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Rush to Geneva?

Leo Kolivakis's picture


Submitted by Leo Kolivakis, publisher of Pension Pulse.

more hedge fund traders join rush to Geneva:

THE UK’s third-largest hedge fund, Bluecrest, will move 50 of its highest-earning traders and fund managers to its new office in Geneva before the 50% income tax on high-earners kicks in on April 6.


The hedge fund, currently housed in an office overlooking London’s Buckingham Palace Gardens, is the first sizeable business — with $16.7 billion (£10 billion) under management — to move part of its operations to the Swiss canton.


The departure marks the beginning of an exodus of this highly mobile industry from Britain — a reaction to higher taxes and the threat of a new regulatory regime governing hedge funds from the European Union. A number of smaller hedge funds, including Amplitude Capital, have already relocated to low-tax jurisdictions. In Switzerland the income tax rate is closer to 25%.


David Butler of Kinetic, a firm that helps hedge funds to relocate, is currently working on eight mandates from British-based firms to find them office space in Switzerland.


“They want to be out of the UK by April,” he said. “Geneva is the most popular choice. These people are a club: they go where the others are.” Butler predicts that up to 150 hedge funds will leave London.


Brevan Howard, the UK’s largest hedge fund, is also considering whether to open an office in Switzerland. Alan Howard, the founder, is said to be sounding out staff over whether there is sufficient demand among its 100 traders and fund managers to merit the move.


James Vernon, Brevan Howard’s chief operating officer, said that the proposed EU directive on hedge-fund regulation would make it “impossible” for it to do business in Britain.


One London-based hedge fund manager said: “They have no choice but to do this. We tried to hire a trader last week but he said he would not join unless he could be based in Geneva. People don’t want their fortunes subject to the ever-changing whim of the British government.”

Phillip Inman of the Guardian reports Johnson's warning of bankers quitting London could be a flight of fancy:

Thousands of London's bankers are poised to flee for Switzerland, the Caribbean, New York, or anywhere else that allows them to escape the capital, according to the city's mayor, Boris Johnson.


Higher taxes and an oppressive anti-City attitude from ministers, with the support of a baying public, make the capital a place where only financiers with the thickest of skins and wallets to match want to conduct business.


Johnson reckons that 9,000 bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity executives could lead the charge.


But London's major property companies disagree. Figures from upmarket estate agents Cluttons showed a renewed confidence that London would remain Europe's main financial centre, with prices of expensive homes increasing in December. Land Securities, the UK's largest property developer and owner of several prime City office blocks, says: "We have seen an upturn in City rental levels in recent months and an increase in occupier interest for new space."


Michael Strong, of CB Richard Ellis, the property consultants, says he believes any movement will be at the margins.


"At the moment there is no reason to believe there will be any material shift away from London," he says. " There isn't another centre in Europe that can compete with London, so it is still very well placed."


Johnson's policy director, Anthony Browne, is adamant that phone lines were humming before Christmas with calls from bankers upset at a 50p tax on incomes of more than £150,000, the withdrawal of tax relief on pensions for the same income group and the windfall tax on bonuses. Based on questions put to the callers about their plans, the mayor estimates the figure of 9,000 is reasonable and could cost the exchequer more than £1.2bn in lost tax and national insurance contributions.


Browne says: "Of course we don't know if they will carry out their threat, but they are very upset. As well as the level of tax, it is also the uncertainty that prevents them from planning, which is a big issue."


He warned that Switzerland was mentioned many times by callers as an alternative base for some or all of their business.


Geneva was often spoken of as a preferred location. Swiss cantons with lower tax rates and spare property are catching up. Pfaffikon is an area with around 10,000 inhabitants that enjoys an income tax rate of 18%. It has already grabbed headlines following an influx of little- known, but extremely profitable firms, including Quaesta Capital, Aeris Capital and Westport Private Equity, along with a major offshoot of FTSE 100 hedge fund Man Group, which is the area's largest employer with 500 staff.


A drift of small private equity houses and hedge funds is unlikely to worry the Treasury. But even threats from bigger players such as Goldman Sachs are unlikely to cause panic. It is understood the US investment bank is considering shifting some departments overseas.According to reports, the bank asked an internal team to examine various strategies, including whole divisions being moved abroad. While Goldman's proprietary trading arm, foreign exchange trading teams and the bank's back office operations were all mentioned as areas that could be examined, the bank's main centre will remain in London.

Finally, Patrick Jenkins of the FT reports City's role as financial centre set for new boost, says top hedge fun:

London will thrive as a financial centre over the next decade by becoming the natural western hub for emerging market growth, according to one of the City's best-known hedge funds.


In stark contrast to bankers' doom-laden predictions about the City's imminent demise, and defections of hedge funds amid relocations of some staff to Switzerland by prominent funds such as BlueCrest Capital and Brevan Howard, Tosca is convinced the growth of the Bric nations - Brazil, Russia, India and China - can only work to London's advantage.


"The idea that London is going to be full of tumbleweed in 10 years is not credible," said Savvas Savouri, chief economist at Tosca. "There are too many aspirational economies that don't have infrastructures of their own. We have an affinity with India, with the Gulf, even with China, via Hong Kong. These markets will want a western hub."


Mr Savouri predicted that London will attract at least 100,000 new financial services jobs over the next decade.


The upbeat analysis of the City's prospects comes in stark contrast to a crisis of confidence in recent months, exacerbated last month by the imposition of a 50 per cent supertax to be levied on bankers' bonus pools.


Bankers have described the supertax as confirmation of the UK's hostility to finance. It follows the introduction, from April, of a new 50 per cent top rate of income tax and moves to crack down on the taxation of so-called "non-doms" - individuals who live in the UK but are not domiciled there for tax purposes - that affect many elite foreign-born bankers.


Boris Johnson, London mayor, has warned that banks are planning to shift thousands of jobs out of the capital. JPMorgan Chase has even hinted it could abandon London as its main European base.


Tosca argues that such threats are empty. "For those concerned that tax and regulation will deflect new arrivals from London, we say this: taxes are rising and regulation is being tightened elsewhere too."


Mr Savouri's prediction is based in part on an extrapolation of the arrival of Japanese banks in the City 20 years ago.


"If the Bric economies were to match the presence in London of Japan's banks on a per capita basis, the number of incremental jobs would exceed 180,000," he wrote in a paper sent to clients last week.

So will banks leave London or even New York if higher taxes and more regulations come into effect? Not a chance. They will whine, they will threaten, but ultimately they will stay at these large financial centers. The rush to Geneva will be short-lived.


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Thu, 02/04/2010 - 03:19 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Wed, 01/20/2010 - 09:38 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Wed, 01/20/2010 - 09:36 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Tue, 01/19/2010 - 09:30 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Tue, 01/19/2010 - 09:26 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Wed, 01/20/2010 - 10:45 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 23:20 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 21:52 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 21:43 | Link to Comment Privatus
Privatus's picture

People are economic actors and they vote with their feet. Capital, including human capital, wants to be free. It will go to wherever it is freest. Geneva? Certainly. Hong Kong and Singapore will also benefit from the UK's stupid policies. For now, the sun has set on London.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 23:51 | Link to Comment Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

Stated by someone who is woefully ignorant of economic geography.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 19:26 | Link to Comment Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

It goes like this:

The arsonist sets the fire, watches the blaze, then after the burning is over, the arsonist leaves.  Standard case.  

Buy Silver.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 18:10 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 16:19 | Link to Comment chet
chet's picture

Why don't they just quit being hedge funders altogether and do something productive with themselves?

I have been endlessly fascinated over the last couple years with the fact that Wall Street/City/bankster types really expect that we'll care when they start pouting and stomping their feet.

Note to slimeballs:  NO ONE LIKES YOU!  No one likes your business.  Many many people could see you living under a bridge and not feel the least bit sorry for you.

Go to Geneva.  Go to hell.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 15:32 | Link to Comment mw1
mw1's picture

If CB Richard Ellis could pick up their real estate inventory and move it to Geneva they wouldn't have such an incentive to to play down the impact of higher taxes on British business.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 19:11 | Link to Comment Zippyin Annapolis
Zippyin Annapolis's picture

Ha ha ha ha ha ha--Exactly!!

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 15:00 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 14:28 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 16:37 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 14:21 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 13:40 | Link to Comment Comrade de Chaos
Comrade de Chaos's picture

so Leo, do you think the below is a good idea?


he does sound crazy sometimes, however a lot of what he has to say does make sense.


p.s. I like google, :) (not as an Investment with a 1000+ PE of cause.)

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 15:52 | Link to Comment Species8472
Species8472's picture

Don't need to boycott China, just demand that they float their currency.


Mon, 01/18/2010 - 14:06 | Link to Comment Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

Boycott China? Why not pass a law to close down all Wal Mart stores? Come on, I don't take this stuff seriously. There is no China, it's now Chimerica!!!

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 17:54 | Link to Comment Amish FinEng
Amish FinEng's picture

The Amish pension fund has major investments in Jarden.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:55 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 15:43 | Link to Comment plongka10
plongka10's picture

If you are priviliged enough to earn millions a year, then surely paying 50% of those millions per year in tax is irrelevant to your general wellbeing and quality of life?

Congratulations on being a member of the elite. Enjoy your life. 

Tue, 01/19/2010 - 08:40 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:55 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 13:13 | Link to Comment Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

Having visited Geneva, I agree with my buddy, it's too small and too stuffy (in every sense of the word) to compete with London in any meaningful way. Of course, hedge funds can set up offices anywhere in the world. Vega Asset Management set up their trading operations in Madrid. Haven't followed them but that is a beautiful city. If Greece was smart, they would try to entice fund managers there. My dream is to set up an operation in Crete. I can wake up at a reasonable hour, have a coffee, swim, and make it back in time for the opening in London and the NYSE. Then again, having a bunch of hedgies and investment bankers in Greece would ruin my appetite. (I have enough watching the arrogant jerks in Kolonaki Square in Athens - real butter boys with their Armani sunglasses, Hermes ties, Canali suits, and Vacheron Constantin watches, sipping espressos, reading their papers, pretending to work while they text message each other all day long!!!).

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 13:53 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 17:25 | Link to Comment Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

So what? they list Vancouver #3 after Zurich and Geneva and Montreal #22,  after Toronto (#15) and Ottawa (#18). I don't take these lists seriously and very much doubt hedgies do too. If you really want to live in a decent city in Europe, go to Brussels, Belgium. My mom and stepfather have been living there for a few years now and it's a beautiful city and much more to do and see than Geneva or Zurich.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 15:38 | Link to Comment plongka10
plongka10's picture


Mon, 01/18/2010 - 13:26 | Link to Comment nonclaim
nonclaim's picture

Geneva isn't trying to compete with London so this point is moot. But the question is on, why do they (HFs) choose Geneva anyway? There must be something that you didn't notice in your visit... Don't have to live in Geneva, stay somewhere around and have a scenic drive everyday instead of being stuck in London traffic. When bored (it happens) the airport is right there, 15min by train. Or just ride your bike to France...

Now you got me thinking... I'll prepare my resume. Thanks!

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 23:47 | Link to Comment Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

Many years ago, my boss and I were taken out by two wealthy hedge fund managers to a fine restaurant on the outskirts of Geneva. It was in a winery with beautiful scenery. They laid it on thick, ordering a couple of vintage Chateau Petrus bottles at a few thousand dollars a pop, which didn't seem to bother my boss (so I just drank it and enjoyed the evening). But if I had to choose a place to live, London trumps Geneva. It's far from perfect (way too crowded), but London is a cosmolitan city where you can find it all. Geneva is nice but it's boring, like watching paint dry.

Tue, 01/19/2010 - 04:43 | Link to Comment aus_punter
aus_punter's picture

Leo, you sound like a tool writing this.  If you are so superior to all those you admonish then why would you (as the client) choose to socialise in this way.  And why would anyone allocating pension money need to be around for the LSE open ? Quit the big noting, you sound like a 2nd year IB analyst.

Tue, 01/19/2010 - 08:56 | Link to Comment Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

Because my boss was with me, and to be honest, back then, I didn't know the cost of Chateau Petrus. My boss told me about it after the dinner. It didn't make a big impression on me, but I did enjoy the conversation with these two hedge fund managers. I am not superior to anyone and you sound like someone who has a chip on their shoulder. I must have struck a nerve with you for you to come out and attack me.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:35 | Link to Comment bokapita
bokapita's picture

Good riddance. Living in the UK, or for that matter any western country, is a privilage for which one has to pay. The idea that the cost of living, taking everything into account, in Geneva is noticeably less than London is absurd.

The tax regime in the UK is not punitive, and a 10 cent increase in tax above a taxable level of income of 250,000 USD is no great hardship. Perhaps these whiners have the idea that they have no responsibility to contribute?

As the activities of the City have caused the UK taxpayer to pledge and or pay more than 1.5 TRILLION dollars worth of taxpayers' money to keep the show on the road, the requested contribution from higher earners is modest.

The hedge funds and others are part of this guastly mess, either indirectly or directly, and many of us, myself included, have yet to see a shred of evidence that any real wealth has been created by their activities. I mean, capital provision for industry seems to have disappeared as an objective of financiers. Redistributing existing wealth in their favour does not seem to me to be an activity the absence of which will damage the UK.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 17:17 | Link to Comment masterinchancery
masterinchancery's picture

The UK is a massive bureaucratic welfare state, with National Health being the 3d largest employer in the world after the Chinese Army and Indian railroads. That bureaucracy produces little of value. If the actual wealth wealth producers refuse to be plucked like chickens for the benefit of patronage armies, they are in the moral right.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:35 | Link to Comment masterinchancery
masterinchancery's picture

Disagree Leo; in the long run, money talks.  We have this thing now called the internet.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:30 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:32 | Link to Comment Leo Kolivakis
Leo Kolivakis's picture

Here is what a buddy of mine who works at a major bank here in Canada had to say:

"Sounds like a drop in the bucket, where will all these HF managers go? Geneva is a small town by London standards.  How about school for their precious children.  Geneva could possibly accommodate a couple of hundred managers, but even then, it's not like there is lots of spare capacity in their infrastructure.  This issue was raised a year ago, when the UK government imposed a minimum tax on wealthy residents.  Bottom line: few places (Frankfurt, Paris) have the capacity to take on expats, and these countries to may “tax” them when they get there. "

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:22 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 23:51 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 11:38 | Link to Comment nobusiness
nobusiness's picture

Moving out of London works for Brit's but US citzens are taxed on worldwide income and then get a credit for taxes paid to other jurisdictions.  Unless you plan on renouncing your citizenship you can't beat the taxman.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 20:41 | Link to Comment Neophiliac
Neophiliac's picture

The long reach of the IRS is annoying in the extreme, but there are still significant savings to be had by not paying NY state and city taxes (or property taxes that amount to the same thing if you're in the suburb), medicare (set for a hike) and social security. And don't forget to add in exobirantly high rates for health insurance. 

Federal income tax alone ain't that horrible - even after Bush's cuts expire. It's the combination of all federal and local taxes that kills it. And WTF do we get in exchange?   Military superiority? Thanks, but no thanks.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 16:18 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 19:07 | Link to Comment Zippyin Annapolis
Zippyin Annapolis's picture

Yes and a 30% toll tax on exit.

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 11:35 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 11:35 | Link to Comment Anonymous
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 13:53 | Link to Comment trav7777
trav7777's picture

Yes, I praise Jesus daily for the opportunity to acquire more debt on my behalf to bail out banks so bankers can get huge bonuses and pay a fraction of that back in taxes.  It's awesome!

Mon, 01/18/2010 - 11:18 | Link to Comment Zippyin Annapolis
Zippyin Annapolis's picture

Real Estate groups painting a rosy scenario--how original!! After all they have all of those empty buildings and spec construction they need to fill.

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