Goldman Sachs is considering shifting some of its assets and operations from London to Frankfurt, three people familiar with the matter said, as it tries to secure access to the European Union market when Britain leaves the bloc.
The U.S. investment bank is examining the step as a way to qualify for supervision by the European Central Bank, putting some of its operations under the watch of the euro zone's main banking supervisor.
Coming under the ECB's jurisdiction should allow it to continue selling its services to clients across the euro zone and wider EU post-Brexit, according to one person with knowledge of the matter.
However, this is uncharted legal territory and the sources said Goldman had not yet taken any decision on the matter.
"Moving under ECB supervision in Frankfurt is one of the options the bank is considering," one of the people said. Another said Goldman had held talks about such a step with ECB officials in Frankfurt.
The plans being examined would shift Goldman's European presence towards the center of the euro zone, representing a blow to London's status as a global financial center - and a coup for Frankfurt, a small city that is Germany's own finance capital.
A spokesman for Goldman Sachs said there were "numerous uncertainties" about the outcome of Brexit negotiations. "We continue to work through all possible implications of the Brexit vote," he said. "We have not taken any decisions as to what our eventual response will be."
An ECB spokesman declined to comment.
Goldman, whose services include broking and market-making in securities, foreign-exchange trading and corporate finance, currently relies on the EU's "passporting" system. This allows it to sell across the region without setting up shop in each member state, while under the supervision of UK authorities.
But banks' UK operations are expected to lose their passporting rights after Brexit.
Currently, U.S. banks concentrate the bulk of their European operations in Britain, with 88 percent of their regional employees based there, according to 2014 data from think-tank Bruegel.
A bank such as Goldman Sachs would typically qualify for ECB supervision if it increased the assets of its euro zone operations to 30 billion euros ($33 billion).
Goldman Sachs AG in Germany had assets of 551 million euros in 2015 according to filings for last year. The bank's overall assets, however, in other entities in Germany and the rest of the euro zone are higher, according to the bank.