The shake out within the UK financial services industry following Brexit will not benefit a single city, delegates heard at the annual conference of the European Association for Investors in Non-listed Real Estate Vehicles (INREV).
More likely is a dispersion of London-based employees to several European urban centres, said Peter Leyburn, EMEA director of client services at Colliers International.
“Many banks already have second homes – for example, Standard Chartered in Dublin and Goldman Sachs in Frankfurt,” he said.
Leyburn believes the German city – the subject of a recent IPE Real Estate City Focus – has taken an “early lead, but nowhere near the level you’d expect”.
Colliers has researched the attractiveness of European cities in terms of cost and quality of life, and Paris and Frankfurt both scored highly. But Leyburn said no “single city can accommodate 100,000 jobs”, referring to last year’s estimates for job losses in London.
Matthew Elliott, senior fellow at the Legatum Institute, a think thank, and former chief executive of the Vote Leave referendum campaign, said New York or Hong Kong are likely competitors to London.
Technology will be much more damaging for the City than Brexit in the coming years, said Karel Lannoo, chief executive of the Centre for European Policy Studies.
Leyburn agreed: “Politics is only one factor.”
He added that some London-based banks have created working teams – but for now have chosen to exclude real estate teams.
“They are not sitting in the room at the moment,” he said. “Occupiers are as uncertain as we are.”
Elliott – regarded as the mastermind of the UK’s Brexit vote last June – said London will “thrive for many years to come”.
The City of London, however, “could be the toughest area of negotiation”, he said, although a UK-EU deal in this area will be “mutually beneficial”. He added: “Difficulties will be overcome.”
In a straw poll, 82% of INREV delegates did not think the UK has a clear negotiating position, while 74% said they are not optimistic for positive outcome from UK-EU negotiations.
However, Lannoo said fragmentation is “a cost for all of us”. He said “the UK will suffer much more than the EU”, pointing to the high loss in GDP per capita to be borne by the UK from Brexit.
“It’s a very difficult issue ideologically and I don’t think we will have a deal.”
For economist Anders Borgs, the “biggest negative impact is less free trade and a less dynamic Europe”.
He said: “So the likes of Sweden and Germany could face the biggest problems. The UK will go well, with growth slightly higher than euro-zone”.
The prospect of other European countries attempting to leave the European Union is unlikely, Lannoo ventured.
“Very few states allow themselves to do what the UK has done,” he said, despite growing levels of pessimism about the union’s future in Italy and France.
“The big question mark remains France,” he said. “More people [56%] in France are negative on the EU than in the UK [51%].”
Italy, he said, has also become eurosceptic and pessimistic about the future of EU.
In a separate poll, 54% of INREV delegates selected political risk as the biggest threat to Europe this year.
In his keynote speech, Borg said: “This year will be fine, we’re not going to see Le Pen.
“But go to the next election, without improvements of living standards, then you will see populism has grown.”