I’m American born, but I’ve spent my career working for a succession of major European and U.S. investment banks in London. I came here in 1995 and I became a British citizen in 2003. I’ve loved and lived in London, but now I’m going home.
It’s Brexit. Of course, it’s Brexit (Doh!). But it’s not just that. It’s also the British economy and Britain as a whole. The country has lost its ebullience; the economy is sick and the people are among the most indebted in the world. Brexit can only make matters worse. In the next few years, it seems the UK will voluntarily put itself through a Brexit-induced recession. Inflation is rising but it’s almost impossible for the Bank of England to increase interest rates. Manufacturing and consumer spending are slowing. The housing market is likely to go into reverse and many finance jobs are likely to leave. London is losing its lustre. I remember this city in 1995; it was a parochial place with hardly any good restaurants, where you couldn’t get takeaway coffee and the tube stopped twice a day; the IRA bombed Canary Wharf. Are we going back to the future?
In New York, it’s a different matter. It’s not just that the U.S. economy is healthier, but that the U.S. markets are deeper. There are more clients, the platforms are bigger. And U.S. markets will be less affected by MiFID II.
I’m not saying it will be easy for me to get a job on Wall Street, but I know New York. I’ve lived there and I still own an apartment there. I already have a network of clients and colleagues there – although I’ve been based in the UK, I’ve traveled to the U.S. regularly and have always worked on international teams. I think I’m in with a chance.
Of course there’s nothing unusual about an American banker leaving London. In 2009, I was part of a group of 10 Americans who got together every few months – the rest all went home long ago. It’s been standard practice for Americans to come to London for two or three years before going back and demanding a promotion on the back of their “international experience.” The Americans who stay on tend to be married to Europeans, although this isn’t the case for me.
I have some regrets about leaving. There’s a sense of history in the UK. You can walk down a street and see a building that was built in the 1700s or 1800s – not many U.S. cities have that. You can travel to Europe easily, although I wouldn’t move there; Frankfurt’s too small and Paris is only good if you speak French.
In New York, you can be in the Caribbean in three hours. You can drive up the coast to Maine and New England. You can be in Florida in two and a half hours and California in 5.5 (if you fly). America’s massiveness is part of its problem and part of its appeal. I hope to find a job in its bigger pond; I’m leaving these murky waters behind.
Clara Rand is the pseudonym of a senior U.S. securities professional in London