Citigroup chief highlights Irish hub amid Brexit contingency plans

Bank previously denied reports it could move 900 jobs to Dublin after UK exits EU

Citigroup is “European-based in Ireland”, its chief executive, Michael Corbat, told analysts. Photograph: Alan Betson

Citigroup is “European-based in Ireland”, its chief executive, Michael Corbat, told analysts. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Citigroup chief executive Michael Corbat has highlighted the group’s European base in Dublin as it continues to weigh options for what he expects will be a “hard” Brexit.

“We continue to plan contingencies,” Mr Corbat said on a call with analysts on Wednesday.

“We have got a lot of flexibility in terms of our structure. Our bank is European-based in Ireland. We have got people in 20 or 22 of the EU countries. So that flexibility’s there and we don’t see a disruption.”

The US banking giant, which currently employs about 2,500 people in Dublin, moved in November to deny reports that it planned to move as many as 900 jobs to Dublin from the UK under its Brexit battle plan. The group held a board meeting in Dublin in late October, with Mr Corbat also using the visit to meet Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Meanwhile, Barclays could also be looking at reassigning its Frankfurt branch to its Irish subsidiary rather than moving out of London after Brexit, the bank’s chief executive said.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Jes Staley said banks will need clarity about the transition period for Brexit.

“A two-year cliff is not helpful for anybody,” Mr Staley said .

“You can’t function with financial contracts that go beyond two years if there is that cliff,” he added, so “talking about transitions and phase-ins will be important”.

Board meeting

While the Citigroup board meeting in Dublin had been planned months before the Brexit referendum in June, it occurred against the backdrop of a swathe of UK financial firms and overseas banks based in London assessing their options in the wake of the vote.

Citigroup merged its two main European banking divisions – in the Republic and the UK – at the start of last year under the roof of Citibank Europe Plc in Dublin, bringing the combined business under the direct oversight of the European Central Bank’s supervision division for the first time.

Mr Corbat told analysts on the call on Wednesday that he had listened to UK prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit speech on Tuesday.

“I think she very clearly laid out in terms of the stance that, in essence, around immigration and around law and governance, in essence [is] – my words – a hard exit, but very open, and . . . wanting to engage around what the right trade policy is going forward,” he said.