Australian banks are abandoning London as Brexit looms
- Australia's banks are beginning to put in motion plans to shift staff and other assets out of London after Brexit.
- Australia's largest bank by assets, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, is moving 50 staff to Amsterdam as it readies for Brexit, according to The Financial Times.
- Others including Macquarie, Westpac, and ANZ Bank are making plans on the continent.
- Many foreign financial institutions are frustrated - like many UK businesses - by the lack of any real clarity over what sort of Brexit the UK will actually achieve when the Article 50 period runs out in March next year.
Australian banks with UK operations are beginning to put in motion plans to shift staff and other assets out of London as the possibility of a no-deal Brexit looms large in their thoughts.
According to a story from the Financial Times on Monday, Australia's largest bank by assets, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), has set in motion plans to shift 50 staff from London to the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, and has applied for a banking licence in the country.
Those staff will be focused on the bank's European "passporting" operations - the system by which banks are able to operate across EU borders while possessing just a single banking licence. The financial passport is linked strongly to membership of the European Single Market, and the UK will lose its passporting rights as a result.
Commonwealth Bank said on Monday that its plan to shift staff to Amsterdam is being put in place "to ensure we can continue to provide the best service to our customers, while limiting disruption to existing business and our employees.
While Commonwealth Bank is the latest bank to pull the trigger on moving staff, other Australian lenders are also shifting some capacity away from the UK, with investment bank Macquarie saying in May that it plans to expand its operations in Dublin, Ireland as a protection from Brexit. Westpac and ANZ are also shifting some operations to continental Europe.
Many foreign financial institutions are frustrated - like many UK businesses - by the lack of any real clarity over what sort of Brexit the UK will actually achieve when the Article 50 period runs out in March next year.
The British government remains adamant that it will strike a deal, and says one is 95% complete, but the exact shape of that deal isn't entirely clear. There are also lingering fears that negotiations could collapse at any moment, leaving the UK facing down a no deal Brexit, seen by the businesses, and the financial sector in particular, as the worst possible outcome.
No deal would be particularly catastrophic for banks and other financial institutions because of the highly internationalized nature of the sector, which sees hundreds of billions of dollars flow across borders every single day.
Australian lenders are not alone in their desire for clarity. While most of the attention around post-Brexit job relocations out of the City has focused on American and European lenders, banks from around the world using London as a hub for their EU business have been made to decide what to do post Brexit, with Japanese banks particularly active in moving staff out of the UK.
Sumitomo Mitsui, MUFJ, Daiwa Securities, and Nomura are among the Japanese banks with plans in motion to shift some of their staff and physical operations out of the UK, generally to Frankfurt, after Brexit.
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