Ireland appoints Frenchman as financial regulator

DUBLIN Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:03pm BST

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland has appointed a French official to take over as the country's financial regulator, the second foreigner to fill the role since the collapse of the country's banking system forced it into an EU-IMF bailout.

Cyril Roux, an insurance specialist who is currently a senior official at the French prudential supervisory authority, the ACPR, will replace Briton Matthew Elderfield, who is stepping down for personal reasons.

Appointing another foreigner to the job will help ensure the regulator's independence, which could also be encouraging for investors in Ireland, one observer said.

"There is certainly a very strong signal being sent by appointing someone from outside of Ireland, a signal that can be read by banks in Ireland and externally by foreign investors," said Constantin Gurdgiev, a lecturer in finance at Trinity College, Dublin.

"It's a welcome appointment because it continues the record of having an independent regulator, someone who is an outsider to the Irish system."

Elderfield, appointed in 2010 to shake up the country's close-knit banking community, was the first foreigner to perform the role. Many observers had expected that an Irish official would replace him.

Roux, who will also be a deputy governor of the Irish Central Bank, will take over a financial regulator that has been significantly strengthened since a wave of reckless real estate lending led to the collapse of the Irish banking system and a 2010 EU-IMF bailout.

But he will face a growing mortgage arrears crisis, with almost one in five Irish home loans, worth 25.5 billion euros, not being fully repaid.

Next year he will help oversee the first stress tests of Ireland's banks in three years to see whether the state will need to top up its 64 billion euro bailout, equivalent to 40 percent of annual economic output.

Roux spent 10 years at insurer AXA (AXAF.PA) and three years in the French treasury before joining the country's insurance regulator, which was then merged into the ACPR, the Irish central bank said in a statement.

Roux will take over from Elderfield on October 1, the statement said.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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