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Goldman Sachs 'increasing headcount' in EU countries ahead of Brexit

Goldman Sachs will start relocating staff from London to EU offices within the next 18 months as part of the US banking giant's Brexit contingency plans.

Richard Gnodde, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs International, said the bank will expand offices in EU countries, including France and Germany where it already holds banking licenses, in order to be able to serve continental clients after Brexit.

"Over the next 18 months or so we're going to upgrade those facilities, we will be taking extra space in a number of them and we will be increasing our headcount," Mr Gnodde told CNBC on the sidelines of a conference in London.

It plans to bulk up its EU office by "hundreds of people", shifting London staff in the process.

"We'll obviously hire people inside of Europe itself and there will be some movement, but I just want to emphasise that this is all in the context of contingency planning.

"What our eventual footprint will look like will depend on the outcome of those negotiations and what we're obliged to do because of them."

Mr Gnodde said the bank has "had a lot of time to prepare" and had completed a "business line by business line" analysis to understand how a range of Brexit scenarios might affect the business.

While banks and financial services have been pushing for a transitional deal that would avoid a cliff edge once negotiations wrap up in 2019, Mr Gnodde said it was time to take action.

"The big question will obviously come down to transitionals: will there be transitionals or won't there be transitionals ... Here, we can't bank on them, so we have to have contingency plans, and that's what we've got, and we're going to start to execute on those contingency plans."

However, he assured London would remain "a very significant global hub" and financial centre regardless of the outcome.

A Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing released last month showed Goldman Sachs is charging ahead with plans to open its new London office by 2019, but has kept the option of letting out remaining space to other tenants, depending on how much square footage it needs for its local workforce.

London's deputy mayor for business Rajesh Agrawal said that while there is "no doubt" that London will remain the "best city in the world" to do business after Brexit, a transitional deal with the EU that ensures access to the single market is crucial to safeguarding Britain's economy.

"The Prime Minister's negotiating position is unnecessarily risking a 'Hard Brexit' that would put our economy and future prosperity at risk, and this is underlined by Goldman Sachs' announcement today," Mr Agrawal said.

"The Government must now prioritise an interim deal with the EU that secures the fullest possible access to the single market.

"The Government's unrealistic expectation of having trade negotiations concluded within two years of triggering Article 50 - with no plan for extending this period - is compounding uncertainty and risks, causing unnecessary damage to our economy, as evidenced by this decision."

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