Talent Crunch in Paris
A few years ago, we reported on the influx of financial personnel into Paris. This exodus from London was primarily caused by Brexit and also by new legislation introduced by President Macron to attract financial heavy hitters to France. Global players such as Citi, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan have all set up bases in the French capital. Macron’s initiative gained traction due to ‘Le régime des impatriés’ — the expats’ tax law. This law provided incentives for expats to relocate, such as 0% taxation on 30% of their income and favourable tax rates on bonuses. However, there’s a catch with the scheme, introduced in 2017: one loses these benefits if they switch employers.
Expats are now seeking to change the law. Paris Europlace’s CEO Jean-Charles Simon told the press in early October:
“We have asked the government to change the regime because it limits the attractiveness of France.”
Industry insiders note that the current employment conditions are creating tension in the labour market. Finance workers are gravitating towards larger companies, demanding higher salaries to compensate for the lost tax benefits. They believe that the answer would be to make the tax benefits transferable. While companies aren’t overly concerned about losing staff, given their relatively strong hiring position, they feel the system must evolve for a more fluid workforce transition. This could, however, make it easier for larger financial institutions to lure staff from smaller entities. Jean-Charles Simon adds:
“We wanted to be sure that all of these new foreign banks in Paris would be OK with this change of law. And they said yes, even if it will increase competition in Paris for people and reduce barriers to protect the staff they have because it will make it easier to hire people.”
Barclays Announces Further Bank Account Closures
Barclays Bank announced in September that they will be closing expat bank accounts in the next 6 months, forcing customers abroad to seek alternative banking arrangements. The bank says:
“Our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK. We will no longer be offering personal current or savings accounts to retail customers with addresses registered with us outside of the United Kingdom, subject to limited exceptions. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and explain the next steps they need to take.”
Anyone wanting to remain with Barclays will need to sign up for a Barclays Global account, which with a requirement of £100K in the account at all times or a £40 per month fee, may well prove too steep for many of their overseas clients. Financial experts believe this is intended to discourage expats opening accounts with the bank, which they believe wants to focus on the domestic UK market and essentially ‘debank’ expat customers.
Nigel Green, CEO of wealth management advisers the deVere Group, told the press at the end of September that they have been warning customers about this shift in policy for some time and they also believe that other banks will be following suit if they have not done so already.
Mortgage brokers also warn that the expat lending criteria has been tightening in recent years. Richard Campo at Rose Capital Partners comments:
“I can’t think of any of the big six lenders that have a workable policy at the moment. We tend to use the smaller building societies for expat cases. Where they can’t compete on price with the big lenders, they can on policy as it is a very manual underwriting approach. Hence why the big lenders shy away from it.”
Nigeria’s Visa Fees ‘No Deterrent’ to Expat Influx
This autumn, the business press has reported the Nigerian government’s steep visa fees, which currently stand at $2K annually for the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Alien Card (CERPAC). Despite its high cost, the permit fee hasn’t deterred professionals in the oil and gas, maritime, aviation, and other sectors. It’s believed that this steep price was originally set as part of a localisation strategy. The former President of the Association of Outsourcing Professionals of Nigeria, Obiora Madu, spoke of a need to protect Nigerian jobs, particularly with regard to the influx of Chinese and Indian personnel.
Avearo Capital Partners, consultants in global aviation and aerospace, commented:
“This is not an anti-foreign investment regulation. Most companies, especially oil companies, would bring in experts. Still, Nigerians decided that they wanted Nigerians to be employed in Nigerian companies, so an expert quota was put in place, meaning that when you want to bring in expats to work for you, you must satisfy the requirements. Originally, the visa was about $1,000 and … it was increased to $2,000 yearly. Some of the other countries that they may be looking at as a comparison to the fees charged in Nigeria probably do not attract as many expatriates as Nigeria does because of Nigeria’s type of technical environments such as railways development, construction, shipping, aviation and oil and gas.”
There is, however, disagreement among Nigerian employment consultants as to whether the steep permit fee will discourage foreign investment or whether companies will bring in expat personnel regardless: the general consensus tilts towards the latter option. There is, for example, a need for investment in the mining sector: any organisation interested in this industry is going to be a large global corporation with clear ideas about the kind of personnel it requires, and is unlikely to be deterred by the cost of CERPAC. Similarly, the technology sector needs overseas input. The CEO of freight forwarders Mainstream Cargo Limited, Seyi Adewale, told the press:
“What we should limit include investors that come into competition with our local manufacturers, artisans, or businesses.”
However, within specialist industries, access to the global personnel market is still clearly required.