Brexit immigration plan would ‘put off’ talent
Plans to introduce a points-based immigration system if the UK decides to leave the European Union on June 23 would have a significant effect on London’s desirability to EU fund workers, experts say.
Last month leading Brexit campaigners unveiled an Australian-style system that would deliver skilled migration visas based on occupation, age, English language skills, previous employment and education.
Although experts generally agree that the proposed system, which favours highly skilled migrants, would not be detrimental to asset management workers, some believe talent could still be “put off” by the rules.
Kirstin Duffy, chief operating officer of BRUIN Financial, a financial services recruitment specialist, says: “It might be that a revised system for EU workers could have minimal effect on financial services from a skills perspective.
“However, [a revised] system would likely have a significant effect on the desirability of the UK as a place to work and skilled EU workers might look to non-London locations for opportunities.”
A recent survey by BRUIN Financial also found that European migrants are an important source of talent for the UK financial services industry.
The firm estimates that of the permanent placements it has made in the UK over the past five years, 70 per cent hold UK passports and 20 per cent hold an EU passport. Some 9 per cent hold neither.
Non-UK passport holders are “overly represented” in key areas such as regulation and marketing roles at 63 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
This shows that the City is “reliant” on non-UK talent to meet the need for niche or language-based skills and experience found in other European markets.
However, Ms Duffy notes that commercial hiring in the UK already replicates some elements of a quota system, meaning the suggested revisions for immigration would likely result in very little change for the City in terms of the skill base’s nationality mix.
“While workers from within the EU are able to work cross-border with no restrictions, in reality roles are filled by very specific criteria from our clients, which are fundamentally skills and language based,” she says.
Adding additional administrative hurdles for EU workers could in fact level the playing field with those seeking to come to the UK from outside the EU, adds Ms Duffy.
Amin Rajan, chief executive officer of consultancy firm Create-Research, believes that an Australian-style points-based system could benefit asset managers.
Mr Rajan says a new regime might hurt employers offering manual jobs but could “help” asset managers as they employ “knowledge workers”.
“The restrictive system promised by Brexit supporters will favour highly skilled migrants. Asset managers would barely notice a change,” he says.
Another hedge fund manager, who spoke to Ignites Europe on condition of anonymity, says there is “little evidence” to suggest that the investment management industry is not getting the talent it needs at present and that this would continue to be the case if there was a Brexit.
“There is zero chance of the government hindering the development of the UK asset management industry. Brexit does not mean less immigration it means being picky about who’s in,” he says.
“If the industry says they are struggling to find such folk from within the UK, they can make that point to the government and I am sure they would respond.”