Jim Armitage: We may need to look abroad for a new City watchdog chiefComments Off on Jim Armitage: We may need to look abroad for a new City watchdog chief
So, farewell Martin Wheatley.
The boss of the Financial Conduct Authority so loathed by the banks he regulated — and repeatedly fined — has had his last day.
Wheatley’s tough-guy approach, which he once described as “shoot first, ask questions later” put him firmly in the industry’s sights as it lobbied for an end to banker bashing from the Government.
George Osborne duly ousted Wheatley a few weeks after the election, shortly after indicating that he wanted to move away from the (brief) era of tough regulation to a more collaborative regime.
The Government, he declared, wanted a new settlement with the banks, ending the era of “ever-larger fines”.
He went on to reduce the bank levy as a foretaste of the softer touch.
It hasn’t all gone in the banks’ favour, of course.
“The public has not forgiven the banks for their behaviour before and after the financial crisis.”
The Senior Managers’ Regime will make it harder for top executives to wriggle out of responsibility for their organisations’ wrongdoing. But the general direction is accelerating towards the City.
This speed is risky. Outside the bubble of the City and Westminster, the public has not forgiven the banks for their behaviour before and after the financial crisis.
They see few criminal convictions and a thriving bonus culture and conclude the industry has “got away with it again”.
Which is why the choice of Wheatley’s replacement is so important. Some in the City want a leading banker. I’ve heard former Barclays boss Antony Jenkins mentioned.
But this would be a PR disaster, just adding to the public perception that the Government is in the banks’ pockets.
Similarly, a senior Treasury recruit would risk being seen as too close to pro-City Osborne.
Yet an internal hire like interim boss Tracey McDermott from the Wheatley regime would go down badly with the industry.
We need a clean skin. Someone from a decent overseas regulator with a strong track record.
Time for headhunters to tap up Mark Carney’s pals in Canada?
Green a gain for US
The row over Thomas Cook’s dismal treatment of the parents of tragic children Bobby and Christi Shepherd has faded.
Nobody from the company came out well, but chairman Frank Meysman got off too lightly at the expense of Harriet Green, the former chief executive.
Though she deserved brickbats for carelessness, the chairman should be blamed for the company’s overly legalistic way of dealing with the tragedy, particularly as Green left months before the scandal really exploded.
She may be seen as damaged goods in the UK, but I hear she’s close to landing a job at the top of a major IT business in the US.
Our loss is their gain.