■ December 13, 2018, 12:01 AM EST
On the Eve of Brexit, U.S. Banks Are Set to Conquer Europe
● Exit Britain. Enter Wall Street.
By Edward Robinson, Lananh Nguyen and Yalman Onaran
With Donald Trump rattling the international order Washington built after World War II, engagement is out and isolationism is in. Yet Wall Street, an expression of American influence every bit as defining as Hollywood or Silicon Valley, apparently didn’t get the memo.
European finance—whipsawed by debt crises and political upheaval since the financial crash of 2008 and now on the verge of the Brexit trauma—is seeing just how internationalist American banks are. U.S. financial powerhouses such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have been running up the score on their European rivals, dominating investment banking overseas as never before.
The U.K.’s separation from the European Union will cleave Europe’s financial industry in half. London’s diminished role as the financial gateway to the Continent may prevent Europe from matching the U.S. with its own deep, seamless flow of capital. Brian Moynihan, the chairman and chief executive officer of Bank of America Corp., calls this effect “disaggregating liquidity.”
“That’s not going to be good for the economy,” Moynihan said at an industry conference in Boston in November. “It puts them back about 10 to 15 years in the possible development of capital markets, which is critical to a country’s success. At the end of the day, what makes the U.S. powerful is our capital markets and all the capital we can bring to the situation. That just allows us to develop wealth faster for people, and companies can access the capital a lot faster.”
The result: Wall Street’s deepening penetration into the EU. Bank of America is turning a post office in the center of Paris into a trading floor for hundreds. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan are shifting capital and staff to Frankfurt, Paris, and possibly other locales. JPMorgan Chase Chairman Jamie Dimon and his peers are increasingly signing up clients for work at the expense of homegrown rivals such as Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas SA. In January, for instance, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and Lazard advised Belgian drugmaker Ablynx and Paris-based Sanofi on a $4 billion takeover that featured no involvement by a European investment bank. This year, five of the six top institutions handling European transactions worth $500 million to $6 billion were American, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
It’s possible the contest between U.S. and European investment banking will shift again. In the precrisis decade, European institutions were making inroads into the new world. UBS Group AG built an airplane hangar-size trading floor in Stamford, Conn., and Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and Credit Suisse elbowed into the upper ranks for securities underwriting and mergers advice in the U.S. In 2010, top European banks raked in 51 percent of global revenue from trading equities, compared with 44 percent for American lenders.
The UBS trading floor is no more, and Deutsche Bank is the latest European bank retreating from the U.S. In equities trading this year, Wall Street commands 60 percent of global revenue, compared with Europe’s 34 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The top five U.S. investment banks earned $75 billion in the first nine months of 2018, a quarter more than the same period last year. In contrast, Deutsche Bank, which has been hobbled by CEO turnover and a round of money laundering cases, saw its shares fall to record lows in December. BNP Paribas, France’s No. 1 bank, jolted investors in the third quarter when it reported a 15 percent drop in revenue in fixed income, long considered one of its strongest businesses.
Even before Brexit, Europe struggled to overcome obstacles that would make its lenders more competitive. Brussels’ bid to unify its member states’ banking industries, for example, has foundered. “The fact that European politicians failed to produce banking union is a travesty,” says Barrington Pitt Miller, a portfolio manager with Janus Henderson Group Plc, which holds big stakes in European lenders. “If you’re a U.S. capital markets bank, you are looking at a free runway to step in and take market share.”
As if that weren’t enough, Dimon and Moynihan and their fellow Americans are riding a tailwind courtesy of the U.S. Federal Reserve—a surge in lending revenue. Over the last eight quarters, the Fed has lifted its benchmark interest rate to a range from 2 percent to 2.25 percent, which means banks can charge more for loans. The European Central Bank, nursing a fragile regional economy, has stood fast with a subzero rate. “There’s strong lending growth coming from companies in the U.S.,” says Jan Schildbach, head of research on banking, financial markets, and regulation at Deutsche Bank. “In Europe there’s only modest lending volume growth after years of contraction.”
Wall Street is doing well in Asia, too. U.S. banks take the five top spots in Asian equities underwriting, according to Bloomberg data. In the global business of trading securities, only one Asian lender, Japan’s Nomura Bank Holdings Inc., makes the top 16, with just a 1.7 percent share. In mergers and acquisitions, Asian institutions tend to show up in deals on their own turf. The Bank of China Ltd., for example, leads yuan bond underwriting.
It’s tempting for European banks to conflate the financial industry with the other sources of U.S. economic influence. The dollar continues to be the world’s reserve currency, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury has stepped up its role as a global financial cop—whether on trade with pariah states, policing money laundering, or enforcing tax laws. Foreign bankers and lawmakers bristle at what they call the “weaponization” of the dollar—how its dominance makes it harder for other countries to borrow and trade—and fear that Washington is indirectly giving Wall Street a boost by fining overseas banks billions of dollars.
The EU is starting to push back. Brussels was dismayed by the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program and pursuit of penalties for companies that have renewed doing business with the oil-rich country. So Brussels is trying to cook up a way to get around the dollar-denominated economy to preserve commercial links with Iran.
Indeed, Trump’s willingness to undo long-standing accords on trade, security, and climate change has emboldened rival powers to challenge Washington’s reach. On Dec. 5 the EU unveiled an initiative to strengthen the euro as an alternative to the dollar by calling for companies in the financial and energy industries to denominate more trading contracts in the single currency. China is in its fifth year of rolling out its Belt and Road Initiative, a program worth hundreds of billions of dollars designed to project Beijing’s influence through myriad infrastructure and commercial ventures in dozens of nations in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, has called on nations to use their own currencies for international trade to blunt U.S. economic power.
Yet when it comes to Wall Street, the great game of geopolitics may ultimately amount to little more than noise. The industry, of course, has only one lodestar: money. And if a tectonic shift such as Brexit creates new opportunities, you can bet America’s big banks will grab a bigger share of business. Still, some fret about what will happen when the cycle turns. “The banks are never going to be terribly good at identifying what would cause them to fail,” says Paul Tucker, chairman of the Systemic Risk Council and former deputy governor of the Bank of England. “There will be a recession at some point, and people will lose money. The economy relies on these banks, and so they need to be able to withstand a lot of stress.”
Theoretical fears of some future downturn aren’t likely to put off Wall Street from making money today. And in the pursuit of profit, America’s global financial profile will grow only more prominent. “That old adage that the business of America is business is still true,” says Curtis Chin, the former U.S. ambassador to the Asian Development Bank and now an Asian Fellow at the Milken Institute. “Soft power comes in many forms.” —With Chitra Somayaji
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BOTTOM LINE – American banks are establishing global hegemony as European institutions retrench even before London loses its place as the world’s financial capital.
Wall Street Erases the Line Between Its Jocks and Nerds
— Read on www.wsj.com/articles/wall-street-erases-the-line-between-its-jocks-and-nerds-1534564810
New York capital, expertise, regulation key to luring talent
Banks may move non-essential staff to U.S., says one executive
The ultimate winner if Brexit forces banks to flee London may lie 3,500 miles away, far beyond the borders of Europe.
New York, even more than Frankfurt or Paris, is emerging as a top candidate to lure banking talent if London’s finance industry is damaged by Britain’s divorce from the European Union, according to politicians and industry executives.
That’s because the largest U.S. city, rather than European finance hubs, is the place that rivals the depth of markets, breadth of expertise or regulatory appeal boasted by London. Continental Europe will win some bank operations to satisfy regional rules ensure time-zone-friendly access to its market, but more may eventually shift across the Atlantic to the only other one-stop shop for business.
“There is no way in the EU there is a center with the infrastructure or regulatory infrastructure to take the role London has,” particularly in capital markets, John Nelson, chairman of Lloyd’s of London, said in an interview. “There is only one city in the world that can, and that is New York.”
For many global investment banks, London is their largest or second-biggest headquarters. If the benefits of scale are diminished by having to move roles to Europe, banks may look to shrink their London operations even further by moving any workers able to do their job just as well from a different time zone, including global-facing roles in merger advisory, trading and back-office technology and finance.
Additional jobs may move as specific trading activities seek a new epicenter. London Stock Exchange Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Xavier Rolet was blunt, saying that if Brexit strips London of the ability to clear euro derivatives trades, the entire business would move to the only other city able to clear all 17 major currencies: New York.
“The big winner from Brexit is going to be New York and the U.S.,” said Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said at a conference in Washington this month. “You’ll see more business moving to New York.”
One major Wall Street bank has already begun reallocating U.K. headcount, and probably will end up moving many non-essential staff out of Europe altogether to the U.S. or Asia, said a senior banker at the firm, who asked not to be identified because the plan is private. New York, now mainly a hub for dollar-denominated securities, could lure trading desks that had used London as a base for macro trading, speculating on currencies, bonds and economic trends around the world, the executive said.
Bank bosses have given up hope that British Prime Minister Theresa May will be able to strike a post-Brexit deal that preserves the right to sell goods and services freely around the EU, according to three people with knowledge of their contingency plans.
The problem they face is that it’s hard to match London’s advantages. Most local EU regulators are unlikely to be able to cope with an influx of investment-bank license applications, and many locations lack the necessary real estate, infrastructure or quality of life. When London this year topped the Z/Yen Group’s index for financial centers based on their attractiveness to workers in the sector, New York came second, ahead of 19th-place Frankfurt and Paris ranking 29th.
If the finance industry does leave London for elsewhere in the EU, it’s likely to fragment. That’s a particular problem for U.S. banks, which spent more than two decades centralizing European operations within the so-called Square Mile. The U.K. is home to 87 percent of U.S. investment banks’ EU staff and 78 percent of the region’s capital-markets activity, according to research firm New Financial.
“The minute you move some businesses somewhere — create a legal entity someplace — you trap capital, you trap liquidity,” said Viswas Raghavan, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s deputy CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said last month at Bloomberg Markets Most Influential Summit in London. “That brings inefficiencies. That drags down” profitability.
There are limits to a wholesale transplant of London’s finance industry. A big one is the need to be inside the European Economic Area to sell goods and services to its more than 450 million citizens. Another is time. It’s 3 a.m. on the Eastern seaboard when European markets open, and 9 p.m. in London when the New York Stock Exchange rings the closing bell.
Culture also matters. A foreign bank may struggle to convince regional companies that it understands their businesses better than a domestic firm. Some companies would have little reason to raise capital or issue debt in dollars. And Asian financial hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong will also try to attract business at London’s expense.
Not all firms want to start spreading the news. One U.S. bank says it won’t be moving people back to the U.S. after Brexit, with an executive there saying it can win more business by maintaining its European presence as other lenders pull back.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has cautioned European governments that attacking London’s financial heft in the Brexit talks could end up costing them by driving financial services elsewhere. Bank of England Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe also last week listed New York as an attractive place to do business outside of Europe.
Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta echoed such warnings. In a report released today, he and colleagues urge the government to give banks maximum certainty about the future and show EU governments how they benefit from the City of London.
“It’s not certain if banks move, they will move to another European hub,” said Scarpetta, a senior policy analyst at the London-based think tank. “New York, in particular, is a much bigger hub than Paris. If this happens Europe is worse off as a whole. This should be in everyone’s interest to avoid in the upcoming negotiations.”
* London * Brexit * Europe * New York
Whistleblower in Deutsche Bank Case Says He Rejects $8 Million AwardAugust 19, 2016By Aruna Viswanatha WSJ
A whistleblower who is in line to receive $8 million for exposing alleged securities law violations at Deutsche Bank said that he is giving up the award because regulators only fined the company and didn’t go after the managers responsible.
A whistleblower who is in line to receive $8 million for exposing alleged securities law violations at Deutsche Bank AG said on Thursday that he is giving up his award because regulators only fined the company and didn’t go after the managers responsible for the misconduct.
“I will not join the looting of the very people I was hired to protect,” the whistleblower Eric Ben-Artzi said in an unusual op-ed in the Financial Times entitled “We must protect shareholders from executive wrongdoing.”
In May, the bank agreed to pay $55 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission allegations that it hid paper losses of more than $1.5 billion during the financial crisis. The agency didn’t charge any executives in connection with the case.
A whistleblower at the time alleged the bank didn’t update the market value of certain credit default swap transactions, known as super senior trades. The whistleblower alleged the bank thus masked mounting losses as the market value sank.
In his op-ed, Mr. Ben-Artzi said he had been a risk officer at Deutsche Bank and one of three whistleblowers who reported the practice to the bank and to regulators. He wrote that he “just got word” from the SEC that he is to receive “half of a $16.5m whistleblower award.”
He said he was refusing it and asked that it “be given to Deutsche and its stakeholders, and the award money clawed back from the bonuses paid to the Deutsche executives.”
The SEC whistleblower program, put in place in 2011 as part of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law, allows tipsters to collect between 10% and 30% of any penalties the government collects. The program is shrouded in secrecy, and the agency provides few details on the awards it grants other than the rough amount. It doesn’t identify the case in which any award was granted.
An SEC spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Ben-Artzi’s op-ed, citing the confidentiality requirements of the whistleblower law. SEC enforcement director Andrew Ceresney said of the Deutsche Bank case: “We brought all of the charges supported by the evidence and the law, which were unanimously approved by the Commission.” A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman declined to comment.
Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com
Wall Street may have set new record highs this week, but the rally is masking an uncomfortable truth: Corporate America is still in the midst of recession.
Companies have begun announcing earnings for the second quarter, and the results are not expected to be pretty over the next few weeks. Analytics firm FactSet estimates profits in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index will fall 5.6 percent compared with a year ago — the fifth straight quarter of decline. The contraction has been so prolonged that investors consider it an “earnings recession.”
[Dow follows S&P to record high]
Corporate earnings are supposed to be the bedrock of stock market value, but at the moment, they appear to be pointing in opposite directions. Energy companies have been devastated by falling oil prices. Multinationals have been hamstrung by the stronger dollar. Banks have been hammered by ultralow interest rates.
The gloomy reality comes amid growing warnings that the risk of a full-blown recession is rising — not only for the United States, but also the broader global economy. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is also sowing uncertainty in financial markets and threatening to undermine the recovery in the United Kingdom. One of the most pessimistic forecasts came from Deustche Bank this month, predicting a 60 percent chance of a downturn in the United States over the next year.
That all sounds pretty dismal, and it makes the record highs set this week by both the S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average even more perplexing. At least part of the rally — and, some analysts argue, most of it — is the result of the signals from the world’s central banks that the era of easy money is far from over. But investors are also betting that corporate America and the broader economy are turning a corner, if they’re not already back on track.
Many analysts think the earnings contraction that started in the second quarter of 2015 bottomed out early this year. Profits fell 6.7 percent in the first quarter compared with a year ago, which makes the 5.6 percent estimate for this quarter look a little rosier. The outlook for the third quarter is even better, with analysts forecasting a milder decline as oil prices and the U.S. dollar stabilize.
Then there was a blockbuster report from the Labor Department showing rock-solid job growth of 287,000 jobs in June. That gave many investors confidence that the U.S. economy was weathering the global storm, especially after the exceptionally weak addition of just 11,000 jobs in May. On top of that, a new prime minister has been selected in Britain, a step toward resolving the political turmoil that has roiled markets.
[Opinion: Theresa May must contain the Brexit damage — and more]
Anthony Valeri, investment strategist for LPL Financial, analyzed the S&P’s 12 earnings recessions since 1954. Nine of them were accompanied by economic recessions a year before or after, although the depth and duration of the downturns varied widely.
Three earnings recessions have not been tied to broader distress. The first two occurred in 1967 and 1985, which he notes are periods in which the federal deficit was increasing, rather than decreasing as it is now.
The third is the one we’re in right now, and it is not done playing out.