What bankers really think of Brexit

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Day one of negations between the U.K. and the European Union ended with Brussels getting its way on the timetable for Britain's exit from the economic bloc, leaving no illusions that London was not in control of its own destiny.

The biggest threat to Britain's economy comes from efforts to diminish London's dominance in financial services. Continental leaders, politicians, and regulators are determined to end the City of London's right to trade financial products across the EU and move thousands of jobs to the continent.

EU citizens represent 35 percent of those working in mergers and acquisitions and investment banking in the City of London, according to efinancial careers. Some big banks, including Goldman Sachs, have announced plans to move some of their staff to European cities.

CNBC interviewed 10 people working in the finance industry, from junior investment bankers to senior analysts to find out what's really on their minds about Brexit and how it will impact their lives and the wider City of London. To ensure the respondents would answer truly and freely, the interviews were done on the basis of anonymity.

'Brexit will be a failure'

Most respondents do not think the U.K. will end up benefiting from its decision to leave the EU, mainly in the short-term.

Brexit will be a "failure," a currencies strategist at a European bank told CNBC in an interview at her office, adding "The economy is shooting itself in the foot."

A senior U.K. economist also made the same economic point: "Brexit will be a failure. It wasn't a necessary condition to revamp the U.K. economy."

The U.K. economy surprised in the aftermath of the vote avoiding a collapse that many economists had predicted. However, nearly a year after the vote, data has showed a slight slowdown in gross domestic product (GDP). The Office for National Statistics said in May that GDP grew just 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2017, from 0.7 percent growth in the final three months of 2016. Rising prices in the wake of Brexit seem to be hitting consumer spending.

Brexit is the stupidest thing I've ever seen in international politics.
Euro zone economist

But there are also the political consequences from Brexit. "Brexit is the stupidest thing I've ever seen in international politics. It's breaking the country," a euro zone economist at a consultancy firm told CNBC over the phone in reference to the anti-Brexit views in Scotland and in the capital.

One of the 10 respondents added that Brexit will be a failure but "mostly" for the European Union. "I think it could be the start of the end of the EU project," the head of a forex strategy at a European bank told CNBC.

'Brexit is a concern and an unwelcome uncertainty'

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A junior equity analyst told CNBC via email that Brexit is a concern on a professional basis.

"Firms will consequently incur monetary costs (given that the UK will have to renegotiate trade agreements with the EU and other global partners) and at the very least, a large shadow has been cast over the short- and medium-term investment horizons. Even if we were to assume that labor was cheaper and more efficient in the UK compared to mainland Europe, why would a company (large or small) invest in a new office or factory in the UK without knowing what types of restrictions will be imposed on its products when sold/shipped overseas? I believe that this will significantly reduce the employment prospects of current and future generations with few, if any, positive impacts for average UK citizen. This obviously leads to a major personal concern as my wellbeing in this country, as for many others, is largely dependent on my ability to be employed," he said.

The euro zone economist surveyed is from Denmark but works and lives in the U.K. At the moment, he does not plan on applying for U.K. citizenship.

"I will reevaluate when I get my tax information," he said.

"People would be lying if they say they aren't worried about Brexit. No matter what, our (EU citizens) rights will be diminished," he added, acknowledging that he is in an "easy" situation. "I make money, I'm clean, I'd be allowed to stay in 5 minutes (if he had to apply for a visa)," he said.

I don't want to go, but I might have no option…It is really upsetting.
Currencies strategist

A currency strategist divided her answer into two aspects, for the country and for her own life. "I am quite fearful for the economy, the housing market is weakening and savings are low ... Also, the political uncertainty regarding future trade hurts investment and is, therefore, a concern for the long term."

She added: "This sort of threat above the industry doesn't make anyone happy." She mentioned that with two teenage children a possible relocation would be more problematic.

"I don't want to go, but I might have no option … It is really upsetting," she said.

Those with less experience and without children are more willing to relocate but at a price.

"I'd try to stay in London. I would only consider moving if the compensation was sufficiently high," a senior U.K. economist said mentioning Paris and Barcelona as the most attractive options.

'The City won't disappear but it will lose importance'

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With banks and financial companies having to relocate some personnel so that they keep trading euros and the uncertainty surrounding the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K. it is unclear what shape the City of London will take. However, most respondents believe London's role will be deminished.

I am worried that going forward Europe will not have any financial center of global importance anymore.
Junior Investment Banker

"I think London will lose a significant amount of importance as a financial center in the aftermath of Brexit. Companies have already and will continue to move people to other cities across Europe. While I don't think that any other European city will replace London as a global financial center I am worried that going forward Europe will not have any financial center of global importance anymore," a junior analyst at one of the biggest investment banks told CNBC via email.

A sovereign risk analyst made the same point, predicting a "slow erosion of the financial sector in London, not only because of new EU rules but also the loss of EU workers."

The City of London will not come to an end, he said, "but it will come under threat."

A global head of CROCI (cash return on capital invested) investment at an investment bank, who has been in the City for about 30 years, shared the same opinion: "The City will not necessarily come to an end but the role will be diminished."

You might see people working 2,3 days in the continent and the rest at home in the U.K.
British investment banker 

However, one of the respondents showed optimism in the future of the City. "I don't think it will change massively. At the end of the day, people aren't going to move. London is still the best place to live. It has the best schools, the best travel format, families aren't going to move. You might see people working two to three days in the continent and the rest at home in the U.K.," a British investment banker at a private equity firm told CNBC over the phone.