Citi applies for Paris broker-dealer licence post-Brexit

LONDON (Reuters) - Wall Street bank Citigroup is applying for a licence to conduct sales and trading activities in France, James Cowles, Citi’s Chief Executive Officer for Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA) told a French newspaper on Friday.

FILE PHOTO - A pedestrian passes a logo of Citigroup in Tokyo April 20, 2009. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Citi said in July that it would headquarter its EU trading operations in Frankfurt and may need to create 150 new jobs in the EU in order to continue doing business across the bloc once Britain leaves in March 2019.

The bank also planned to build up its private banking, treasury and trade and investment banking businesses across the EU, while London would remain its EMEA headquarters.

“The most obvious option was to convert our German branch into an investment company. It was already sufficiently capitalised and we have more than 300 people there. But we have also started applying for a broker-dealer licence in France,” Cowles said in an interview with Les Echos.

International banks are planning to build up outposts in the EU to ensure they can continue to serve clients if their London operations lose the ability to operate across the bloc.

There is fierce competition between Paris, Frankfurt and other European cities to woo international banks’ City of London operations as they consider where to shift EU-related business.

Frankfurt, along with Dublin, is emerging on top in the battle to draw highly-paid banking jobs with many other large lenders deterred by a perception of France as a country of high taxes and strict labour laws, according to executives.

However, the new French government has stepped up efforts to attract London banks to Paris after the election of President Emmanuel Macron, who vowed to overhaul the labour market and simplify tax and pensions.

Reuters reported this week that Bank of America is looking to lease more office space in Paris as the bank prepares to expand its operations in the French capital, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

HSBC, and French banks such as Societe Generale and Credit Agricole, are among those planning to move staff to Paris.

Citi already has around 160 people based in Paris where it conducts investment banking activity such as mergers and acquisitions and capital markets transactions in the country.

Cowles said the French elections had given new economic prospects to the country and to the bank’s corporate customers.

“We will increase our presence in several activities in Paris, as well as in other countries in Europe.”

Cowles also said Brexit would impact no more than 100 to 200 positions and that these would be transferred between one of its seven core locations across Europe including Frankfurt, Paris, Milan and Luxembourg.

“We’ve announced that Frank‎furt will be Citi’s EU broker-dealer headquarters and we’ll increase our presence across 6 other EU cities” a spokeswoman for Citi in London said.

Reporting by Anjuli Davies,; editing by Alexander Smith and Ed Osmond