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London’s Brexit tab rises with stock and swaps moves

London’s Brexit tab rises with stock and swaps moves

3 min. 12.02.2021 From our online archive
First six weeks outside the European Union have brought major challenges to city's position as dominant financial hub
The City of London is facing challenges to its dominance as a financial hub in the immediate aftermath of Brexit Photo: Shutterstock
The City of London is facing challenges to its dominance as a financial hub in the immediate aftermath of Brexit Photo: Shutterstock

The City of London has little to celebrate from the first six weeks of freedom from the European Union.

The financial district lost its crown to Amsterdam as Europe’s top place to buy and sell stock. Traders have shifted interest-rate swaps out of the UK capital. Relocations of bankers are set to continue in 2021.

“Brexit is a body blow to the London financial center,” Xavier Rolet, former head of London Stock Exchange Group, said in an interview. “I’m very deeply worried that Brexit is going to kill the golden goose and we are already seeing the first signs that this has started to happen.”

With constant sparring between officials on both sides of the Channel, industry executives are pessimistic that talks will lead to an easy solution allowing business to carry on anything like how it did before. The EU has already made clear that it’s in no rush to grant the UK access to the bloc and is on a mission to build its own capital markets.

The trouble for London is that it’s not just competing with the EU. Asian hubs and Wall Street could be more appealing to traders seeking the most liquidity and lowest costs compared with Europe’s fractured markets.

Swaps trading dominance

London’s dominance of global interest-rate swap trading slipped, with UK trading venues’ share of the euro interest rate swap market plunging to 10% last month from nearly 40% in July, according to IHS Markit. In the same period, EU platforms’ market share increased to a quarter from less than 10%. Wall Street venues’ share doubled to 20%, while trades done off-venue remained relatively steady.

According to a separate analysis by Clarus Financial Technology, a financial-market data consultancy, US-based interdealer platforms run by TP ICAP and BGC Partners have benefited, while trading volumes have surged on Wall Street venues for European credit index trades.

Swaps clearing, one of London’s crown jewels, is also increasingly up for grabs. Deutsche Boerse AG, the EU’s main clearinghouse for interest rate swaps, is gaining business and said this week it’s on track to meet its goal of 25% market share.

While the EU opened access to London clearinghouses at the end of the Brexit transition period, the decision is good only for 18 months, to June 2022. And the EU is applying more pressure on banks and money managers to move euro swaps clearing to inside the bloc.

Share trading

Amsterdam overtook London as Europe’s largest share trading center in January after Brexit saw about half of the city’s volumes move to the continent.

The data doesn’t account for the return of Swiss share trading to London, which only resumed last week after the UK took advantage of its exit from the EU to end an 18-month hiatus for Swiss equities. That may see the UK capital edge back ahead in February, although its average daily volumes will still be well below historic levels given London averaged €1.3 billion in Swiss share trades per day before the ban, about a fifth of the EU share trading that left London overnight after January 1.

London’s boosters - including Barclays’ Jes Staley - talk of a dividend from the freedom to set its own rules and pursue ambitions like becoming a green finance hub. But early days aren’t yielding much cause for optimism.

The Intercontinental Exchange Inc. said it will move the €1 billion daily market in trading carbon-emissions contracts to the Netherlands. While ICE is setting up a UK-specific market, the EU’s is a major plank of the continent’s efforts to combat climate change and volumes have more than doubled since 2015.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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