AIG eyes moving HQ out of London after Brexit

AIG eyes moving HQ out of London after Brexit

AIG is considering shifting its European headquarters out of London because of the UK’s impending divorce from the European Union.

The chief executive of AIG Europe, Anthony Baldwin, admitted the company “might have to rewind” and move its European base to a different city in Europe, less than five years after it migrated its headquarters from Paris to London.

“We might make the decision to move out of London in the next year,” he said at a conference today (22 November) hosted by the Association of British Insurers, adding however that would not be AIG’s preferred decision.

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“We will always have a big London hub and will continue to have a big London hub, but we might have European headquarters elsewhere to access the European market.”

The US insurer is the latest company to consider moving its European head office away from the UK in light of the Brexit vote, with asset managers admitting UK headquarters could complicate their activities once Britain has left Europe.

Mr Baldwin said AIG felt like the “smartest kid on the block” when it moved its European head office to the UK.

“But on the other hand, we have got the experience and we know what it takes to move from one market to another,” he said, pointing out it took 18 months to transfer from Paris to London.

“It takes around two years to move into a different market and there is a queue at the door in terms of other companies doing similar contingent planning; there are a number of places companies can go.”

AIG’s European chief also said the regulator will have a queue in terms of dealing with applications.

Prime minister Theresa May has said Article 50 will be triggered by March next year, which will set the ball rolling for the UK to leave the European Union.

Mr Baldwin added: “From March, the clock starts ticking and it is two years from then.”

Huw Evans, director general of the ABI, said it will take years before a treaty is in place that codifies the future trading relationship between the UK and the 27 member states in the European Union.

But he said there needs to be clarity around the exit route and a “conscious effort” to align the business and political timeframes.

Mr Evans admitted this would not be easy, but said it is in the interests of both the UK and Europe to have an orderly process.

He also claimed the UK’s vote to leave the EU shows the public’s “resentment and anger” towards the financial services sector has not gone away.

“I think we have to accept that there is a limit to the extend politicians publicly want to engage with us. I also think some parts of the financial services sector overplay their hand in public and sometimes look too entitled.