While UK Parliament dithers over Brexit, finance outflows pick up speed

LONDON • The UK Parliament can’t agree on how to leave the European Union (EU), but many finance firms have already decided how much money to move out of the City of London — a shift that’s seen by some as irreversible.

The big banks were among the first to plan to move assets out of London, with Frankfurt standing to benefit handsomely. Five of the largest banks looking to serve continental European customers now intend to move €750 billion (RM3.54 trillion) of balance-sheet assets to Frankfurt, according to people familiar with the matter.

Deutsche Bank AG is taking the lead by repatriating at least €400 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified divulging the company’s plans.

JPMorgan Chase & Co will move €200 billion to the host city of the European Central Bank (ECB) over the next year or two, twice as much as previously reported, a person familiar with the matter said.

Spokespeople for Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan declined to comment. The figures add detail to previous predictions from lobby groups about the capital flight to Frankfurt.

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, banks assumed they could continue to provide services to continental clients simply by setting up legal entities in the remaining EU countries. However, the ECB, the Bundesbank and Bafin — the German markets regulator — all demanded that continental subsidiaries hold sufficient resources, with the latter warning against “letterbox” subsidiaries that contain little more than a postal address.

Trading Exodus

While the banks have mostly chosen Frankfurt, the trading venues and the algorithmic traders that provide much of their volumes have mostly gone to Amsterdam. Trading venues need to be physically in the EU to guarantee that firms based in the trading bloc can access them after March 29.

CME Group Inc is moving its BrokerTec market for short-term funding, Europe’s largest, to Amsterdam from March 18. This is in addition to the €200-billion-a-day repo market, whose move was unveiled in November. The firm is also moving its European government bond venue and its separate US$15 billion-(RM62.1 billion)-a-day EBS (electronic broking service) foreign-exchange forwards and swaps market to the city.

CME does not disclose volumes for bond trading outside the US.

Many more trading venues have chosen to reproduce their London trading services on the continent. Applicants to the Dutch markets regulator to operate a multilateral trading facility (MTF) include London Stock Exchange Group plc’s (LSE) Turquoise unit, TP ICAP plc, Tradeweb LLC, MarketAxess Holdings Inc and Bloomberg LP — the parent of this news organisation.

LCH Most Vulnerable

After Brexit, Cboe Global Markets Inc’s Amsterdam-based regulated market will handle all stocks listed in EU member states, with UK and Swiss equities remaining on the firm’s London-based MTF.

After most trades are agreed, the clearinghouses take over. London’s three clearinghouses dominate markets including energy and metals, but the firm most susceptible to losing business to Europe is LCH Ltd, a division of LSE that is home to more than 90% of cleared trades of interest-rate swaps.

At the end of last year, Union Investment, Germany’s third-biggest fund manager, became the first finance firm to announce that it would shut its existing swap positions at LCH and recreate them at Eurex Clearing in Frankfurt. Although LCH has been granted a 12-month reprieve to continue clearing swaps for EU customers in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Union could be the first of many to make the move. — Bloomberg