When Banks Move Headquarters

If Barclays ends up losing ABN Amro to the consortium headed by RBS, one thing

that CEO John Varley might be quite happy about will be the

prospect of not having to move to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is a pleasant city, to be sure – but it’s hardly the center

of the financial universe. London is.

London’s only rival as a financial capital is New York. But just as Barclays

is saying that it wants to move to Amsterdam, JP Morgan Chase is claiming

that it might consider moving to Stamford. OK, the distance from London

to Amsterdam – 221 miles – is bigger than the distance from New

York to Stamford, which is just 32 miles. But at least Amsterdam is home to

some big banks. There are big banks with presences in Stamford, but

none with headquarters there.

I’m skeptical that JP Morgan is really serious about this whole Stamford thing

– for one thing, I certainly wouldn’t want to be the person charged with

telling David Rockefeller the news. Really, it’s just an attempt to squeeze

tax breaks out of the city and state of New York, which is a bit cheap considering

the amount of money that JP Morgan is making these days.

The real story here is that Chase wants the same kind of deal that Goldman

Sachs got to build its new headquarters on West Street. But that wasn’t

the result of Goldman being underhand, it was the result of utter incompetence

on the part of George Pataki, who vetoed Goldman’s plans before

changing his mind. That kind of thing tends only to happen once.

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