The City of London and the pound would both benefit from the U.K. leaving the EU, says billionaire Peter Hargreaves. Brexit may knock the pound initially, but it would rebound, the co-founder of Hargreaves Lansdown — the largest U.K. retail broker, with more than $84.1 billion equivalent in assets — told Bloomberg Briefs' Geoff King in a June 17 interview.
Q: Why do you support "Leave"?
A: Every year in the EU it gets more political, it gets more legislative, more regulative; we don’t seem to get very much benefit from it. We will be far better out. The EU as an economic mark is declining in the world, when there were only nine countries in it was 30 percent of the world's GDP, now there are 28 it is only 17 percent. That's some serious decline. Other countries that are growing — India, parts of Africa, Brazil, China and even Russia — are the places we should be trading with.
Q: How do you counter strong economist/analyst support to remain?
A: There's a huge amount of vested interest, a lot people making these comments are politically motivated and also work for big banks that aren’t British. They’ve built these enormous dealing rooms and offices in the City of London and Canary Wharf and their bosses are saying we don't want to endanger this huge investment of ours. I don't think it will endanger that huge investment. You can't move the City of London to anywhere else in Europe. It's madness to suggest it. Frankfurt, the place everybody keeps talking about, only has a population of 700,000, it could not accommodate anything like the City of London. The City of London is absolutely guaranteed, it is bound to survive. The only center that could take over would be Zurich and that's not in the EU either. It's absolute drivel that the City of London will be affected. The City of London will go out and it will deal with these emerging economies in the Pacific Basin, Southeast Asia, Africa — they're all going to want finance for different things. You can't set up the City of London anywhere else. It takes years, and during that time the City of London will have grown stronger. Any attempt at usurping it will fail.
Q: How will London's role change?
A: It will become more global. There are only two global financial cities: New York and London. The fact London is no longer shackled to the EU means it will go out and deal with the rest of the world. New York is not in a great place, it is only in a great place for dealing with America and South America. The London time-zone is perfect for almost everywhere else in the world.
Q: What will happen to the EU?
A: The EU will disintegrate when we leave. They will realise there is nothing left. The political union is going to be a disaster and they'll want a free-trade area. Do you know who'll be the first country invited to that free trade area? The U.K.
Q: What happens to interest rates with a Brexit?
A: I don't think there'll be any change. One thing every country in the world is trying to do is get the value of their currency down. That's why interest rates are low. It is quite likely the pound will come under a bit of pressure, initially it will go down. That will be compensation for any tariffs, so the tariffs won't bother us. Not that they will instigate tariffs anyway, but any worry about it will already be compensated by the pound. The pound will become strong again, just like after we left the ERM snake under John Major. [At that time] the pound came under enormous pressure, but within 12 months was one of the strongest currencies in the world because we weren't shackled to the euro.
Q: How will factors holding down inflation differ?
A: Everyone is trying to increase inflation by reducing their interest rates and reducing the value of their currencies. We don't know what the impact of us leaving will be. I can't make any suggestion on how we get the currency to the level we want and inflation to level we want until I know how markets react to us leaving the EU. It is a hypothetical question, it may do it automatically, we may have measures to take. I think there'll be a knee-jerk reaction, but afterwards there'll be calm with people realizing it is no big deal us leaving. I think everyone is going to realize it is actually going to be good for the British economy.
Q: Would leaving the EU impact savings and investment?
A: I have more money in the stock market than any other person in the U.K., I have 2 billion pounds in the U.K. stock market. No one has anything like that. Do you think I would be intent on leaving if I thought that was going to endanger my wealth?