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Cold as ICE: Sprecher asks UK, How much do you love me?

In the battle for financial markets in Europe, exchanges would like some more communication about why they should stay in the UK.

To hear one exchange leader tell it, UK markets could use a little more love.

At the 10th annual FIA IDX conference on Tuesday, ICE Chairman and CEO Jeff Sprecher said UK regulators have not communicated with ICE much about how they could work together and keep ICE Europe’s operations more firmly in London.  In the wake of Brexit and the upcoming MiFID II rules in January, not to mention the ongoing questions about equivalent financial regulations after the UK and EU split, Sprecher said the UK authorities haven’t shown much interest in the financial markets lately. And that’s not a good thing in his mind.

“The US is interested in our business. I know the French, Dutch and Germans are interested in our business,” Sprecher said. “I don’t know if the UK is interested in our business.”

The CFTC is in the process of a major cultural shift under the guidance of acting chairman Chris Giancarlo. His rousing speech from FIA Boca in March still echoes the message of more cooperative and smarter regulation and more technological partnering. It was reaffirmed here in London with an IDX appearance from Andrew Busch, the new CFTC’s chief market intelligence officer, who reinforced the idea that regulators want to help the industry.

Sprecher said there are reasons for UK based firms to worry about a nonchalant UK government. The industry is facing a massive regulatory push with new rules and Basel III capital requirements. There are also threats to legacy institutions by financial technology upstarts. To Sprecher, the UK’s approach “seems a little daft and redundant.”

The warning carries some weight coming from Sprecher. ICE has a UK clearinghouse and another in Amsterdam, giving the exchange some flexibility in terms of where clients might want to, or must, clear. With the mobility of capital in the markets, he said, “we thought we’d better be pretty flexible.”

Will ICE pick up and move from London? It’s not something Sprecher would like to do.

“We’re here in London because the world comes here,” he said.

But it would be nice, he said, if they showed they want to continue to keep and defend that title as the global financial center.

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Kharouf is a Chicago-based freelance reporter and editor who was previously CEO and editor-in-chief of John Lothian News.