Commonwealth Bank of Australia has said it will move its European headquarters from London to Amsterdam in the coming months after Britain’s departure from the EU.
The departure comes despite declarations by the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, that the British economy would “thrive” with an “Australian-style” trade deal with the EU, which many describe as a euphemism for a no-deal crash out of the bloc.
Expected to be operational in the first half of 2021, the new Dutch office will help CBA to continue supporting European clients “regardless of the outcome of Brexit”, the bank said in a statement.
“Our new European head office will also enable us to share valuable international insights with our Australian clients.”
CBA will employ about 50 people in Amsterdam by June, its European director, Wilco Hendriks, told the Dutch financial daily FD, while its London office would remain open with a four times bigger staff.
“Amsterdam is the perfect choice for CBA to support its institutional clients based in Europe and offers a talented, multilingual workforce as well as a thriving fintech ecosystem,” the institutional banking and markets executive, Andrew Hinchliff, said in the bank’s statement.
“We’re currently working closely with our clients domiciled in Europe to make the transition as seamless and smooth as possible.”
Since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016, a range of businesses in finance, information technology, media and health have moved their head offices from London to Amsterdam.
Financial services were legally obliged to be ready for a no-deal Brexit from the first date of that possibility, 29 March 2019, which meant if they offered services in an EU member state they must be licensed in a member state.
Some of the bigger firms, such as HSBC, have large operations in the UK but also in Paris, while others opened operations in Frankfurt, Dublin, Luxembourg and Amsterdam.
The European Medicines Agency has relocated to Amsterdam, with the loss of 900 jobs in London, and the European Banking Authority moved to Paris in 2019.
The Australian bank’s move comes as Johnson prepares for a face-to-face meeting with the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, over Brexit trade talks, which remain stuck over three key issues – fisheries, fair competition, and dispute resolution and governance.