For the last four years, I have regularly been asked by people on both sides of the Channel about the ‘Brexit’ effect on banking and markets recruitment in Paris. Because politics often crowds out reality, this is a difficult question to answer. If you look to the French media, the Choose France initiative, and the influential Paris Europlace, you might assume that there is an unstoppable hiring juggernaut! But is this truly the case? And is the city famous for its arts, fashion, and culture truly comfortable bearing the moniker of ‘Europe’s Leading Financial Hub’?
Paris has done very well. Most significantly, the capital made a bold statement about its economic future by overcoming fierce competition from Frankfurt to become the new HQ of the European Banking Authority. This achievement is especially remarkable when you consider the fact that Frankfurt is the home of the ECB. Other important Parisian achievements in the past few years include becoming the destination of choice for Eurozone project finance, capital raising and fixed income trading, as well as the risk management and compliance teams associated with that activity following London’s loss of EU passport rights.
What’s next on the horizon for Paris? The battle for Euro clearing services in OTC derivatives. Until mid-2025, there will continue to be a ‘temporary equivalence’ agreement in place for UK CCPs. The clock is counting down to Paris’s next charm offensive.
Is the exodus as big as they say?
The short answer is ‘no’.
London officially retains 35% of the Euro loan market and 40% of the Euro FX market. In a recent analysis, the ECB found that 70% of Euro trading desks still implement a back-to-back booking model (i.e., a model in which trading is booked remotely and outsourced to non-EU entities—namely, the UK). Associated risk management and compliance teams are similarly outsourced. Of the 264 trading desks analysed, only 21% are material from a prudential perspective.
In short, the majority of trading and risk frameworks for Euro-denominated activity is still in London. Despite the shifting political landscape, the pace of change in the world of financial services is always more akin to the tortoise than to the hare.
Will Paris surpass London as the financial capital of Europe?
Perhaps, at least in a political or logistical sense. As a global centre of trading activity and influence, however, this prospect is very unlikely. It is important to note that at least publicly, Paris’s ambitions extend only to Euro-related financing, trading and clearing. This development seems logical and an inevitable consequence of the Brexit vote.
Corporate culture and hiring challenges: Is it clear sailing for the Anglo banks and do their local employees adapt quickly?
Many are aware that the French and Anglo-Saxon work models have both synergies and antagonisms. To focus on the positive, most Parisian employees have excellent academic credentials. In addition, France can be a critical culture, resulting in a constant pursuit of excellence. You cannot get away with anything less!
That said, the ‘cadre’ system and traditional separation of managerial employees from technical functions in the French system can sometimes be too rigid to fit comfortably into the Anglo model*. However, because of France’s emphasis on agility coaching, there is some dilution of this characteristic. In my experience, some international leaders have an explicit preference for hiring local talent with at least six months of international experience, because such individuals are seen as more adaptable.
*Here, the term ‘Anglo’ or ‘Anglo-Saxon’ refers to banks within the Anglosphere, i.e., the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and Ireland.
Anglo banking and market businesses: The stats
Since Brexit, 5,500 investment banking, markets, governance, and support professionals have moved to Paris, including the following:
- Bank of America: 600 employees are located near Rue La Boétie in the old Post Office building, close to Boulevard Haussmann and Rue Faubourg Saint Honoré, with Roly Recruitment as a neighbour!
- Barclays: 300 employees are in Paris, with 200 more to be added by 2025-2026. The Paris office is as large as the Dublin office, and the bank plans to move into new, larger offices near the Arc de Triomphe.
- Citadel Securities: The firm has moved its European government debt trading teams to Paris.
- Citi: 400 employees and 250 traders are located at Rue Balzac in the Etoile Business Centre, near the Champs Elysées.
- Goldman Sachs: 400+ employees are located on Avenue Marceau in the 16th, close to the Champs Elysées.
- JP Morgan: 900 employees are in Paris, including 550 markets staff. The firm’s headquarters are in Place Vendome.
- Macquarie Group: 100 employees are located at Rond point Marcel Dassault, close to the Elysée Palace.
- Morgan Stanley: 300 employees are located in Paris, and the firm is looking to increase this number to 500 by 2025.
- LCH: 250 employees are in Paris, with a sharp growth trajectory predicted over the next two years as Paris looks to attract more Eurozone clearing services.
What does Paris offer?
- Talent: Paris boasts some of the best young financial engineering and business talent in the world. Ecole Polytechnique, Paris Dauphine, Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, IAE Paris Est, Emlyon, Iaelyn and EDHEC regularly feature in educational league tables in the fields of, inter alia, financial modelling, data science, quantitative finance and corporate finance.
- Infrastructure: Through the Grand Paris Project 2030, Paris is set to add 68 train stations and four new rail lines through an investment of 30+ billion Euros. In addition, the 2024 Olympic Games are expected to have a windfall effect, with line 14 of the Grand Paris project opening in 2024.
- Expat Income Tax Regime (Le Régime des Impatriés) To qualify for the expat tax regime, you should not have paid French income tax for five years prior to relocation, and you will benefit from an income tax rate reduction of up to 30% less for eight years while residing in France. There is also a tax reduction of up to 50% on certain foreign sources of investment income. You should note, however, that if you change employers, you will lose these advantages.
- Tourism: If living in the City of Light is not enough—then travel to the provinces! On France’s high-speed TGV trains, you can reach almost anywhere in France within 1-3 hours without ever setting foot inside an airport. Eat fruits de mer in La Rochelle, surf in Biarritz, ski in Les Alpes, château-hop in the Loire Valley or canoe the Calanques in Marseille after a busy week in your Parisian office.
- Quality of Life: Ah, la joie de vivre! Slow down and indulge in life’s simple pleasures. You may find that you end up consuming less and doing more!
Can London woo business back?
Perhaps. There are two major developments that could make this happen:
- Removal of the cap on banker bonuses (October 2023). The UK PRA and FCA recently announced the UK’s repeal of the 2014 EU PRA legislation that reduced variable pay to a maximum of 100% of base pay. This is a potential game changer for London’s bid for global leadership.
- Passage of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023. This new law repeals some of the more prohibitive EU directives set up post Global Financial Crisis. It goes one further however by creating a lighter touch short-selling regime. This replaces the UK’s existing requirement to publicly disclose all short positions over 0.5%, thus revealing the identity of the short seller. Under the new rules, individuals will continue to be required to report short positions of 0.2% or above to the FCA, but they will not be identified in any public disclosures.
The dividend has been decent but not the windfall Paris had hoped for.
Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Dublin, and Luxembourg will continue to compete for any Euro related activity. Amsterdam deserves a special mention for securing the Euro desks for Japan’s largest banking group, MUFG, Australia’s largest bank, CBA and one of the UK’s largest banks, Natwest. In addition, the exchanges CME and CBOE have both set up significant operations in the ‘Venice of the North’.
Looking to the future, securing the Euro OTC clearing market could be game changer for Paris. Euro repo debt clearing has already shifted here with LCH SA Paris now a dominant force and benefitting from a EUR 4 trillion + liquidity pool. The decision by London Stock Exchange Group (owner of LCH SA) not to sell its shareholding in 2016 post Brexit and to subsequently pivot and acquire more capital through the 11.1% acquisition of Euronext’s LCH stake in June 2023 has proved to be a shrewd move.
Paris will continue to seduce business leadership and showcase its banking and markets credentials. it’s non-banking credentials however and the lifestyle opportunities it offers could give it the edge over its European rivals.
- Angrand Marc and Albert Eric ‘Paris celebrates its post-Brexit finance gains ‘ (London Le Monde (United Kingdom) correspondent) – June 29, 2023
- Bishop Graham, The Federal Trust – Federal Trust Briefing July 2023
- Chmiel Damien – ‘Citigroup plans to doble staff and open new trading floor in Paris’ Finance Magnates – 06/03/2023.
- Enria Andrea; Chair of the Supervisory Board of the ECB – European Central Bank – Brexit and the EU banking sector: from the fundamental freedoms of the Internal Market to third country status – for the Revue d’économie financière special issue on Brexit – 26th January 2023
- European Central Bank – Supervisory Expectations on Booking Models – August 2018
- Everett-Allen Kate ‘Why Paris is packing a punch in 2023’ 01 June 2023 Knight Frank Intelligence Lab
- Financial Services and Markets Act, Chapter 29 – 29th June 2023 – Revocation of EU Law in Financial Services and Markets
- Katsomitros Alex ‘Amsterdam’s Rise as Europe’s Next Financial Centre’, World Finance 2023
- Pearce Will, Herschovits Dan, Witty Simon and Chalmers Mark ‘ The Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 ushers in an era of major regulatory change in the UK’ – Davis Polk July 20th 2023
- Rau-Goehring Matthias “Impact of Brexit on the International role of the Euro’ European Central Bank June 2023
- Reynolds Barnabas, Donegan Thomas, Odgers Wilf, Allahyari Ella, Ormondroyd Nicholas, Collins Sandy, Barrowman Chloe, Scargill Michael – ‘A boost for UK Financial Services – The UK Financial Services and Markets Act 2023’ July 31st 2023 – Sherman Sterling
- Skinner Louise, Twitchett Thomas A.J and Kotecha Palomi – Morgan Lewis Newsflash -November 3rd 2023