CitiGroup could leave Belfast in event of Brexit, UK boss suggests
One of Northern Ireland's biggest financial services employers has said it may have to relocate its Belfast operations if the public votes for a Brexit.
Citigroup has a major back office operation in the city's Titanic Quarter, employing approximately 1,500 people.
The company has three other offices in the city, including in Donegall Square North.
In 2014, CitiGroup announced an investment worth £54m to create another 600 new jobs - supported with £6m in funding from Invest NI.
But the business's UK chief, James Bardrick, emailed staff in the to say that the referendum had important implications for the business - which he added he believed were important to share among employees.
He indicated Citi was reviewing the situation ahead of the vote and was making plans around areas including "our organisational footprint and where we book business".
He said Citi was drawn to the UK for two "inter-related" reasons - the UK's status as a global financial centre and its access to the single market as an EU member state.
Mr Bardrick added: "We believe the UK's position as a global leader in many areas of financial services is in no small part aided by efficient and effective access to the EU's single market - the largest single market in the world, with 500 million citizens as potential customers and employees.
"We believe access to the single market leads many other international companies, including many of Citi's major clients, to invest in the UK and base their regional or global headquarters here."
But pro-Brexit campaigner Jeff Peel, owner of Quadriga Consulting, dismissed the CitiGroup chief's email as "scaremongering and corporatism".
"It is much too early for CitiGroup to tell what the repercussions will be," he added.
City of London firm TheCityUK has already said companies "may consider alternative locations" instead of Northern Ireland, and in particular Belfast, in order to ensure trading remains smooth in the single market.
But it is understood expansion plans for Northern Ireland by financial services giant PwC would be unaffected by a Brexit.
However, it is believed Citigroup would be in a different position as it is required to be regulated where it carries out the bulk of its business.
PwC has said that on balance, it is better for its client base if the UK remains in the EU.
Property news website CoStar this week reported that CitiGroup was on the lookout for new premises in Belfast as part of a plan to combine its four offices into one.
First Minister Arlene Foster, who as Enterprise Minister described the company as "the foundation of Northern Ireland's financial services sector" when it expanded in 2013, would not comment on Mr Bardrick's stance during an event yesterday.