Press release

20 Dec 2021 London, GB

EY Financial Services Brexit Tracker: Brexit activity muted over 2021, with total relocations revised down and few major operational announcements

44% (97 out of 222) of financial services firms* have moved or plan to move some UK operations and/or staff to the EU since the Referendum, up from 41% in January 2020

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Related topics Financial Services
  • 44% (97 out of 222) of financial services firms* have moved or plan to move some UK operations and/or staff to the EU since the Referendum, up from 41% in January 2020
  • However, over the last year, a number of the largest investment banks located in the UK have revised down the number of staff that will be relocated to the EU, taking the current number of Brexit-related job move announcements to just under 7,400, down from 7,600 in December 2020
  • Dublin and Luxembourg remain the most popular post-Brexit EU destinations for new European hubs or office relocations and Paris welcomes the highest number of people relocating
  • Since the Referendum, 24 financial services firms have publicly declared they will transfer just over £1.3trn of UK assets to the EU, a figure which has remained broadly flat throughout this year
  • EU regulators show ongoing pragmatism in managing stability and other risks as they build greater financial strength, but maintain pressure on firms to complete headcount and operational moves that have been delayed by the pandemic

Brexit-related activity within the UK financial services market – covering the relocation of staff and/or operations, the establishment of new EU hubs or offices, and the flow of assets to Europe – has remained muted over 2021.

According to the latest data from the EY Financial Services Brexit Tracker, since the UK’s official departure from the EU and the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, there has been a significant fall in announcements of operational moves.

Between January 2020 and December 2021, the number of financial services firms that have publicly stated they have moved or plan to move some UK operations and/or staff to Europe rose just three percentage points from 41% to 44% (from 92 to 97 out of 222 companies). This compares to the period in the wake of the Referendum, when announcements rose steadily from 18% in December 2016 to 41% in January 2020 (39 to 92 companies out of 222).

Number of staff relocations revised downwards

A number of the largest investment banks located in the UK, which had initially projected higher numbers of staff moves to Europe in anticipation of losing access to the single market, have since revised down the number of roles they will relocate to the continent to serve the needs of clients. The total number of Brexit-related job relocations from the UK to Europe has subsequently fallen to just under 7,400, down from 7,600 in December 2020.

The number of new hires across Europe and the UK since the Referendum which have been publicly linked to Brexit stands at just over 5,000, with around 2,800 new jobs created on the continent and 2,200 in the UK.

Omar Ali, EMEIA Financial Services Leader at EY, comments:

“It’s been nearly a year since the UK officially left the European Union, but the financial sector is still working through the hangover of Brexit.

“While the majority of operational moves were made well ahead of the 2020 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.

“For many financial services firms, we are still far from being fully ‘post-Brexit’. The Memorandum of Understanding for the sector remains unsigned, and there is not yet a definitive outcome on equivalence. While the EU has proposed an extension to temporary equivalence for UK-based clearing beyond June 2022, it is uncertain how long this will be for. And, although the EU has taken a pragmatic stance so far, there is no doubt that it plans to build up its long-term strategic capabilities. With such ongoing uncertainty, the risk of fragmented markets remains, which is inefficient, costly for all participants, and could ultimately harm the global competitiveness of both markets.”

Dublin remains top choice for operational moves, but highest number of staff relocate to Paris

Since the 2016 Referendum, 41% (90 out of 222) of firms monitored by the EY Financial Services Brexit Tracker have confirmed at least one location in Europe to which they are or are considering moving or adding staff and/or operations. Thirteen per cent (28 out of 222) have confirmed multiple such locations in Europe, which compares to 12% this time a year ago.

Dublin remains the most popular destination for staff relocations and new European hubs or offices, with 36 financial services firms announcing intentions to relocate UK operations and/or staff to the city. Luxembourg is the second most popular destination, attracting 29 companies in total, followed by Frankfurt with 23 companies, and Paris with 21. Other named locations include Madrid (8), Amsterdam (8), Milan (7) and Brussels (6).

However, when it comes to the number of people who have been, or plan to be, relocated to one destination, Paris scores highest, attracting around 2,800 UK employees, followed by Frankfurt (around 1,800) and Dublin (around 1,200).

Omar Ali concludes: 

“For the UK and the EU to maintain their individual competitive standings on the global financial stage, they must continue to work together, while acknowledging evolving regulatory divergence. As we look to 2022, both markets will continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic, but their long-term strategic priorities will increasingly differ. Just one year on from the Brexit deal, the UK must remain focused on its positioning as a leading global financial hub, while the EU will continue to build up its domestic capital markets. This competitive dynamic between markets will play out for many years to come and will ultimately drive better outcomes and a more transparent European financial services market.”