| BRUSSELS, March 30
BRUSSELS, March 30 Brussels expects to lure
other financial players after convincing Lloyd's of London, the
world's largest speciality insurance market, to make the city
its post-Brexit European hub.
While Lloyd's choice on Thursday surprised some, lower
rental prices and its proximity to Britain could help other
financial firms choose the multilingual home of the European
Union over Dublin, Frankfurt, Paris and Luxembourg.
Lloyd's is expected to move fewer than 100 people, but other
insurers needing an EU subsidiary to keep access to the single
market after Britain leaves the bloc may follow. Lloyd's has
long been a magnet for insurance underwriters, most of which are
clustered around its landmark building in the City of London.
"From our contacts with consultancy firms we have learned
that several companies are interested in Belgium," a spokeswoman
for Belgium's financial sector federation Febelfin said, without
specifying which companies or sectors had expressed an interest.
Brussels suffered as a banking centre during the financial
crisis in which its three largest banks required state-led
bailouts from which only one has really recovered and employment
in Belgium's financial sector has been in steady decline,
shrinking some 20 percent since 2007.
Fortis, once one of Europe's largest banks, now only exists
as a pared-down insurer, Ageas, after its banking
operations were sold to France's BNP Paribas.
Dexia, once the world's largest lender to
municipalities, is being wound down, with Belgium, France and
Luxembourg guaranteeing 71 billion euros ($77 billion) of the
Nevertheless, Belgium still hosts the headquarters of
payment messaging provider Swift and clearing house Euroclear
and some 82 banks have an office in the country.
Being in the vicinity of European institutions also allows
for easy access to high-level decision makers.
For employees cosmopolitan Brussels offers rents which are
about a third of those in London, high-speed rail services
reaching the UK capital in less than two hours and good food.
"What people really like here is the international community
that definitely is the number one reason to come here," Edgar
Hutte of the Brussels Expat Club, which helps new arrivals
settle in, said.
The negatives include hefty income taxes, among the highest
in the OECD group of developed countries, bureaucratic red tape
and world record traffic jams.
($1 = 0.9264 euros)
(Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Alexander Smith)