By Anjuli Davies |
British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger formal EU divorce proceedings on Wednesday, launching two years of negotiations that will shape the future of Britain and Europe as well as London's place as a global financial center.
The move will also mark the point when investment banks, whose priority will be to ensure they can continue servicing their clients across Europe after March 29, 2019, begin taking concrete steps to prepare for Britain being outside the bloc.
Those steps could involve moving London-based staff to outposts on the continent or paying them off and hiring employees locally.
Richard Gnodde, CEO of the European arm of Goldman Sachs, said last week it would begin by moving hundreds of people out of London as part of its "contingency plans" for the first phase.
In a voicemail sent to all London employees' phones on Friday, Gnodde sought to reassure staff that despite "intensively" preparing for a range of possible outcomes, no big changes were imminent.
"All of this work leads us to conclude that although Brexit may well bring some changes to our footprint, a lot will continue to operate as it does today."
Gnodde said that the Wall Street firm would only be able to make long-term decisions on its future footprint once negotiations between Britain and the EU were complete.
"We also understand that you will have many questions regarding the implications of Brexit," Gnodde said in the voicemail.
"We are sensitive to those concerns, and want you to know that we will share any information on changes that will impact our European footprint as quickly as we can."
Banks are treading carefully, enacting two-stage contingency plans, to avoid losing nervous London-based staff as they work out how many jobs will have to move to continental Europe as Britain exits the European Union.
This first phase involves relatively small numbers to make sure the requisite licenses, technology and infrastructure are in place, while the next requires longer-term thinking on what their European business will look like in the future, which is when bigger moves might take place.
(Reporting By Anjuli Davies; Editing by Susan Fenton)