Finance firms revive EU relocation plans

Financial firms in the UK are set to revive plans during 2022 to relocate staff to the European Union, according to the latest Brexit Tracker report from accountancy and professional services firm EY.

View of London near Liverpool Street
Many companies in the financial sector have had to put staff relocation programmes on hold because of lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021 resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

EY's latest survey

Now, EY's latest survey of the UK's 222 largest financial services firms finds that 44 per cent have either plans to move staff to the EU this year or are actively considering it. Amsterdam, Milan, Frankfurt and Paris top the list of proposed destinations.Omar Ali, EY head of financial services for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, said that, while the UK had officially left the EU at the end of 2020, "the financial sector is still working through the hangover of Brexit".He added: “While the majority of operational moves were made well ahead of the Brexit deadline – and before the pandemic – travel restrictions over the last two years have challenged the practicalities of relocation.“Depending on the trajectory of the omicron variant and its impact on international travel in the short term, delayed moves should pick up over the coming year, not least due to ongoing pressure from EU regulators.”

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But the survey also found that new hires in the sector directly related to Brexit had now reached topped 5,000 roles, 2,800 of which were created craoss the EU, compared to 2,200 in Britain.Last autumn, EY, industry body TheCityUK and the City of London Corporation issued a report calling on the government to relax visa rules for overseas finance workers for up to six months to help the UK maintain international competitiveness.Such a 'hybrid', short-term visa would enable foreign workers to come to the UK without the bureaucracy involved in a typical visa process. “Without it, we will not be able to innovate in key growth areas like fintech or green finance, nor build out our international trading networks,” said Miles Celic, CEO of TheCityUK.The report found that 42 per cent of fintech workers in the UK were expats and that across all financial services in the country, almost 20 per cent of the workforce came from abroad.The London Economic digital newspaper commented: "But since January 2021, when new immigration rules came into force post-Brexit, companies are facing rising costs to be able to employ the talent that will keep Britain relevant in global finance."

Shell and Mark Jacobs International relocate to the UK

Far from all relocations are one-way traffic from the UK to the EU. Shell, for instance, announced last year it was moving its international headquarters from the Netherlands to Britain and only this week, luxury fashion brand Marc Jacobs International revealed it was to relocate its European offices from Paris to London.“As our business in the UK continues to strengthen, plans are in place to expand our retail presence in the region and build our European team in London,” a company spokesman said.Marc Jacobs International, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is incorporated in the US.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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