Positioning for Brexit, France asks finance industry where it can simplify rules

PARIS (Reuters) - France has launched a public consultation over how financial service regulations can be simplified, the finance ministry said on Monday, stepping up its campaign to lure London bankers after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

General view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau - RC11A8019B30

Paris is playing catch-up with other EU financial hubs, such as Frankfurt and Dublin, that have already secured job commitments from financial institutions based in London.

“(Finance minister) Bruno Le Maire announced the launch of the public consultations aimed at identifying cases where European regulation on financial services is transposed (into French law) too strictly,” the statement said.

The ministry will also work with lobbyists to offer detailed proposals for the EU’s Capital Markets Union (CMU).

The expected departure from the EU of Britain, the bloc’s biggest financial market, in 2019 is forcing the Commission to rethink the CMU project as an alternative to London.

The ministry’s statement was issued after Le Maire met bank bosses as well as the heads of the French central bank, market regulator, LCH Clearnet and Euronext, which together make up the Paris financial marketplace committee.

Industry figures said the French government was listening to their needs and more policy announcements were anticipated to help boost Paris’ attractiveness.

“Our arguments have made their way. We see signals and announcements that have become significant ... Other announcements could come,” Arnaud de Bresson, chief executive of lobbying firm Paris Europlace, told Reuters after the meeting.

In a sign Paris’ charm offensive is gaining traction, Wall Street bank Citigroup said last week it was applying for a license to conduct sales and trading activities in France, while Bank of America is looking to lease more office space in Paris, sources told Reuters.

Since the Brexit vote, France has made its tax regime for expatriates more favorable, set up a fast-track license application, while new President Emmanuel Macron has launched an overhaul of the labor market.

So far, however, there has been little sign that a single European city will emerge as a new dominant player, as most banks have so far decided to disperse activities across Europe.

Bankers cite France’s high payroll charges and frequent changes to tax policy as a deterrent to choosing Paris.

Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; Additional reporting by Myriam Rivet; Editing by Richard Lough and Mark Potter