Brexit Hurts FinTech Industry as Firms and Talent Leave UK

Fintech firms are increasingly announcing that they have secured EU licenses ahead of the Brexit deadline.

With less than two weeks until the Brexit deadline, companies within the financial industry are putting safety measures in place to ensure they can continue to operate both within the United Kingdom and the European Union once Britain leaves the bloc.

The broader trend, which was predicted from the beginning, is that many companies are moving part, or all, of their European operations out of London and into other EU member states, with France and Germany being two of the main benefactors.

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In order to offer their services without any post-Brexit disruption, financial firms have been leasing offices throughout continental Europe, moving hundreds of staff out of London and have transferred billions of assets out of the UK.

Announcements of this kind have picked up speed over recent days, with financial firms not willing to wait any longer to find out when and how the UK will be leaving the EU. However, in reality, firms have been putting Brexit contingency plans in place since June of 2016.

Fintech Firms Move Operations and Staff out of London

Financial technology (fintech) firms are also part of this movement. Just last week, Optal, an Australian-founded fintech firm which facilitates business-to-business transactions, announced that it had secured authorization from the Central Bank of Ireland for its Irish subsidiary Optal Financial Europe Limited.

The authorization gives its Irish entity the ability to operate as an e-money institution, as well as allows the company to conduct its European operations from the country to avoid any Brexit uncertainty.

In February, MarketAxess Holdings Inc. announced that its group entities had received approval from the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AMF) to operate a Multilateral Trading Facility (MTF) and act as a Data Reporting Service Provider (DRSP) in the country.

MarketAxess is an operator of a global electronic trading platform for fixed-income securities. The New York-headquartered company also provides market data and post-trade services.

Another notable fintech firm to do the same is mobile banking startup Revolut. As Finance Magnates reported, the fintech firm revealed in December that it had received its European banking license as the London-based fintech firm makes preparations for a shift in Europe’s financial services landscape after Brexit.

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In addition, as Finance Magnates previously analyzed, a number of payments companies are putting the same contingency plans in place, by ensuring they have operational offices in Europe by the end of March.

This is just a glimpse into the number of financial companies that are moving out of London in order to ensure a smooth post-Brexit transition. Banks and brokerages alike in the United States, Europe, and the UK have all been moving large portions of their workforce out of the UK to continental Europe.

Brexit Hurts the UK’s Fintech Sector

Not only are fintech firms leaving the UK, but they are also finding it harder to recruit talent within Britain, the Fuelling Fintech report from TheCityUK revealed.

According to Anne Murphy, managing partner financial services at Odgers Berndtson, who co-wrote the report, since the Brexit vote there has been a significant decrease of graduates coming to the UK from France and Germany in particular.

The British fintech sector employs 60,000 people and is worth £7 billion to the UK economy, according to the report. Out of this, up to 20 percent of the skills needed in recent years have come from people in EU countries.

“More worryingly, those surveyed said since the Brexit vote, UK recruiters and hiring managers have seen a net migration of tech graduates back to the EU. There is a risk that those talented migrants with the skills needed by the UK will leave before these skills can be replaced by home-grown talent,” the report said.

According to the report, fintech companies in the UK are particularly struggling to find roles in coding, cloud computing, machine learning, software development, cyber, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

Nathan Bostock CEO of Santander
Nathan Bostock, CEO of Santander UK bank
Source: Santander UK plc

“The current shortage of tech talent is a strategic issue for the UK’s financial and related professional services industry, yet little has been done to quantify our current and future skills need,” added Nathan Bostock, chief executive of Santander UK bank and chair of TheCityUK’s working group on trade and investment.

In recent years Britain has emerged as a leading fintech hub in Europe. However, the region is now facing increased competition from other EU cities such as Berlin, Paris and Luxembourg, three of the main cities where companies are shifting their operations to in order to maintain access to the EU’s single market.

Whether Britain can remain at the top of the European fintech scene remains to be seen, but if the industry continues on its current trajectory, with more firms moving out of the UK and European talent moving back to the bloc, the future looks less bright.

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