Belfast Telegraph

Ex-banker Emmanuel Macron expected to try and lure City workers across Channel

The Square Mile is at risk of a French brain drain after Emmanuel Macron's presidential win, with the former Rothschild banker expected to ramp up efforts to lure native talent back home.

Experts say the centrist and pro-business president-elect will follow through on plans to persuade his fellow countrymen, thousands of whom work in London's financial services sector, to look for opportunities in France in the wake of Brexit.

"He'll make a play for French bankers to come home, so they may find it a bit more attractive, certainly more attractive than if (Marine) Le Pen was in charge," Alex Howard-Keyes, an investment banking partner at executive search firm Alderbrooke said.

"He's an internationalist, he's clearly pro European, and it settles one issue, will France stay in the euro, what relationship will it have with the eurozone, which is to say it will be pretty robust."

Mr Macron's election could make France a more viable location for banks on the hunt for a post-Brexit EU hub, but major reforms are needed if Paris hopes to compete with the likes of Frankfurt and Dublin, Mr Howard-Keyes said.

The president-elect, who is set to take office next week, is widely expected to introduce more business-friendly measures, including loosening the country's strict employment laws which heavily tax high earners, deterring wealthier workers, and make it hard to fire staff, a big put-off for banks.

"But bear in mind we've been here before, there have been a lot French presidents over the years, (Jacques) Chirac, (Nicolas) Sarkozy, etc, all came in talking about big laissez-faire reforms coming down the track.

"They didn't get very far, but let's see what actually happens."

HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver said earlier this year that the bank is on course to move 1,000 jobs from its London office to France, where it already has a full service universal bank after buying up Credit Commercial de France in 2002.

But rival financial hubs including Frankfurt are also set to attract majority of businesses looking for a post-Brexit base in the EU.

Last week it emerged JP Morgan is planning to move up to 1,000 London jobs to Dublin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg in a bid to secure its EU business after Brexit, and Japanese investment banks including Nomura and Daiwa are also on track to expand operations in the German city, the Press Association understands.

Hubertus Vath, managing director of the business lobby group Frankfurt Main Finance, said Frankfurt is still in a strong position to lure business, regardless of Mr Macron's victory.

"We are not worried to lose out, as many banks have indicated they will move various entities to different destinations and Frankfurt is almost always on the short list.

"Do not forget that whatever the results of this autumn's German elections, the two leading contenders are both pro-European. So, Germany is a place where you need not even worry."

Mr Howard-Keyes says his wholesale banking clients look likely to maintain London as a European headquarters but build up operations in cities like Dublin and Frankfurt, in a move that will 'hedge' their bets until Brexit negotiations conclude.

"They've taken the view that if you've got London and Frankfurt covered, then you've got your two principal hubs."

There are also concerns that the French public may not be as willing to welcome the banking culture

"They also need to think really hard, the French government, given that France is not a particularly wholesale banking-friendly place.

"They've got to think if there's another crisis, ultimately by having all these big banks where they are on the ground in France, that means ultimately the French taxpayer has to stump up the readies.

"And you know, the UK did that.

"I'm just not convinced that the French public would really want that on their books."