Beyond Brexit: taking your career forward in Europe

Over the last year, I’ve seen more and more candidates express enthusiasm for career opportunities in major European business hubs outside of their own country. Whether it’s jobs in Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Luxembourg or elsewhere, the pull of key centres in Europe appears to be getting stronger.

It’s not hard to see why moving abroad is so appealing. Our data suggests candidates can receive a pay increase of somewhere between 15% and 25% on average when they relocate. Learning new skills, such as a second language, is also a common benefit. HSBC’s annual Expat Survey revealed 71% of under-35s say they upskilled while working in another country.

And there are many reasons why Europe is especially attractive. For instance, 9 out of the top 10 countries in the world with the strongest economies and job security are in Europe. The rankings below show the most highly rated destinations for expats who work overseas:

As some of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit eases, is now the time for professionals to start considering their career options across Europe?

A view of the market in 2020

The European governance recruitment market is complex and multifaceted. Each country, industry segment and professional discipline displays unique challenges and opportunities, so presenting a holistic view of the market is tricky. This is particularly true given the wide range of nuanced regulatory environments present across the continent.

However, over the last two years, we have generally seen notable skills shortages across the majority of disciplines for which we recruit. Technical capabilities are especially sought-after, resulting in a largely candidate-led market in many major European cities today. That means there are plenty of opportunities for talented professionals who want to move.

We’ve also been seeing a growing number of employers adjust their expectations in order to attract the best applicants. For example, businesses in some countries have traditionally considered language skills essential for senior leadership roles, particularly in Germany and France. But there is now a growing understanding among hiring managers that securing best-in-class candidates who can learn the language as they go is better than settling for professionals who are linguistically fluent but lack the necessary skillsets. This opens up a significantly larger talent pool, as our research shows roughly 6 out of every 10 professionals in UK teams across risk management, internal audit, compliance and in-house legal do not speak a second language.

Meanwhile, the good news for EU-based businesses is that candidates are fairly flexible on location when considering a switch – as long as it’s in a city. A Savills survey showed 54% of employees want to work in a town or city centre. Suburban (19%), rural (17%) and business park areas (10%) are far less popular.

Our research has also found candidates don’t have a particular preference when it comes to choosing a country. They’ll go wherever the best jobs are. Among risk managers, for example, at least 50% of professionals would consider relocating to either Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Madrid or Zurich. Of these destinations, Amsterdam was the most popular, with 68% saying they’d move there, but there was relatively little favouritism across the major cities.

Brexit and beyond

In the UK, Brexit has inevitably been a factor for candidates weighing up career prospects at home or abroad in recent years. It remains a divisive topic; in a YouGov survey, the top two emotions people gave to best describe their feelings when the UK officially withdrew from the EU were worry (23%) and relief (20%).

Often, people let their feet do the talking. A recent study found that the number of Brits relocating to continental Europe has hit a 10-year high. Similarly, the Office for National Statistics revealed net EU migration to the UK sank to its lowest point in 16 years in the 12 months to June 2019. The organisation also revealed that a record number of EU nationals who were previously in the UK returned to Europe during this time.

This doesn’t surprise me. Last year, our own research found that nearly half (49%) of UK governance professionals said they would consider relocating to an EU country if Brexit had a negative impact on their job prospects. Among EU nationals, this figure was significantly higher.

The UK is now in a transition period while the details of the country’s ongoing relationship with the EU are thrashed out. So, only time will tell how businesses and employment markets react as the months go by, but we’re already beginning to see early signs of companies’ intentions.

EY’s most recent Financial Services Brexit Tracker revealed 2,400 jobs have been created across the EU by 43 firms since the referendum. The main hotspots for jobs are in Frankfurt, Dublin, Paris and Luxembourg. According to EY, around 7,000 roles are likely to relocate from London, and businesses are also continuing to hire locally on the continent because of Brexit.

The Netherlands has proven a very popular location, with a recent Reuters report showing that 78 companies chose to open an office or move their operations to the country in 2019 – roughly double the amount from the previous year. These firms are expected to create 4,200 jobs in the Netherlands over the coming years.

Finding the right fit

The current backdrop for governance recruitment across Europe is favourable for both candidates and employers. We’ve seen a slight decentralisation of the financial services market in recent years, with much more regional movement.

International experience is a boon for any CV, and candidates who are willing to relocate will often find businesses that are keen to attract talented professionals with highly sought-after technical and regulatory skills.

At Barclay Simpson, we have an in-depth knowledge of the European governance recruitment market, enabling us to provide sophisticated support to applicants who are interested in overseas moves. Furthermore, our access to a deep talent pool of both international and local talent ensures we can help businesses find the right staffing solutions for their unique needs, wherever in Europe they’re located.

If you’d like to discuss the options available to you in the European market, whether you’re a candidate or an employer, I’d love to hear from you. Please call me on 020 7936 2601 or contact me via email at


Main image credit: Frederick Tubiermont via Unsplash 

Inline image credits: Foundry Co and Laura Montagnani via Pixabay