The French phenomenon

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How will the City cope if Sarkozy wins this weekend's election and all the Gallic bankers go back home?

Nicolas Sarkozy, the favourite to win this Sunday's French presidential election, has urged the country's expat population to make a go of it in France if he wins.

Whether they'll take him up on the offer is open to question. But if they do, the City could find itself deprived of what has become a valuable source of talent. Official figures suggest there are around 300,000 French people in the UK, most of them in London.

We suspect a fair few of the Français of working age are engaged in finance-related activities - BNP Paribas alone employs more than 400 French people in its Harewood Avenue office.

Most importantly, French talent is underpinning London's leading position in the OTC derivatives markets. "Easily a third of our roles go to French people," says Rachel Biernaka, head of the quants desk at London recruiter Huxley Finance. "Their education system is incredibly strong and they all want to work here because there aren't many quant roles in Paris."

Another recruiter alleges that 80% of quants at Goldman are French and that some banks have taken to specifying that candidates fielded for quant positions should originate on the other side of the English Channel.

There could be pain in store, therefore, if French quants flood back to Paris on a wave of Sarko-induced patriotism. But Dean Looney, head of the financial services team at Huxley, says this is unlikely: "It's not about national pride, it's about furthering your career. And the opportunities are in London."

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