January 29, 2016

When those in charge of appointing someone to head feared and respected regulatory body the Financial Comeback Authority (FCA) were looking for a longterm successor to rootin’ tootin’ Dennis Wheatley, they were specifically looking for someone with some vague idea how to run a regulatory body without upsetting everybody.

They were looking for someone who wouldn’t just run amok shooting people first and asking questions only as an afterthought (and not a particularly brilliant afterthought at that, since dead men tell few tales). They wanted someone with experience, stature, and palpable heft, someone capable of inspiring exactly the right combination of fear, respect and civilized restraint. Probably a bloke.

Something they clearly weren’t looking for was Tracey McDermott. Not, FCA chairman John Griff Rhys Jones was quick to stress, that – although clearly not a bloke – she hasn’t been doing an “excellent job” holding the fort after Wheatley rode out into the anals of regulatory history.

But in 56 year old banker A J Bailey, Jones reckons the FCA has netted a prize catch. When it comes to regulating, Bailey, he avers, has literally no rivals. Exactly what has become of all those who might have sought to rival him, Bankstone News hesitates to speculate. But, as of right now in the present moment, Jones is unequivocal: Bailey “brings unrivalled regulatory experience”.

He also has “an excellent reputation in the UK and internationally,” a track record that is not just something he made up to sound impressive on his CV but is actually “proven” and – best of all – has promised to eschew the bad old ways of trigger happy Wheatley by doing those he regulates the basic common courtesy of asking some questions BEFORE he starts shooting them or anything.

Not only has Bailey done “a great job” in his current role as Deputy Guv’nor of the Bank of England for Prudential Regulation, but he’s been an FCA board member since 2013, and thus had plenty of opportunity to see how not to do it. Hopefully, he’ll be putting this experience, rivalled or otherwise, to good use once he’s parked his gravitas in the FCA hot seat.

The market clearly has high hopes for Bailey and his new regime of deferred shooting. Insurance folk are especially reassured to see someone with such unrivalled experience of banking overseeing the insurance industry.

What a pleasant contrast this all makes to the distinctly lukewarm welcome the ‘lean and hungry’ looking Wheatley got when he was appointed. No mention of experience in his appointment press release, just some lukewarm words about looking forward to working with him.

In Bailey, the financial services sector finally has a regulator we can all warm to. And, with guilt once again having to be “proven” rather than assumed before shooting takes place, the regulator and his regulatees should find it so much easier to rub along comfortably.

Andrew Bailey, chief executive officer of the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and member of the Financial Policy Committee at the Bank of England, gestures during the bank's financial stability report news conference at the Bank of England in London, U.K., on Wednesday, June, 26, 2012. The Bank of England said lenders are vulnerable to an abrupt increase in long-term interest rates as it warned that confidence in the financial system remains fragile. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bailey: no pushover.


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