Opinion  

Independence passed up

Kevin O’Donnell

Kevin O’Donnell

I wish the new chief executive of the FCA Andrew Bailey well. He’s a seasoned public servant and regulator from the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority. He is the proverbial safe pair of hands, and few would be ungrateful for that.

After searching high and low for several months – throughout the world, apparently – the FCA (or was it the Treasury, or was it the chancellor? It is not very clear) found Mr Bailey just up the road at the Bank of England where he has been for 30 years.

While I suspect few financial advisers will have heard of him, he comes highly recommended. Bank of England governor Mark Carney said of his colleague: “Andrew is an extraordinary public servant who has devoted his entire professional life to serving the people of the United Kingdom.”

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His boss, chancellor George Osborne, was equally gushing, saying: “We have cast the net far and wide for this crucial appointment and, having led the Bank of England’s response to the financial crisis, Andrew is simply the most respected, most experienced and most qualified person in the world to do the job.”

It should be remembered at this point that his predecessor Martin Wheatley, a man admired for his questioning style and thoughtfulness, announced he was resigning back in July 2015. Which begs the question: why did it take so long to find a candidate just a few miles away from the towers of Canary Wharf and why, apparently, did several candidates pull out of the race? Is the role really such a poisoned chalice?

In any event, I am sure Mr Bailey has considered both the pros and cons. My concern is not about the experienced new chief executive of the FCA, who seems a pretty logical choice and at least comes with many years of relevant experience. My main concern is with the board appointments the FCA announced the same day with four new board directors replacing three outgoing directors.

Disappointingly, the much-respected financial planner Amanda Davidson is to move on, at a stroke removing valuable board input from a financial practitioner. I have met Amanda several times over the years and her calmness and insights have always impressed me. To my mind she has always represented the kind of financial planner most people would choose if they could. With acres of business experience, she was not just making up the numbers on the board, she also chaired the important FCA remuneration committee.

Also disappointing was the departure of the fearless consumer campaigner Mick McAteer, an outspoken consumer advocate who has always been a voice for the less powerful in society.

Yes, they were coming to the end of their tenures, but who do we get in their place? Mostly a collection of insiders and ex-politicians. These include Bradley Fried, deputy chairman of the Court of Directors of the Bank of England; Baroness Sarah Hogg, an independent director of the Treasury and former Treasury financial secretary Ruth Kelly.