Goldman, Citi among banks delaying Brexit asset shifts

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Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered are among global firms postponing the transfer of several billion euros of capital outside the U.K. despite regulatory pressure to complete the move.

Other lenders including Citigroup have only shifted part of the assets they were planning to relocate due to the delays in Brexit, people familiar with the plan said. During meetings with the European Central Bank and German regulators, executives at the firms said they can't be forced to transfer the capital as the U.K. is still in the European Union and clients still prefer to do business in London, the people said.

With the Brexit deadline postponed till October, several financial services firms in London are refraining from building up further reserves in the euro area until the last minute. The ECB requires banks to hold enough funds to ensure they can absorb potential losses at their European units. Banks in the region rushed to set up subsidiaries in the euro area and negotiated the capital levels required to do so with the ECB.

"Clients generally still prefer to do business with U.K.-domiciled entities. From a capital market perspective, the U.K. is still where the liquidity is," said Joe Cassidy, a partner at KPMG in London who leads the firm's Brexit task force for financial services.

European regulators are arguing that banking licenses they granted were based on clear capitalization plans for new entities, the people said, declining to be identified as the details are private.

"The ECB has told banks that despite the political uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it expects banks to fulfill their commitments to implement the target operating models they agreed to as part of relocating some of their operations," Andrea Enria, the head of the ECB's supervisory board, said in a response to Bloomberg through a spokeswoman.

Standard Chartered said the lender "has set up and invested into our subsidiary in Frankfurt." Citigroup and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

The U.K. is in Brexit deadlock over the terms of its departure. Boris Johnson, the leading candidate to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, has promised to take the U.K. out of the bloc on Oct. 31 even if no deal has been struck in time.

The major U.S. investment banks had planned to transfer about 250 billion euros ($280 billion) of balance-sheet assets to Germany's financial center, Bloomberg reported in November.

Some London-based banks such as Standard Chartered are also counting on using the "temporary permissions regime" whose deadline for applications has recently been extended to October, one of the people said.

"There is an increasing understanding that you just can't force firms to move things," said KPMG's Cassidy.

Bloomberg News