November 14, 2017 / 1:37 PM / a year ago

French bankers in London told "Your country needs you"

* France half way to 10,000 Brexit jobs target

* Paris financial centre rethinks role after Brexit

By Anjuli Davies and Huw Jones

LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - French bankers in London should come home after Brexit to build a better financial centre in Paris, French officials said on Tuesday.

The British capital has been dubbed the sixth biggest French city, with its own member of the French parliament to represent the hundreds of thousands of French citizens who live in areas like Kensington.

French officials visiting London on Tuesday to woo banks, fintech firms and asset managers that need a base in the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019, had a simple message to them: Your country needs you.

“We are targeting the French located in London,” Valerie Pecresse, president of the Paris region authority, told Reuters after speaking to a packed audience in the Shard skyscraper overlooking the City of London financial district.

“There is no objective reason for them to stay in London now.”

French officials want to “break old ideas about France” and put “friendly pressure” on France’s banks to shift activities and staff from their London operations to Paris, she said.

Arnaud de Bresson, head of Paris Europlace, which promotes the French capital’s financial centre, said 4,000 jobs are moving from London to Paris, almost half way to the French target of 10,000 by Brexit day in 2019.

France has stepped up efforts to attract London banks to Paris after the election of President Emmanuel Macron, who has begun to make labour law more flexible and cut taxes.

Bank of America is looking to lease more office space in Paris, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Citigroup is applying for a licence to conduct investment banking activities in France, James Cowles, Citi’s Chief Executive Officer for Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA) told a French newspaper in September. A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that it was a ‘Plan B’, however, in case their German application did not get approved.

JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said in October his firm may move 60 jobs to Paris. HSBC, and French banks such as Societe Generale and Credit Agricole, are also planning to move staff there.


Macron has been a “game changer” in creating a more business-friendly attitude, de Bresson said. “Since Macron, for the first time, there is very strong support,” he said.

Bankers say France has been unusually fast in changing laws but stability is also key.

“It makes us nervous. If you can make us these offers and if you can change the law for us you can always change it back. The Germans were the opposite – they were tough, they just said this is what we are, but it’s stable,” a senior official at an American bank said.

Pecresse said that for the first time there is cross-party consensus on the need to attract business. “Political risk in France has never been so low,” she said.

Two bankers attending the event said there was now more certainty on French business policy. “That clarity was not there in the past. There is a willingness to answer questions,” one said.

De Bresson said top bankers agree France is changing fundamentally.

“We met Jamie Dimon in July in Paris. When he left, he told us ‘France is another country’”.

While Frankfurt is emerging as the winner so far in the battle between financial centres for UK financial jobs, French officials said they were looking beyond Brexit to 15 years ahead and what kind of financial centre Paris should be.

“Brexit is a catalyst for the modernization of the financial centre in Paris,” Pecresse said. (Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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