Citi's UK chief says timing of Brexit contingency plans now key dilemma

The Canary Wharf financial district is seen in east London November 12, 2014. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - The UK head of U.S. bank Citi C.N said on Tuesday that the main question facing the finance industry now is when to enact contingency planning after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

“The big question now is timing,” James Bardrick, UK Country Officer for Citi, which has 9,000 UK employees, told delegates at a conference in London.

“How do we and when do we start making decisions...knowing the plan is ready to could be in the first quarter of 2017.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she would trigger the process to leave the EU by the end of March, the first indication of when negotiations might start.

The future of London as Europe’s financial center will be a major negotiating point in the talks, with banks keen to retain the “passporting” rights which allow them to sell financial services across the EU from London.

Last week, Bardrick said that jobs in London’s financial sector would move to countries inside the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc, regardless of what deal is struck on access to the EU financial services market.

Reporting By Anjuli Davies, editing by Andrew Macaskill