The UK government has met top asset management executives to discuss post-Brexit policy as concerns mount over stalled negotiations with the EU and moves by the country’s £7tn investment industry to strengthen operations on the continent.
On Wednesday, Stephen Barclay, the City minister, convened a task force with the heads of eight of the UK’s largest fund houses, including Keith Skeoch of Standard Life Aberdeen, Peter Harrison of Schroders and Mark Zinkula of Legal & General Investment Management.
During an hour and a half-long meeting, the group discussed concerns about Mifid licences granted by the UK regulator, which enable funds to be sold to European clients, as well as so-called delegation, which allows funds domiciled in one country to be managed by people in another. These could become void if Britain loses access to the single market.
The group will meet Mr Barclay, who supported the Leave campaign during last year’s referendum, every quarter for two years as part of a government push to allay criticism that it is ignoring corporate Britain’s concerns about leaving the EU.
Many asset managers with operations in the UK have boosted their businesses in the EU in case of a hard Brexit. Jupiter, M&G, LGIM, Intermediate Capital Group, Blackstone and Legg Mason are among the companies that have applied for additional licenses from EU-based regulators and hired staff or established offices on the mainland.
Mr Barclay’s task force examined ways of halting this shift by improving the UK’s competitiveness. It discussed fintech, alternative investments and global trading opportunities, in addition to licences and regulation, according to people who attended the meeting.
The Financial Conduct Authority, which last month announced a new hub to speed up the authorisation of mutual funds in the UK, sent Chris Woolard, director of strategy and competition, and Megan Butler, director of supervision, to the meeting.
“The task force will play an important role in informing effective policy developments,” Mr Barclay said. “As a government, we are determined to work closely with the financial services sector to ensure it remains a leading global centre, including in asset management.”
The mood in the City deteriorated this month after a stand-off between the UK and EU over Britain’s financial contribution to the bloc during a transition period.
The government is concerned that further uncertainty could prompt an exodus of investment managers and funds — especially as Paris, Frankfurt and Dublin step up efforts to woo the industry.
TheCityUK, the main lobby group for financial services companies, warned this week that it was critical for the financial and professional services industries to have “urgent clarity” on transitional arrangements. According to a survey by the CFA, the organisation for chartered financial analysts, fewer than half of European investment managers are confident they will continue working in the UK after Brexit.
According to one person on the task force, Mr Barclay “seemed to understand the issues”.
“His hope is that the group will have sufficient focus on trying to steer the asset management industry successfully through Brexit and seize the opportunities after leaving the EU, rather than seeking to address too broad an agenda,” the person said.
The task force also includes Andrew Formica of Janus Henderson, Maarten Slendebroek of Jupiter Asset Management, Andrew Carter of Royal London Asset Management, Mike O’Shea of Premier Asset Management, Anne Richards of M&G Investments, and Sean Hagerty of Vanguard.
Other participants include Andrew Warwick-Thompson of the Local Government Pension Scheme, Catherine Howarth of ShareAction, Chris Cummings of the Investment Association and Gwyneth Nurse, director of financial services at the Treasury.