A British exit from the European Union would be disastrous for the region's capital markets at a time when it is aiming to harmonise financing arrangements to boost economic growth, the head of a major UK asset manager said yesterday.
"This would be a shock that would register about 15 on the Richter scale," said Standard Life Investments chief executive Keith Skeoch, referring to the possibility that Britons might vote to leave the EU in a referendum due by the end of 2017.
London is the bloc's biggest financial centre and regarded as core to pan-EU plans for a capital markets union.
Mr Skeoch will take over as chief executive of Standard Life, the Edinburgh-headquartered insurer and asset manager, later this year.
Insurers and pension funds have stepped into a vacuum left by banks after the global financial crisis, investing in infrastructure either directly or through capital markets.
Mr Skeoch said investors needed to feel confident that capital markets structures would not change over the lifetime of these long-term instruments.
"You want to make sure the rights you have today will persist for the next 20-30 years," he said. "If you talk to institutional investors, one of the problems... is those sands shift - they can't be allowed to." Mr Skeoch also said he would like to see a harmonised set of principles for corporate governance.