Brexit is a Process not an Event – Part One

Author: Blake C. Goldring

June 8, 2018

Preparing for Brexit Not Just a British Challenge

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of participating in the “Preparing for Brexit Not Just a British Challenge” Panel with the Right Honourable Lord Mayor of the City of London and the Honourable Michael H. Wilson, Chairman of Barclays Canada.

It was a lively conversation that covered trade, future opportunities and the impacts for global Financial Services and other businesses post Brexit. We discussed opportunities for Canada and a new trade agreement.

The one thing that we could all agree on, is that when it comes to Brexit there are a lot of unknowns. This is a period of continued uncertainty and unknown consequences. No member state has ever left the EU and the Article 50 mechanism itself is untested.

Brexit will likely result in a number of large-scale changes for the UK in trade, employment and regulation. Some of these changes will be positive, yet few are likely to happen overnight. I believe that businesses now have a prime opportunity to take proactive steps to prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

My background allowed me to bring a unique perspective to this discussion. I am the Chairman and CEO of AGF, a diversified global asset management firm. We are based in Canada with offices around the world, including Dublin, Ireland. At the same time, AGF has a 32.8% interest in U.K.-based Smith & Williamson. With 1700 employees, this leading private client investment management firm manages assets in excess of 21 billion pounds sterling.

We first entered the UK private client space in 1998 to deliver on our long-term investment strategy in this region and to deepen our global presence. Twenty years later we still see opportunities in the UK and look at our presence there as another way to deliver strategic value to our shareholders.

Brexit has not changed our position. London has been a critical artery for the flow of money around the world for centuries – and my colleagues at Smith & Williamson don’t see that changing.

The financial services sector in London still accounts for about 12% of Britain’s economic output and employs about 1.1 million people.

Looking ahead over the next five years, I have no doubt that London’s financial services sector will continue to be a significant contributor to the UK economy. This sector will adapt as it has always done and will continue to thrive.

With less than a year before Britain is due to leave the EU, there is no evidence of a mass exodus.

There will be changes over time, but I expect they will be gradual rather than dramatic. Brexit is a process, not an event.

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