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Goldman exec: UK needs access to EU tech talent post-Brexit

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Talent warning: Joanne Hannaford, Goldman Sachs head of technology in Europe. Photo: Goldman Sachs

One of Goldman Sachs’ most senior tech executives has said that Britain must keep its doors open to EU tech talent post-Brexit if it wants to maintain its position as a tech hub.

Joanne Hannaford, head of technology for Goldman Sachs in Europe, was asked about the impact of Brexit on technology on Goldman’s in-house podcast series ‘Exchanges at GS’.

“By far the hardest thing about technology is being able to find talented engineers,” Hannaford said. “What you don’t want… [is] not be able to have free movement or free employment of people who can foster the kind of technology startup area in London.

“It’s world recognised that London really is the capital for technology investment in Europe. And for that continue, we really need to be able to continue to employ and access technical talent from across Europe.

“I think that would be the biggest issue that we face in being able to kind of keep the current accelerated growth that you see.”

Goldman CEO David Soloman warned in January that a hard Brexit could negatively impact the investment bank’s investment plans in the UK. Goldman, which is completing work on a new multi-million pound headquarters in central London, employs around 6,000 people in the UK.

“We’ve been planning as a firm for multiple scenarios that could happen for Brexit,” Hannaford said. “Those scenarios vary from the kind of most extreme, which is that you have to assume that in order to deal with an EU entity, you have to be within the EU, and then the least extreme, which is that we can carry on as we’ve historically done.”

Hannaford said she expected Brexit would have “limited impact” on technology from a regulatory standpoint as Britain would likely continue to follow similar rules after exiting the EU.

“Physical distance doesn’t really stop people being able to really kind of come together and communicate [in Europe],” she said. “And I still think that even in a post-Brexit environment that won’t change.”

Hannaford also said London is arguably “the capital of artificial intelligence in the world.” Google acquired London-based AI business DeepMind for £400m in 2014, one of the most notable acquisitions in the space in recent years. DeepMind remains headquartered in London.

You can find the full “Exchanges at GS” podcast here.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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