As Japan banks warn Brexit may drive them out of UK, Bank of Singapore said to mull entering market

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As details emerged over the weekend of a 1 December meeting between top Japanese banking groups and UK officials, in which the Japanese bankers said they would begin moving some functions from London within six months unless they received more clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the Bank of Singapore’s chief executive was quoted by the Financial Times as saying his company was considering setting up a private bank in the UK, “because costs there have fallen thanks to the pound’s sharp drop since Britain voted to leave the EU”.

The news about the meeting between executives from such investment banks as Nomura and Daiwa Capital Markets and Simon Kirby, the UK City minister and Mark Garnier, international trade minister with responsibility for financial services, also appeared in the Financial Times, on page 1 of its Weekend edition.

In that story, an un-named senior executive at a large US bank was described as saying that the Japanese bankers were “not unique in wanting clarity” from the UK on its plans for leaving the UK, adding that most companies were planning for the “worst case outcome, absent a clear view of the end-game”, the FT said.

The Bank of Singapore’s CEO, Bahren Shaari, however, told an FT journalist that Brexit is “not all bad news for UK financial services”,  and that the pound’s sharp drop since Britain voted to leave the EU had led his institution – Asia’s second-biggest homegrown private bank, and  a unit of OCBC – to consider setting up a private banking outpost in the UK.

The bank recently committed to opening a branch in Dubai’s International Financial Centre early next year, according to the FT.

“London has always been expensive as a place to do business. Now it has become 20% per cent cheaper,” Shaari was quoted as saying. A presence in London, he added, would allow the Singaporean bank to get closer to Middle Eastern clients who frequent the UK capital.

The article goes on to note that Shaari’s view on London was “at odds with that of most of the foreign banks already operating there”, and that experts are predicting that as many as 70,000 to 100,000 financial jobs are likely to leave the UK “as banks and other financial services groups move operations to the continent”.

To read this article on the FT’s website, which has a paywall, click here.