During the first moments of Brexit chaos, there was a rumor that Morgan Stanley was going to get a jump on the panic and put 2,000 bankers on the road(s) to Dublin and Frankfurt. James Gorman and his team fought back quickly to quash that rumor but the existential damage was already done.
That fleeting rumor opened the floodgates on rampant speculation that major US banks could dramatically reduce headcount and shift the balance of financial power out of London. That speculation has been coasting on fumes for awhile now, but it just got a major fact injection from the one person that can really send a shiver down the spine of the City of London.
While visiting Rome yesterday, Jamie Dimon apparently sat down with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24Ore and had an interesting little chat about his thoughts on Brexit.
Here's Jamie on the Brexit flavored uncertainty currently looming over Europe 's economy:
In the meantime we at J.P. Morgan will continue to bank our clients. With that I mean that Brexit does not change anything that we do, we will continue to do what we do and serve our clients in Italy, in Europe, in the world.
Ah, so same old "nothing to see here"... Oh wait, there's one more line:
The only thing is, maybe one day we might have to move our people in a Eurozone company to serve our clients in the Eurozone.
Ruh roh. The guy who employs about 16,000 people throughout the UK just officially opened the door on the notion of a substantial JPMexit. And this isn't a rumor, it's the CEO saying that he's looking at office space on The Continent.
While pressing Dimon on what he meant, the Italian reporter essentially asked if Jamie has met with any realtors in Milan and Dimon doubled-down on his JPMexit musings.
"I love Italy, I would love to spend more time in Italy, I am a bit Italian myself as my family has some Italian roots. I look at the “book end” of the question: we need a passport rule, like the one we have now in London. If we have that passport after Brexit, we likely would not have to make any change at all. But I think the European Union will not accept that. It will put more conditions on the UK and might force banks to become smaller in London. We do not know what is going to happen: the worst case is that we might have to relocate a few thousand people to other offices in the Eurozone, though the majority would stay in the UK."
If the EU won't let the UK keep its passport, Jamie seems more than happy to trade in fish n' chips for a veal cotoletta Milanese. And he's perhaps even more eager to make some summer visits to Rome (poor guy) if it applies pressure on the EU and British Parliament to get this thing figured out, and maybe stop Brexit altogether.
But that's not just a wild theory. Here's a little something Jamie said in the interview about a fracture European economy:
To split it up would have huge problems, huge difficulties. I am hoping that policy makers see legitimate complaints to labor rigidities, bureaucracy, regulation slowing things down, these are legitimate complaints, such as those of the citizens of Britain were worried about: Europe should listen to them. I do hope they are not going to sit at the table to negotiate and get angry, but they should get smart. Europeans should say: look, there are rational complaints, we are going to fix them for all of Europeans, not for Britain alone, but for everyone else. Maybe you can even reverse Brexit.
Sitting in Rome and threatening to move thousands of wealthy bankers out of an increasingly fragile British economy is the kind of thing that gets the attention of lawmakers and could provide a nice template for Jamie's peers. Maybe Lloyd Blankfein should sit down in Paris and contemplate how much he likes sunset walks on the Quai d'Orsay accompanied by 3,000 of his closest London-based bankers. Or perhaps Michael Corbat can pretend to drink a stein of beer while showing a reporter where he'll set up a beer tent to welcome 5,000 CitiBankers to Germany when the UK loses its passporting rights. And wouldn't Brian Moynihan look right at home in a Dublin pub reminding an Irish journalist how important it is to drink whilst employed at Bank of America?
What we don't recommend, James Gorman, is giving an interview in an Amsterdam hash bar, but we understand your impulse.