k a year for the education of your 6 year old, there is no way you want to stay in London. This article is terribly sexist and has been written by a brexiter to comfort brexiters….

  5. @French Banker – I’m not actually a Brexiteer.

  6. Hi Sarah
    I actually think you wrote ‘wives’ because it makes the article title more scandalous, clickable and whatever other BS you need it to be in order for people to open it. HOWEVER, this does not make the piece any less appalling. If you are aware of a particular family that is in this situation, then make the article just about them instead of making ridiculous generalisations that sound like you are writing this 200 years ago. Brexit and the relocation of jobs to other European location is a big deal for families and yet you have somehow made it sound like a laughable matter that is only complicated because of someone being stubborn.

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