Figures from the 2017 EY UK attractiveness survey reveal that of 222 London-based financial services companies, Dublin was the most spoken of alternative to London.
The Irish capital was mentioned by 19 firms as their most likely post-Brexit base, with Frankfurt second on 18 and Luxembourg third with 11.
No one knows what form Brexit will take yet and what the impact will be on London’s role as a European financial hub, but if there is a hard Brexit and the City loses most of its advantages as a continental hub then the EY survey reveals that there is unlikely to be any single successor.
Companies will have to choose where to base the majority of their operations, as has been the case in Asia for many years with the choice between Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore.
No other European city even comes close to the advantages of being based in London, which tops the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, ahead of New York.
The index ranks cities on business environment, financial sector development, infrastructure, human capital and reputation.
While London is either first or second in all five categories, only a smattering of European cities appear in the top 15 for all five and few are in the top 15 for more than one category.
Zurich, which is not in the EU, is the only other city on the European continent to appear in the top 15 in all five categories.
Europe’s other major financial hubs —such as Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin and Luxembourg — make the top 15 in only one or two of the five categories.
Post-Brexit, firms will face the choice of establishing multiple European bases in order to benefit from all these competitive advantages across Europe, prioritising one, or not bothering with a large EU presence at all, given that there isn’t an obvious successor to London.
In this scenario, firms might ultimately shrink their European presence and expand their footprint in the US or Asia through establishing an office in those financial hubs, which all score highly across all the GFCI ranking categories.
In fact, if the UK ended up with no deal at all and had to deal with Europe on the same terms as New York, then that city would almost certainly reclaim its place as the world’s foremost English-speaking hub, as global firms put small teams in continental Europe and relocate the majority of their workforce to the US.
If that is the case, then both London and Europe will lose out.