Opinion  

Tough at the top

After the criticisms of the way the regulator handled the publication of price-sensitive information over the future of life offices, it was probably inevitable that he would have to leave.

But his departure, earlier than expected, left many surprised. Now chancellor George Osborne has tried to rewrite history, saying Mr Wheatley “wasn’t the right person” for the role, now that the regulator as the FCA was up and running.

Acting chief executive, Tracey McDermott, has done an admirable job stepping into a difficult pair of shoes, outlining last week the importance of remembering that things can go wrong even when the economy seems to be motoring along.

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The FCA chief executive is a challenging role, for many reasons. It is accountable to the Treasury but is run by unelected officials, who determine, after consultation, the rules for the running of financial services.

It has come under intense criticism for getting many things wrong in financial services – taking commission out of the equation when it came to giving advice may have sounded like a high-minded principle, and its determination to continue with the RDR in the face of strongly divided opinion may have appeared to be a strong stance in the face of opposition.

Now it is looking like an out-of-touch policy that has left many who need advice stranded. The role of the chief executive of the FCA is a tough job for anyone, but the most important quality is for the appointed individual to be of sound judgement and of independent mind.

But whoever gets the job needs to be grounded in the real world, mindful of commercial realities, and alive to the real villains in financial services.