'Focus on Asia, not Europe' urges bank boss

The UK's financial services sector should define its own post-Brexit agenda and start to concentrate on markets in the US and Asia, the boss of Barclays said on Friday.

In an interview with the BBC, Jes Staley, the group chief executive of the bank, said the sector should be obsessed with the jobs and funds that have relocated to European hubs, but should concentrate on the opportunities that Brexit offered.He said that climate change was one of future's great global challenges and that he was convinced London could become a major global hub for green finance."Climate today is like technology was in 1995," he said. "If you think about it, all the Amazons, the Googles, didn't really exist in 1995 and now it dominates 40 per cent of the economy. I think it's a fair argument that dealing with climate and dealing with the environment is in the same position now."On Brexit, Mr Staley said he believed the outcome would prove to be "more than likely on the positive side than on the negative side", although he rejected the idea that it would lead to the UK's financial sector scrapping the existing regulatory framework.While he accepted that jobs had been lost in Britain because of the necessity to relocate staff to new hubs within the EU, he insisted the impact had been modest."Yes, there are some jobs that are going to Europe that otherwise would have been in the UK, but it's in the hundreds. Barclays employs some 50,000 people in the United Kingdom, roughly 20,000 outside of the UK and 10,000 in the US," he said."Some amount of capital has moved but London is still obviously the main centre for Barclays.    
"What the UK needs, and London needs, is to make sure that the City is one of the best places, whether (in terms of) regulation or law or language or talent."I think what London needs to be focused on is not Frankfurt or Paris, it needs to be focused on New York and Singapore."But Mr Staley said the UK should "not burn one piece of regulation", not least because the current, robust system was a major strength.One of the EU's fears is that the UK will abandon the current regulatory framework and that London will become a 'Singapore-on-Thames' as some have suggested. But Mr Staley that the UK should do everything it could to foster trust with the EU, though not at the cost of becoming uncompetitive in the global market.In a separate interview, Catherine McGuinness, head of policy at the City of London Corporation, said that while financial services were largely ignored in the trade deal with the EU, the sector was in a good position because it started preparing for Brexit years ago.EU, the sector was in a good position because it started preparing for Brexit years ago."We have been disappointed in the lack of focus on the financial professional services sector, which is a critical part of our economy," she said. "But the minute the referendum result was announced, the institutions started planning how they would be able to serve their customers in whatever circumstances developed."She agreed with Mr Staley that there was no need for widespread deregulation. "One reason why people want to come and do business here is because they trust the regulation."We're not hearing any great demand for a bonfire of regulation but we do need to look at how can we keep influencing and working with global standards to meet global challenges."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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