* Miyata says no sites chosen yet
* “We have to start planning” - Miyata
* Other Japanese banks have passporting rights via Amsterdam
* Prefers English-speaking business environment
By Taiga Uranaka
TOKYO, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group is studying sites for a new banking headquarters in Europe, its president said, joining global peers looking for alternatives to London in the wake of Britain’s vote to quit the European Union.
Japan’s third-largest banking group however was keeping its options open and could stay in London depending on how much access Britain retained to the European single market, he said.
SMFG is among the first Japanese financial institutions to publicly acknowledge they are preparing for Brexit by scouting out other locations for their European bases.
“We have started discussion on where to focus our resources in addition to London. There are not many candidates to begin with,” Koichi Miyata said in an interview with Reuters.
“We don’t think we can take time because it’s two years away. We have to start planning,” he said, referring to the two-year process in which Britain must negotiate the terms of its break from the EU.
Aware that for commercial reasons banks may decide to move jobs before they know what Britain’s new trading relations with the European Union will be, some British lawmakers have called for bridging arrangements to tide the sector over.
Global banks are looking at continental commercial hubs like Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam amid fears Brexit could severely hurt London’s access to the bloc, a market of 450 million people.
Banks which run their European operations out of London are concerned they could lose their so-called passporting rights that allow them to do business throughout the EU from their bases in Britain.
SMFG’s Japanese rivals, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group, have EU passporting rights through their banking units in Amsterdam.
Miyata said his bank had already been approached by continental European countries that were trying to lure financial services firms away from Britain, where the industry makes up about 7 percent of the economy.
SMFG was looking in particular for cities with deep pools of talent and English-speaking business environments.
“What we need to do is study and prepare. If it turns out we don’t have to move, then we don‘t,” Miyata said.
Bank officials said the London office, which employs about 1,000 people, was likely to remain SMFG’s effective European headquarters even if SMFG set up a new head office for passport purposes.
“Interesting thing is, when I meet people from financial institutions based in non-UK European countries, they say the City is convenient and they want the things as they are,” Miyata said.
Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Stephen Coates