Brexit to Shift Swissquote Business From London, CEO Says

(Bloomberg) -- Swissquote Group Holding SA will likely shift its European retail business from London to Luxembourg following Brexit.

Chief Executive Officer Marc Bürki said the firm has been preparing over the past few months for all Brexit scenarios, and sees the best case as a divorce deal with a transition period. The Swiss bank, which offers online financial and trading services, bought Luxembourg-based Internaxx earlier this year to ensure it would retain access to European markets after the U.K. exits the bloc in March.

“Whether a soft or a hard Brexit, it is becoming very unlikely that we will be able to serve European retail clients out of our London hub,” said Bürki in an interview. “We have therefore recently acquired an online bank in Luxembourg and our retail operations in the EU may be carried out from there.”

Many banks are stepping up their preparations for the end of cross-border banking licenses with London. Several U.S. investment banks are said to be planning to shift hundreds of billions of euros worth of balance-sheet assets, while Brexit has already convinced more than 30 financial companies including Blackstone to move their EU hubs to Luxembourg.

“London is still a very attractive place for business and the London hub will stay active also after Brexit,” Bürki said.

The U.K.’s exit from the bloc and increased regulation have led revenues to fall, said head of sales Muamar Behnam. Swissquote relies on EU passporting rights to serve clients throughout the bloc from its London office, with most business coming from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, Behnam said.

These rights are expected to be lost whether or not the U.K. agrees a divorce deal, with Prime Minister Theresa May aiming for the cabinet to agree a draft text on Wednesday.

“The Brexit scenario, when and if it materializes, will add another layer of hurdles that will be hard to cope with,” Behnam said. “London remains an important hub for FX but will see its position weakened with Brexit, hard or soft.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.