Bankers earning $1m have been leaving London

Over the last couple of years there have been plenty of anecdotes about high paid front office staff leaving London to move to Frankfurt and Paris as a result of Brexit, but hard data is always difficult to come by. Now we’ve finally got some figures, from the compulsory report on “high earners” published by the European Banking Authority every year. They have confirmed that, for the 2019 pay year, the number of bankers earning €1m (US$1.17m) or more fell in the UK by 95, while rising in the rest of Europe by 140.

It could be said that these numbers are out of date. Given the trends in both trading and deal revenue for 2020 and 2021, it’s likely that both London and the Euro area financial capitals will have seen substantial increases in the number of seven figure earners. But it’s also arguable that for this precise reason, the 2019 numbers are more informative. The year before the pandemic was pretty mediocre for overall compensation, but not disastrously so, so it’s more likely that the move reflects genuine trends, rather than small differences of big numbers. In fact, the EBA records that the consolidation of the industry and cost cutting initiatives that were going on 2019 were themselves significant contributors – in a number of cases, people were pushed into the reporting bracket as a result of generous severance payments.

Looking at the detail of where the big earners went to, we can see that the story told by the numbers is relatively consistent with received wisdom. Paris went from 234 bankers in the top category to 270, but Frankfurt went from 450 to 493. That would roughly follow the surveyed preferences of the US bulge bracket in terms of the location of their new European hubs.

In fact, the French figure might arguably be a bit of a surprise on the low side; given the relocations, an increase of only 36 top MD equivalents doesn’t give much room for the locals. There will probably be some catch-up in the 2020 and 2021 reports when they come out, as both JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs started getting significantly more aggressive in filling up the large amounts of Paris real estate they have been acquiring.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, losing ninety-five top bankers isn’t going to mean that Bentley dealerships will close down and opera boxes go empty in London – there were still 3519 of them left in 2019, significantly more than the rest of Europe put together. But as we’ve found out over the last two years, trends do tend to start small and grow bigger. At present, a large number of the bankers moving from London to France, Germany and Italy will be doing so happily because they are French, German and Italian. Over the next decade, it’s possible that more Brits (and American expats) will be faced with a need to brush up their language skills.

 Daniel Davies –


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