It may not be as expensive as Singapore or (surprisingly) Paris, but London is an expensive place to live. It's in danger of becoming more expensive still - one property investment company is wildly predicting that a small flat in banker-heavy Kensington or Fulham will cost £36m by the middle of the century - but even at current prices, mid-ranking bankers on annual incomes of £500k ($800k) or less are finding themselves priced-out of the pleasantest postcodes.
The high cost of living in London and its environs isn't popular with banking spouses. U.S. banking spouses are especially displeased. "Even on £210k, I can't afford a detached home in good shape with a garden in this country," says one, speaking off the record. "My wife is very fed up with our quality of life here. I am seriously looking into options back in the USA."
The wife of another U.S. banker currently living an hour our of London in Surrey says she's starting to question the wisdom of situating her young family in the U.K. "What's the point of being highly paid if it's not easy to enjoy the comforts of life for yourself and your family?", she asks, "Our quality of life in the U.K. is poor and deteriorating as the price of housing increases. Yes, the price of goods may be higher in the U.S., and yes there may be more hidden taxes, but at least one can find a comfortable home to rest in at the end of a busy day."
As we've reported previously, U.S. headhunters say they're receiving calls from American bankers in London who want to come home. Jeanne Branthover, head of Boyden’s global financial services business in New York, says spouses are often behind the migratory impulse. "People are just finding that it's really expensive to live in London. You have to go very far outside the city to find somewhere affordable to live and then you need to commute a long way and transportation is expensive too. Spouses are saying they've had enough."
New Jersey is seen as an appealing alternative to Richmond upon Thames or Guildford in Surrey. "Now that so many financial firms have moved to Jersey City, commuting within NJ has become so much easier," says the banker's wife we spoke to. "New Jersey homes are much larger and much more affordable than Surrey homes and lately, one really needs to consider that there really aren't that many detached homes even available to purchase."
Josh Matthews, managing partner at Maseco Private Wealth, a London-based wealth management firm which specializes in helping U.S. citizens overseas to manage their money, points out that there are downsides to living in New Jersey, however: "London is an incredibly interesting city that has some very interesting people. It's also easy to travel to Europe from London and its environs. If you live in New Jersey the crowd is incredibly homogeneous. Yes, London's expensive, but there are good reasons why U.S. bankers and their families like to live here."