And so it begins. Even though UBS's Sergio Ermotti said last week that it would be "very risky" to relocate staff to Europe before the outcome of Brexit negotiations is clear, someone has made a move: Mitsubishi UFJ.
Mitsubishi UFJ is moving people to Amsterdam. The Financial Times reports that the Japanese bank will henceforth be operating a "two-headed system" in which London will remain the EMEA quarters, but will focus only on clients in the UK, the Middle East and Africa. The newly upgraded Amsterdam office will seemingly focus on clients in the European Union.
The most recent accounts for Mitsubshi UFJ Trust International (for the year to December 2015) show that the bank has 127 people in London in total. Mitsubishi's London operation is mostly about fixed income trading. It will be instructive, therefore, to see whether traders are moved to Amsterdam along with salespeople. The Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) register shows that Mitsubishi UFJ has 61 registered people in London, down from a peak of 70 in 2013. Several have been hired recently: Duarte Mendes joined in fixed income institutional sales from Tradeweb in August; Chris Durr joined in fixed income institutional sales from SocGen in August; Camilla Jerath joined from Roubini Gloabl economics in July.
Doubts have been expressed in some quarters about the ability of "marginal banks" to fund the movement of staff out of London because of Brexit. Mitsubishi appears well able to afford the relocation of its people though. The bank's UK arm made a profit of £5.7m last year. Synechron, a 'technology services provider' thinks it will cost £50k per head to shift banks overseas. On this basis, if Mitsubishi moves 30 of its front office FCA registered staff out of the City, the £1.5m hit looks manageable.
Mitsubishi isn't the only Japanese bank with links to Amsterdam. As we reported in August, Mizuho is also registered in Holland.
Meanwhile, Barclays is reportedly cutting 25% of its London office space and clearing out 5,000 desks. Recruiters say the move is creating some trepidation at the UK bank as people there fear the effects of Brexit. However, one insider told us this is rubbish: The building being cleared out is 10 South Colonnade which focused on operations and IT. The project to empty it began last year; staff have been moved into another Barclays building where floors were previously leased to an advertising agency.