Between now and January, several hundred salespeople in London at banks in London will be asked to go to Europe. Next year, traders and structurers will be going too. Sure, you don't want to go. But when you're asked, you do one thing and one thing only: you pack your bags and you collect your tickets.
This isn't the first time people in London have had to move. None of us wanted to go to Canary Wharf in 1994, but we went. Why? Because our employers wanted us to be there.
Banking isn't an industry where you can plead special dispensation based upon your own personal preferences, and if you haven't realized that already you're about to have an abrupt awakening. Banks are run by the hardest money people around: they don't care about locational sensitivities. If you don’t move, you will simply be fired and replaced.
And if you do move? It will be hard to begin with, but over time things will improve. When I went to Canary Wharf in 1994, it was a total dump. There were no shops, no facilities of any kind, no transport links. We had to arrive by car or taxi and it could take literally hours to get in. There was no DLR, no Jubilee Line. I had to sell my house to be closer to work; it was the only way. We hated it.
At the time, banks went out of their way to help us with the migration. The lack of facilities meant that everything had to be provided on-site: doctors, nurses, gyms, crèches, laundry, shoe cleaning, coffee stops; the offices were everything. The money was also good and the perks were great: we were effectively allowed to spend whatever we wanted on expenses during the year (eg. we could buy cars if necessary) and the money was deducted from our bonuses at year-end.
Things have changed. You might not get a huge relocation package when you move to Paris or Frankfurt in 2021, but the fact remains that this is out of your hands and that changing locations at the behest of your employer is normal in this industry. You are just the latest in a long line of people to experience it.
If you don't want to go, banks will have a plan B; they are ALWAYS ready to deal with difficult staff. Local staff will take your place. And if local staff don't step-up, your ambitious junior will instead.
Over time, EU financial centres will also evolve and become more palatable. Within five years of us moving there, Canary Wharf had totally changed: the DLR came into operation, City Airport became a thing; the Jubilee Line was extended. As Canary Wharf evolved, a new wave of banks (Barclays, HSBC, BofA) invested, and the area took off. Watch for the same thing to happen in Europe, and don't sacrifice your career for the sake of being left behind in London now.
Arjan Ben is a pseudonym
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