Exchanges and traders in London are gearing up for the return of trading in shares in Swiss companies as the UK begins charting a post-Brexit future for its sprawling financial services industry.
Executives at banks said they were expecting business to return rapidly over the coming weeks after an EU-imposed ban on trading Swiss stocks is formally lifted.
The legal process is set to be finalised by Wednesday or Thursday, making it one of the first moves the UK has made to boost its financial services sector since the Brexit transition period ended a month ago. The British and Swiss governments are also working on a more comprehensive agreement covering banking, insurance and asset management.
Trading on venues such as Cboe Europe, Turquoise, Aquis and UBS MTF is expected to resume the next working day after permission is granted. City firms aim to recover part of the business that left London following an EU-wide prohibition in 2019.
Brussels revoked recognition that Swiss stock exchanges had equivalent supervisory regulation in a dispute over trade talks. As an EU member, the UK complied and about 30 per cent of the daily €4.5bn in Swiss trading departed for Zurich overnight.
Venue operators, such as exchanges, said asset managers and hedge funds were keen and ready to resume trading. “It’s an eagerly awaited return for us and our customers,” said David Howson, president of Cboe Europe, which lost 9 per cent of its business, by value traded, when the ban was imposed.
“All the indications we’re having from customers are that the balance of flows should return in months if not weeks.”
Trading in Swiss shares is expected to begin to replace some of the EU business that left at the start of January after Brussels declined to recognise UK regulations as equivalent to those in the EU. Last month an average of €8bn a day, which typically would have traded in London, traded on venues in the EU bloc.
The Swiss market is the fourth-largest in Europe by value traded behind London, Frankfurt and Paris, and is home to some of the continent’s most actively traded shares, including Nestlé, Novartis and Roche.“The reality is that Switzerland is one of the great international financial centres and wealth centres of the world,” said Robert Barnes, chief executive of Turquoise, controlled by London Stock Exchange Group.
The UK’s ban will lift on February 3 and share trading will resume once the Swiss reciprocate, which is expected to follow almost immediately.
SIX Group, operator of the Swiss exchange, welcomed the move, even if it potentially meant losing market share.
“We have always been committed to open and international capital markets. This is in the interest of national and international investors and clients,” it said.
Mr Barnes pointed to a cross-border link between the two countries that meant Swiss stocks could be settled in the Alpine country.
“The shares and the Swiss francs are never leaving Switzerland,” he said. “But with Turquoise and the other venues you’re getting a whole additional range of mechanisms to buy and sell, and that’s a net positive for investors.”