Goldman Sachs, Barclays, HSBC downplay Brexit threat

Vote Leave supporters holds up Union flags in Westminster after Britain voted to leave on the European Union in London, Britain, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Some of the world’s largest banks have sought to play down fears of a catastophic hit to Britain’s banking sector after the country voted to leave the European Union on Friday.

Goldman Sachs GS.N CEO Lloyd Blankfein said the Wall Street bank, a big donor to the defeated 'Remain' campaign had planned for either referendum outcome for many months, in a statement issued after Britain voted to quit the European Union on Friday.

“We respect the decision of the British electorate and have been focused on planning for either referendum outcome for many months,” Blankfein said in an emailed statement.

“Goldman Sachs has a long history of adapting to change, and we will work with relevant authorities as the terms of the exit become clear. Our primary focus, as always, remains serving our clients’ needs.”

Barclays BARC.L Chief Executive Jes Staley said the outcome of the vote would not affect the bank's new strategy of being a 'transatlantic' bank anchored in the UK and US. "The strategy we announced on 1 March, 2016 was not conditional on the UK remaining in the EU."

Douglas Flint, Chairman of HSBC HSBA.L, Europe's largest lender, said Friday marked "a new era for Britain and British business."

“The work to establish fresh terms of trade with our European and global partners will be complex and time consuming. We will be working tirelessly in the coming weeks and months to help our customers adjust to and prepare for the new environment.”

Britain’s 2.2 million financial industry workers face years of uncertainty and the risk of thousands of job cuts after the country voted to quit the European Union, leaving question marks over London’s status as Europe’s premier financial centre.

Reporting By Anjuli Davies and Lawrence White, editing by Sinead Cruise