January 5, 2018 / 12:34 PM / 14 days ago

Banking crisis adviser named as head of Britain's finance watchdog

LONDON (Reuters) - Charles Randell, an ex-lawyer who advised the British government during the financial crisis, has been appointed chair of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, the finance ministry said on Friday.

Randell, formerly a partner at international law firm Slaughter & May, will face the tricky task of helping Britain’s financial services sector to navigate the country’s departure from the European Union, which could potentially put UK finance jobs at risk.

He also joins the FCA at a time when its remit has expanded to take in thousands of consumer credit firms, forcing it to review its “mission” and warn that it must prioritize its work.

Randell takes over in April from John Griffith-Jones who was appointed for a 5-year term in 2013.

He already has experience as a regulator as an external member of the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Committee (PRC), which oversees its banking supervision arm.

He acted as an adviser to the government during the 2007-2009 financial crisis, including on bank rescues such as Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley.

He advised ministers on investments into Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) and Lloyds’ (LLOY.L) takeover of HBOS. Randell also advised on Portugal’s recapitalization of its banking sector.

“Charles has a wealth of relevant experience, and I am sure that he will prove to be a strong leader at this very important time,” Britain’s finance minister Philip Hammond said in a statement.

Randell has resigned from the PRC and will leave before taking up his new three-days-a-week job at the FCA, which is responsible for authorizing exchanges, asset managers and consumer credit companies.

IMPORTANT JUNCTURE

BoE Governor Mark Carney said Randell would be “sorely missed” at the PRC, but he was pleased he was willing to chair the FCA “at this important juncture” for the watchdog and UK financial services.

The FCA regulates Europe’s most important financial center and one that has heavily influenced how the EU’s market and banking rules have been shaped.

    Brexit will mean losing influence over EU financial rulemaking and the watchdog could also face pressure from pro-Brexit lawmakers to ease up on regulation to keep the City of London competitive - a move it has so far resisted.

    FCA chief executive, Andrew Bailey, who also came from the BoE where he was deputy governor in charge of banking supervision, welcomed Randell’s appointment.

    “His experience of regulation, both during the financial crisis and more recently as a member of the Prudential Regulation Committee, mean that he has a strong understanding of the challenges that the FCA faces and I look forward to tackling these with him in his new role,” Bailey said in a statement.

    Randell is likely to be grilled by parliament’s Treasury Select Committee about his appointment, though he is likely to face a smoother ride than his predecessor.

    The FCA’s first chair, Griffith-Jones, was given a rough ride by some lawmakers initially, who said he lacked deep experience in consumer-related conduct issues.

    Griffith-Jones also had to recuse himself from a report by the FCA and BoE on the collapse of HBOS during the financial crisis. Griffith-Jones was UK head of accountants KPMG when the firm audited HBOS in the run up to the collapse.

    Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Jane Merriman

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