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UBS says it is ‘more and more unlikely’ it will move 1,000 bankers out of London because of Brexit

UBS says it is ‘more and more unlikely’ it will move 1,000 bankers out of London because of Brexit

30 October, 2017

The boss of Swiss bank UBS has said plans to move 1,000 jobs from London as a result of Brexit are now looking "more and more unlikely". Chief executive Sergio Ermotti said the banking giant's fear of losing a fifth of its 5,000-strong UK workforce in the wake of the vote to leave was now unlikely to materialise following some "regulatory and political clarification about what we need to do". The bank joined some of its rivals in predicting a mass exodus from the City earlier this year over concerns that a so-called hard Brexit in March 2019 would mean thousands of UK-based firms reliant on 'passports' to service clients in the EU would lose that right overnight. While UBS has softened its stance on the number of jobs that are likely to move, it is still hashing out plans to protect itself. Mr Ermotti looked to soothe concerns for London staff on Friday by saying that it was his "target" to "keep as many people as we can in London". UBS is one of the last big banks to decide on where it might relocate people post-Brexit, with London staff last week asked to rank whether they would prefer to relocate to Amsterdam, Madrid or Frankfurt, sources told Reuters. "We are finalising our plan on where to move people that need to be moved over the next one to three years depending on the outcome of this political discussion and negotiation," Mr Ermotti said.
Sergio Ermotti, CEO of Switzerland's biggest bank UBS speaks in Davos, Switzerland, in 2016
It is unclear what reassurances the bank has received in the last few months that has made its earlier estimate for job moves seem unrealistic, with a spokesman for the bank declining to comment further.
It is likely other banks have been sent the same message, with the finance industry making repeated demands for the Government to come up with a post-Brexit transition deal quickly so that firms have certainty over whether they need to move jobs and capital. However the head of lobby group TheCityUK said some of the damage was now irreversible, with institutions already pushing ahead with their plans to leave the City. Frankfurt, where UBS already has a licence, is emerging as a clear winner from Brexit. Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs recently signed a lease there that could house up to 1,000 staff, while Germany's financial watchdog has said it could see up to 20 more firms move over. Taking a potshot at Brexit via Twitter, Goldman's chairman Lloyd Blankfein recently tweeted: "Just left Frankfurt. Great meetings, great weather, really enjoyed it. Good, because I'll be spending a lot more time there. #Brexit." Mr Blankfein's tweet fuelled concerns that London could lose its crown as Europe's financial hub. However many will see Mr Ermotti's comments as proof that the threat of Brexit's impact on the City is being overblown.