Scotland's Tesco Bank announced Thursday it would move its headquarters out of the country and into England if Scots vote for independence on September 18.
It's not the first bank to threaten relocation — Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Standard Life, TSB, and Clydesdale Bank all have announced they have exit strategies if the Yes vote succeeds. The two largest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, have expressed interest in moving to London. Overall, 36 percent of Scottish companies would consider leaving if a Yes vote succeeds, according to a recent poll.
If carried out, the mass exodus would be a blow to the country's $250 billion economy, even if the banks promise to continue their relationships. Leaving Britain's $2.5 trillion economy won't be easy. As for the banks, moving would cost about £1 billion each (about $1.6 billion), Chirantan Barua, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London, told Bloomberg.
Still, each bank stopped short of condemning independence, instead calling the move a necessary business decision. As Standard Life put it in their statement, "In view of the uncertainty around Scotland's constitutional future, we have put in place precautionary measures which would help enable us to provide customers with continuity."
Ratings agency Standard and Poor's has said the Scottish economy would face "significant, but not unsurpassable" problems with independence, and warned banks of lack of support in the country. If the Yes vote wins, it's not even clear what Scotland's currency would be.
Below are the banks' statements:
To ensure we provide long term continuity for customers after the transition is complete, our contingency plans include the creation of a new registered company, domiciled in England.
While the creation of a new company would change the address of our registered headquarters, we do not expect there would be any immediate impact on colleagues at our existing centres.
Scotland is an important market to us and will continue to be an important market regardless of the outcome of the referendum."
Royal Bank of Scotland:
There are a number of material uncertainties arising from the Scottish referendum vote which could have a bearing on the Bank's credit ratings, and the fiscal, monetary, legal and regulatory landscape to which it is subject.
For this reason, RBS has undertaken contingency planning for the possible business implications of a 'Yes' vote. RBS believes that this is the responsible and prudent thing to do and something that its customers, staff and shareholders would expect it to do.
As part of such contingency planning, RBS believes that it would be necessary to re-domicile the Bank’s holding company and its primary rated operating entity to England.
RBS believes that it would be the most effective way to provide clarity to all our stakeholders and mitigate the risks previously identified in our Annual Report.
RBS intends to retain a significant level of its operations and employment in Scotland to support its customers there and the activities of the whole Bank."
Lloyds Banking Group:
Lloyds Banking Group has seen an increased level of enquiries from our customers, colleagues and other stakeholders about our plans post the Scottish Referendum.
While the scale of potential change is currently unclear, we have contingency plans in place which include the establishment of new principal legal entities in England.
This is a legal procedure and there would be no immediate changes or issues which could affect our business or our customers.
There will be a period between the Referendum and the implementation of separation, should a ‘yes’ vote be successful, that we believe should be sufficient to take any necessary action.
As a Group we are committed to supporting our customers across Scotland and the rest of UK."
There continues to be uncertainty around a range of issues material to Scotland's future in the event of Scotland separating from the United Kingdom.
These include the currency that an independent Scotland would use, whether agreement and ratification of an independent Scotland's membership to the European Union would be achieved by the assumed target date (currently 24 March 2016), the shape and role of the monetary system going forward, the arrangements for financial services regulation and consumer protection in an independent Scotland [and] the approach to individual taxation, especially around savings and pensions.
In view of the uncertainty around Scotland's constitutional future, we have put in place precautionary measures which would help enable us to provide customers with continuity. This includes planning for new regulated companies in England to which we could transfer parts of our business if there was a need to do so. This transfer of our business could potentially include pensions, investments and other long-term savings held by UK customers.
If the referendum result is supportive of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, resulting in the devolution of further powers as seems likely, we will monitor any impact that this may have on our stakeholders and take whatever action we feel is required.
Standard Life has a long history in Scotland – a heritage of which we are very proud – and we hope that this continues but our responsibility is to protect the interests of our customers, our shareholders, our people and other stakeholders in our business."
TSB Banking Group:
Given the increased focus on next week’s Scottish Referendum, TSB Banking Group can confirm it has been considering the impact of Scottish Independence on its business.
Although the implications of Scottish Independence remain unclear, it is likely that in the event of a “Yes” vote, TSB will establish additional legal entities in England. Any change in TSB’s legal structure would be taken in the interests of our customers and business.
In the event of a “yes” vote, it is clear that Independence will not happen straight away and there would be a period of time between the Referendum and implementation of Independence which we expect would provide sufficient time for us to consider and implement any necessary changes."
National Australia Bank has confirmed its contingency planning for its subsidiary Clydesdale Bank includes seeking registration as an English company in the event of a "Yes" vote in the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum.
Re-registration would address some of the uncertainties and risks surrounding terms of separation if Scotland were to become an independent country.
This contingency plan gives our Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank customers increased certainty about the ongoing success and stability of the bank."