Europlace seeks to build Arab partnerships ahead of Brexit

Paris to emerge as financial center, says Bresson

Arnaud Bresson, CEO, Paris Europlace, speaks during the interview. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: As EU member states prepare for Brexit, the CEO and Managing Director of Europlace of the Paris-based International Financial Center, is visiting Kuwait. Europlace is an organization in charge of developing the International Financial Center. Arnaud de Bresson is in Kuwait to promote Europlace activities and build more partnerships with Arab invertors. The objective is to prepare EU investors for the possible impact of Brexit.

“Brexit is real and as EU member states reconcile to the fact, we are more and more concerned about what is next. The British have decided to leave the EU bloc. We want to say that we do not really want Brexit to happen. However, we are not convinced about the reasoning of the decision because we are all living in one small economic bloc,” he said.

“We believe that it would have been better if the UK stayed in the bloc,” he said. “Now that they have decided to leave, we have to do something to cope with the possible impact of Brexit. So, the reason why we are here is to offer Paris as the center of banking and asset management services,” he said.

According to Bresson, with Brexit, many businesses will have to relocate, while many people are going to lose their passports as well. However, to move forward, he said Paris is the best location after the United Kingdom for EU clients, especially in the presence of several big international companies, talents as well as their prowess in the banking industry and asset management. “We have world-class education, top quality infrastructure and the advantage of our geographical location of being in the center of the EU. Thanks to Emmanuel Macron for the reforms which he initiated quickly after his election to improve labor rules, allow more flexibility and reduce taxes and corporate taxes in all areas,” he said.

But Brexit is just one part of Europlace’s activities, as it has a major role to play in the ‘Paris 2030 Plan’, which is a long-term strategy to continue to improve Paris’ attractiveness. “We want reforms to continue being implemented. Now we have in the parliament a new plan to orientate savings to develop the equity market. We also have pension reform, the possibility to implement new pension programs and to accelerate our industrial priorities,” he added.

Europlace’s strategy is to continue prioritizing high-tech companies including fintech, which is now a priority for the center to accelerate the positioning of Paris as a sustainable financial hub and to develop an international partnership with the GCC and MENA region. “Fintech development has been in existence since 10 years – the good thing is that we have now a new generation of people ready to start. Our main goal is to consolidate our position in the EU,” he explained.

Bresson admitted that Europlace has been coming back to Kuwait on a regular basis since three years. “This time, we are here because we are developing a strong partnership between France and Kuwait in the economic field. We know that we have to accelerate relationship in businesses,” he said. He also met Kuwait Investment Authority officials and representatives of the banking sector in Kuwait, headed by the National Bank of Kuwait.

“NBK is extending its activities in Paris in the context of Brexit. NBK confirmed to us that in the context of Brexit, it will come and consolidate its forces to enter Europlace as it understands we are going to be the gateway to the Europe market, including relocating some of its people from London to Paris. We will be the gateway as well for the MENA region,” he said. “We are in the process to suggest/propose signing an agreement with the Kuwait market similar to what we have signed with some GCC markets like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We are convinced that there are more business opportunities here if we have partnerships to build between Paris, in the context of Brexit,” he said.

Challenges of Brexit
Bresson admitted no one knows what will happen in the negotiations between EU and UK on how to deal with Brexit. He said there are camps that suggest UK should come back, but realistically speaking, whatever happens, according to Bresson, big companies, investment banks, asset management companies, insurance companies and fintech companies are relocating their businesses because they cannot wait that long.

“We see the announcement for example of HSBC, Bank of America, JP Morgan, British Bank, Blackrock or even your local bank (the National Bank of Kuwait) – they are eyeing Paris to be their next stop because of the proximity to the EU market. Even if we see progressive development around us, we are poised to be the next trading hub in time for Brexit,” he reiterated.
“I think the remaining members of EU are now thinking how difficult it will be for them to leave EU, because of the importance of commercial and financial relationships with the rest of EU members. Today, UK is proof that leaving the EU is really difficult. They know the competition is not between EU countries, but the rest of the world. This is the very reason why we have consolidated – the reason is that if we are smaller, we will be alone. We are bigger when we are together,” he said.
He lauded strong ties with Arab countries as they are well-known and heavy investors in the EU market. “Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait are investing all over the world. We heard today from KIA that they continue to invest more and more abroad, and for this reason, we are very interested in talking to them,” he concluded.

By Ben Garcia

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