December 7, 2011 / 10:42 PM / 6 years ago

UK financial watchdog admits reform needed

LONDON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - A senior regulatory official in London’s financial district on Wednesday told anti-capitalist protesters camping outside St Paul’s Cathedral that the financial system “needs to change”.

Hector Sants, chief executive of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which regulates banks, held private talks with about 10 representatives from the London Occupy group to discuss financial reform.

“The FSA is very firmly of the view, I am firmly of the view, that it is very important we listen to everybody who wants to contribute to the debate about changing the financial system,” he said after the hour-long meeting.

“We undoubtedly believe the financial system needs to change further. It has already changed a lot, but it should change further.”

Sants said he had learnt a lot during what he described as a very fruitful and constructive dialogue.

The meeting was the first in a series planned by London Connection, set up by the Church of England’s Bishop of London Richard Chartres after the Occupy movement pitched about 200 tents outside the cathedral in the heart of London on Oct. 15.

The group, part of a global movement, is unhappy at the excesses of modern capitalism and its inequalities in wealth, including banker bonuses and directors’ pay.

The protest has sparked a debate in Britain about the ethics of elite financiers and raised questions about regulation, including a financial transaction tax, and prompted comments by Prime Minister David Cameron and the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Among the items discussed on Wednesday were regulation, hedge funds, joint stock banking and returns on equity, an Occupy member who attended the talks said afterwards.

Also attending the talks in a Bedouin-style tent created in the garden of a former church, now a “peace and reconciliation” centre, were the Bishop of London and Ken Costa, a former chairman of UBS Europe and Lazard International, who chaired the meeting.

Britain has introduced a series of reforms in an attempt to strengthen regulation and prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. The FSA will be dismantled and replaced by two bodies, while the interim Financial Policy Committee (FPC) has been created.

One protester attending the talks said Sants had not said anything that would convince him to pack up his tent.

“He was suggesting we got involved in the formal political process which is all well and good, but the reason the tents have been popping up all over the streets is because that process has failed and it’s been heavily bought up by financial interests,” Richard Paton, a 34-year-old freelance researcher, said. (Reporting by Avril Ormsby)

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