London retains global finance throne amid Brexit chaos

London retains global finance throne amid Brexit chaos

London retains global finance throne amid Brexit chaos

Written by Reuters

15 Oct, 2019 | 3:56 pm

Reuters – From the pinnacle of the City of London’s largest skyscraper, Stuart Lipton is wagering a $1.2 billion bet that the British capital remains a master of the international financial universe no matter what happens with Brexit.

The 76-year-old property developer is not alone. Bankrolled by a host of global investors, including France’s Axa, the big-ticket gamble is – so far – on the money.

The cataclysmic warnings during the 2016 referendum that London would lose its financial throne if it voted to leave the European Union have, so far, been proven wrong. London is still the world’s banker, only bigger.

“London is a unique place… in the post-Brexit world people are still wanting to go to the most efficient, effective places, but above all, London’s got the best people.” Lipton told Reuters on the 61st floor of 22 Bishopsgate, set to become western Europe’s second tallest skyscraper when it opens next year.

In the year to June, London has attracted more cross border commercial real estate investment than any other city. It has overtaken New York as a destination for Fintech investment. And nearly one-fifth of the world’s international loans still go through Britain, a level unchanged since the Brexit vote, more than any other global hub.

London has increased its dominance of the world’s $6.6 trillion daily foreign exchange market, responsible now for 43% of trades, up from 37% in 2016. Its nearest competitor, New York, lost market share.

That London has expanded its dominance as an international finance centre is one of the biggest riddles of the United Kingdom’s tortuous three year Brexit crisis.

By proving naysayers wrong, London’s standing ensures the United Kingdom keeps one of its last big chips at the top table of world politics just as it splits from the EU.

It also means EU companies will still have to come to London to raise finance outside the bloc after Brexit, a fact not lost on Wall Street heavyweights such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

Just a mile away from 22 Bishopsgate, Goldman opened its new 1 million square foot European headquarters – complete with mothers’ rooms and wildflowers on the roof – in July, just over three years on from the 2016 referendum.

No other city has been able to match the breadth of services seen critical to a thriving finance sector, such as accountancy and law, education. And high-rolling bankers are too attached to its Anglo-Saxon, work-hard, play-hard culture.

“People want amenities, they want life to be easy and (London is) a very easy choice,” Lipton said. “I’m not suggesting that it’s not pleasant to live in Paris or Amsterdam, but we have it all.”

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