Brevan Howard’s decision to move some of its most senior traders back to London from Geneva will put paid to the idea hedge funds want to quit the UK for Switzerland, according to headhunters.
Brevan Howard’s return to London reverses a 2010 decision by Alan Howard, its billionaire co-founder, to move himself and a clutch of top traders to Geneva. It is not clear whether Mr Howard himself will return to London with the other traders. Brevan Howard declined to comment.
Logan Naidu, chief executive of Dartmouth Partners, the recruitment firm, said Brevan Howard’s move “will mark a trend” for people to remain in London. He added that the shift from the UK to Switzerland had in any case always been more “noise than reality”.
Carl Sjöström, head of executive compensation for Europe at Hay Group, the consultancy and recruitment business, agreed. He said Brevan Howard’s move “reverses the trend” of hedge funds exiting for Switzerland.
BlueCrest Capital, the hedge fund founded by Michael Platt and William Reeves, the former JPMorgan traders, also opened in Geneva in 2010.
“I think the threat to London was very real as the political and fiscal situation before the UK election was so uncertain,” he said. “[But] with more predictability around UK taxes and London still remaining the largest financial centre, the gravitational force is too strong.”
Brevan Howard’s departure will be a blow to Switzerland, which has been keen to shed its reputation as a private banking hub and become a centre for asset management on a par with New York or London. The Swiss fund association had been promoting the country as a centre for investment management in Europe.
Ray Soudah, founder of Millenium Associates, the Zurich-based merger and acquisition consultancy, said the move to Switzerland had been exaggerated in the first place. “People like Switzerland for skiing chalets, but like Mayfair more for work,” he said.
Mr Naidu added: “Switzerland is a dull place to live. After all, if you are a billionaire hedge fund manager, wouldn’t you rather be in London?”
It was feared that the Swiss National Bank’s decision to scrap its currency ceiling at the start of the year would result in a flight of hedge fund managers if the franc continued to strengthen.
The spike in the value of the franc equated to an effective pay cut for those who had moved to Switzerland but are paid in a non-domestic currency, typically dollars or pounds.
Leo Meggitt, a partner at Forster Chase, a headhunting company that specialises in fund management, said the currency fluctuation would have been “a contributing factor” in Brevan Howard’s decision to move some of its most senior traders back to London.
He said: “Most hedge funds are heavily reliant on a collection of star performers, so if there is anything that might threaten the retention of those performers, then it is a significant risk to the business. The currency spike would have contributed to that threat.”
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