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UK finance reigns in Europe despite Brexit fallout

LONDON (AFP) – One year after Britain’s formal exit from the European Union (EU), London’s powerful City financial sector still reigns on the continent despite losing key business and bankers to rival hubs.

“London has spent hundreds of years as a global financial centre. Brexit will not change that, certainly not anytime soon,” said Head of Equity Strategy at Interactive Investor Lee Wild.

The city, whose skyscraper offices are largely deserted by Covid restrictions, has yet to strike a post-Brexit deal with Brussels on equivalence, which would allow London-based firms to fully operate in Europe.

London has over the past year lost out to rivals on equity trading, struggling to recover ground after a hammering triggered immediately after Britain’s EU exit.

Trading on London’s stock market slumped by about 40 per cent at the start of 2021, with London prevented from offering EU-listed shares to clients outside the United Kingdom (UK).

Amsterdam has benefitted the most, overtaking London to become Europe’s biggest hub in terms of equity trading volumes for much of the past year, according to Cboe Global Markets.

London remains the world’s second biggest financial centre behind New York when various factors are taken into account including infrastructure, reputation and business environment, according to the Global Financial Centres Index 2021.

A view of skyscrapers in London’s financial district. PHOTO: AFP

The City also remains a dominant financial centre on a global scale in several markets, including foreign exchange and derivatives.

“Leaving the EU brings challenges and there are threats from Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt and Amsterdam,” Wild told AFP.

“But the likelihood that European rivals will wrest the crown of Europe’s primary finance hub from the UK is slim.”

The city is able to maintain a strong standing in the world of finance also thanks to a large network of support services.

“London still has a huge amount in its favour,” said Investment Director at AJ BellRuss Mould.

He said the City offered “an ecosystem of banks, advisers, lawyers, fund managers and hedge funds… (providing) appropriately-priced capital to companies who need it so they can invest, innovate, grow and create jobs”.

Nevertheless in the wake of Brexit, about 44 per cent of UK-based financial services firms have moved or plan to move operations or staff to the EU, according to financial group EY.

Asset transfers totalled GBP1.3 billion (USD1.8 billion) at the end of last year, it added. Dublin and Luxembourg are home to the biggest amount of office moves, while Paris has won the most staff switches.

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