FDI of the Month November 2018: Bank of America strengthens commitment to Ireland merging London banking arm with Irish subsidiary

FDI of the Month | Fri 7 Dec | Author – Business & Finance
Bank of America Merrill Lynch FDI July 2017

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has strengthened its Irish base after finalising its Brexit contingency plan, with the move of 100 staff from its main EU London banking arm, four months in advance of the Brexit deadline. 

 The London-based arm was up until now the main EU branch, overseeing up to €50bn in assets, and the bank has now secured regulatory approval to transfer tens of billions of euro worth of assets to Ireland. Four years ago the bank had moved more than €100bn  of derivatives from Ireland to London.

Merging with the Irish branch sees the workforce based in Dublin grow to more than 800, housed between its offices in Leopardstown and Hatch Street in the city centre. 

Bank of America was one of the first banks to get the ball rolling on Brexit contingency plans and the merger plan finally completed after a 14-month process to finalise all the necessary regulatory requirements. 

Anne Finucane, vice chair at Bank of America and chair of the board of Bank of America Merrill Lynch Europe, previously stated: 

We made a decision early on that we would seek to fully implement a cross-border merger whether it was a hard or soft Brexit because its very hard to be in the reactive mode, we felt we needed to be proactive. We’ve had a 50-year relationship with Ireland, excellent workforce, good relationship so we made a decision to head-quarter our bank in Ireland, pending regulatory approval. We are hopeful we have that by early December and be fully operating.”

The new entity is now the main EU base for the bank, with ancillary operations in Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris and Zurich. The bank is also considering opening an EU trading arm or broker-dealer in Ireland. Its main trading arm will be relocated to Paris in Q1 of 2019.

For the most part, the positions which have moved to Dublin are in control and support functions, including finance, risk, compliance, technology and operations. The former CFO Bruce Thompson will head up the new unit, with Rob Cahill heading up the global technology and operations unit. 

Commenting on the process, Mr Thompson said: 

After many months of preparation and having just completed our cross border merger, we now stand ready to serve our clients seamlessly in their final preparations for Brexit and for the long term.”

Ms Finucane stated: 

We are pleased to have worked closely and constructively with our regulators to complete this critical component of our Brexit preparations exactly on schedule and well ahead of the earliest possible date of the UK’s exit from the EU.”

Rival investment banks Barclays, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup have also planned to expand their operations in Ireland as a response to Brexit. The Sunday Business Post reported last month that the Central Bank has seen more than 100 applications for authorisation, mainly from asset management and insurance firms, and a smaller number of banks and payment services firms. Sources revealed a significant number of additional Central Bank staff had been assigned to assist in the authorisation process ahead of March, and a significant number of applications are expected over the coming weeks.