• July 20, 2018
    Last updated 5 minutes ago

brexit

Bankers with broken English are Luxembourg’s Brexit bottleneck

Head hunters say there simply aren’t enough candidates in and around the minuscule nation of 600,000 people

Bloomberg
18:58 May 13, 2018

Luxembourg: Luxembourg’s citizens can quickly impress with their language skills, switching with ease between their local tongue and German, French and English.

But insurers, investment firms and banks hoping to open post-Brexit outposts in one of the European Union’s most important financial hubs may be in for a surprise.

Head hunters say there simply aren’t enough candidates in and around the minuscule nation of 600,000 people with the excellent English needed to fill the expected 3,000 jobs triggered by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

“Something we have seen since Brexit is that with some clients — like one large asset manager we’re dealing with — we’re having terrible difficulties,” said Christopher Purdy, managing director at the Greenfield recruitment agency. They demand “better or perfect English, as opposed to just fluent English. There aren’t a thousand people like that, are there?”

Nation of choice

Luxembourg is becoming the nation of choice for a growing number of insurers, funds and banks relocating from the UK due to Brexit. Insurance giant American International Group Inc, US insurer FM Global, RSA Insurance Group Plc and Lloyd’s of London insurer Hiscox Plc, as well as private-equity firm Blackstone and asset managers such as M&G Investments, were among the first to choose the country, which borders Belgium, France and Germany, as their new EU hub. JPMorgan Chase & Co also plans to move over some London-based bankers.

“When we recruit in France it’s difficult,” said Jean-Francois Marliere, a founding partner of Marliere & Gerstlauer Executive Search in Luxembourg. “We were recruiting in Paris for a wealth estate-planner post here and found people who were extremely qualified, but their English was unfortunately basically non-existent.”

While Luxembourg has a long tradition in private banking, it’s diversified to become the world’s leading fund industry after the US, and has even attracted companies looking to invest in so-called space mining — the potential exploitation of minerals found in asteroids and other celestial bodies.

A boom in the private equity real estate market has made finding new assignments easier for headhunters, but they are facing difficulties closing deals “because the candidates we are looking for are, quite frankly, difficult to find,” Marliere said.