Will Brexit send AML to Barcelona?

AML is proud to be a London agency working with clients based in cities across Europe, as well as around the world. Like many of them, we see ourselves as a global, rather than a UK, business – and many of our favourite people come from outside Britain. But if Brexit means we have to open up elsewhere to look after our clients, where would that be? Ian Henderson invites Paris, Frankfurt and Barcelona to pitch…

Before the referendum result on June 24, few in London’s finance district believed the UK would vote to leave the EU. Most of the ‘smart money’ was going the other way – but not in Paris. Two weeks before the vote, prescient deputy mayor Jean-Louis Missika told the New York Times that Paris would ‘roll out the red carpet’ to firms wanting to relocate to an EU country in the event of a Brexit vote.

Many now see Paris as the obvious choice for banks and other organisations needing to move operations into countries which will ensure EU passporting that the UK government cannot guarantee after Brexit. As a highly civilized, world-class city Paris offers many of London’s advantages (some of the restaurants are almost as good) as well as an established financial sector, although recent political events have perhaps made some think twice.

Frankfurt has taken a more typically conservative approach. Lobby group Frankfurt Main Finance chief Hubertus Vath “does not want to get into a fist-fight” with London; he sees a complementary relationship with a “bridge” between Frankfurt and London, which he does not expect to lose its pre-eminent status as a finance hub. Frankfurt has excellent transport links, reasonably-priced accommodation and English is the language of business. Unfortunately, Frankfurt is also notoriously dull.

Amsterdam is a less obvious choice, but is undeniably a beautiful town; and we are very fond of Rotterdam’s ‘Manhattan on Maas’ architectural theme park. Dublin of course shares the language of Joyce and Yeats with London and has a favourable business climate, although its location further away from mainland Europe (and a shortage of good housing stock) make it a less strong contender. Barcelona is an almost perfect place to live while Spanish rival Madrid’s city chief Cristina Cifuentes has been pushing the city’s credentials as a centre for finance, technology and innovation.

But the list of possible locations doesn’t stop there. Less obvious contenders like Luxembourg and Warsaw are marketing themselves hard. Polish deputy prime minister (and ex-Santander boss) Mateusz Morawiecki has brought considerable charm and a even more considerable armful of financial incentives to London for banks and asset managers. A more subtle approach than inviting them to bring their entire headquarters staff, his pitch is to back and middle office operations where he says Poland can offer a highly-trained, lower cost workforce with strong IT skills.

As an agency AML already works with leading firms based in France, Holland, Germany and elsewhere in Europe, as well as in the US and Asia. We’re watching the cities’ Brexit pitches with interest, from a personal as well as professional perspective – if we have to open new offices to support our clients, we will. So if anyone from Paris, Barcelona or even Frankfurt is reading this, we look forward to hearing from you …