25.02.2019

BCBL seminar: "The EU financial services landscape after Brexit"

In its series of thematic conferences, the Business Club Belgium-Luxembourg (BCBL) gathered 65 participants from Luxembourg and Belgium, BCBL member companies, as well as public authorities for the conference “"The EU financial services landscape after Brexit", which took place on the 20th February in Brussels at the Maison du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, with Nicolas Mackel, CEO of Luxembourg for Finance.

In her opening speech, Ambassador Arlette Conzemius and Vice president of the BCBL introduces Nicolas Mackel, a former diplomat who had postings in Brussels, Washington DC and Shanghai before becoming the head of the development agency of Luxembourg’s financial industry in 2013. For Nicolas Mackel, the Brexit is a historical event with implications that will ripple around the globe. In his speech however he looks beyond Brexit and analyzes the consequences it will have on the financial services industry. The political negotiations around the UK’s decision to leave the EU are still ongoing with only a few weeks left and still no clear direction identifiable. This climate of uncertainty is pushing business and in particular financial institutions to set up alternative operations in various cities around the EU.

"Paris, Luxembourg, Dublin, Frankfurt and Amsterdam are the top five financial places to benefit from the Brexit," says Nicolas Mackel, with Brussels being the runner up with the presence of Lloyds Bank. "We are witnessing a multipolarization of the landscape of the European financial industry with increased specialization by relocations following the Brexit". He emphasizes the "complementarity of different places" and speaks of "cooperation" rather than "competition" as each financial center has its own specialization which in turn creates efficiency and establishes competence centers. According to Nicolas Mackel, Paris and Frankfurt are prime destinations for establishing a trading hub, while Luxembourg is attracting investment funds and wealth management. 

While Brexit is an epoch-making event, the financial services industry faces probably even more consequential long-term changes brought about by digitalization and the shift towards sustainable finance. Nicolas Mackel sees these two areas as priorities for the future. Currently payments is the only activity in the EU that benefits from an common regulatory framework. Other activities are still fragmented which makes the EU less competitive. Nicolas Mackel says “we need more of a single market”. With regards to sustainable finance,  Europe has been at the forefront of responsible investment for a long time and accounts for over half of global Socially Responsible Investment assets. However, there is more to be done. The EU’s ambitious action plan, which Luxembourg experts have been contributing to, hopes to further connect finance with sustainability and help channel investments into environmentally-sustainable activities.

The keynote speech of Nicolas Mackel is followed by an interactive Q&A session during which participants asked further questions. Christophe Hansen, Luxembourg MEP and Secretary General of the BCBL, invited in his closing remarks to save the date for the next BCBL conference which will take place on May 8 on the subject of “Belgium-Luxembourg: How to face cybersecurity challenges together”. The conference was followed by a networking reception during which all participants continued the fruitful conversations.

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