French business leaders are right to hail Emmanuel Macron's victory – but we will not see a flood of jobs from London to Paris

Julian Harris
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Emmanuel Macron (left) needs to kick start an economy that struggled under Francois Hollande (Source: Getty)

If you were running a financial services company in France you could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief following the election of Emmanuel Macron, the centrist former-banker who swept to power on Sunday night.

Macron may not prove to be France's saviour but, given the alternatives, the business world – and markets in particular – have reacted positively to the result.

Indeed, amid yesterday's post-election furore, Parisian business lobbyists were becoming rather giddy.

Read more: Europe's markets fall despite Emmanuel Macron's decisive French poll win

"Macron will personally make it his mission to convince the international banks as well as investors of the benefits of Paris," said a breathless Arnaud de Bresson, head of Paris Europlace, a group that promotes the city’s financial sector. Bresson believes 20,000 finance workers will move from London to Paris as Brexit becomes a reality. Paris' deputy mayor Jean-Louis Missika, meanwhile, urged London's several hundred thousand French workers to consider returning to Macron's France.

This may sound concerning to London, especially in light of the many stories circulating about financial firms moving jobs to rival EU cities. These tales, however, require some perspective.

Read more: How to be more like Emmanuel Macron for business success

Even if the biggest dozen banks to have threatened post-referendum job moves follow through to the max, the resulting loss – 9,000 jobs, according to Reuters – equates to just two per cent of finance roles in the capital. And that is a huge "if". London remains uniquely attractive to global financial firms, most of which are aware of the need for robust contingency planning yet loath to commit to potentially unnecessary and costly upheaval. At a high level meeting of diplomats towards the end of last year, one attendee noted: "Moving financial services is as complex and risky as moving nuclear waste."

The chance of Paris dragging a harmful number of finance jobs away from London is virtually nil. For a start, France's labour laws remain a large obstacle ("We would not move thousands of people to Paris where we would find ourselves facing very, very protected employment contracts," a top JP Morgan exec said last year). Macron would need to pass a wide range of measures, many extremely unpopular with sections of the French electorate, in order to even begin to tempt big global banks.

Read more: Apres Macron, le deluge: European elites’ last chance to avert disaster

But equally, this must not be seen as a zero sum game. Any moves by Macron to usher in a more business-friendly environment should be cheered by those of us who believe in trade, wealth-creation and the need for a strong financial industry to lift broader economic growth.

City A.M. is confident London will continue to thrive in a post-Brexit world – we also hope France can enjoy a more liberal and prosperous future under its new President.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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