Tyrie urged to put name forward to chair City regulator

25 September 2017, 18:54

The former chairman of parliament’s Treasury Select Committee is being urged by leading figures in the financial services sector to apply for the top job at the City regulator.

Sky News has learnt that a number of directors of banks, insurers and asset managers are supporting a potential application by Andrew Tyrie to replace John Griffith-Jones as chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Westminster and City insiders believe that Mr Tyrie is interested in the job, although he did not respond on Monday to requests for comment about whether he had applied for the job.

A source close to the Treasury, which is responsible for appointing FCA board members, said there had been a dearth of applicants for the role.

Mr Griffith-Jones is stepping down at the end of March after serving a five-year term punctuated by controversy over the regulator's handling of a string of industry probes.

The deadline for applications is next week, according to a recruitment ad placed earlier this month.

By drawing its next chairman from the ranks of former parliamentarians, the Treasury would sidestep the perceptions of possible conflicts which can plague the directors of independent regulators.

Mr Griffith-Jones, the former chairman of KPMG in the UK, frequently found his former firm connected to investigations led by the FCA - notably its inquiry into the near-collapse of HBOS, published in 2015.

Nevertheless, appointing Mr Tyrie to chair the FCA could throw up a different set of complications.

As the feared chair of the Treasury Select Committee and the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, he won plaudits for his forensic probing of the underlying faults in the British banking system which exacerbated the 2008 crash.

Mr Tyrie was responsible for originating some of the reforms now being adopted to overhaul culture and behaviour in financial services, including the Senior Managers' Regime which has introduced greater accountability for industry executives.

He played an important role in the overhaul of Libor, the tarnished interbank lending rate, which the FCA's chief executive said during the summer would be phased out within five years.

He also pursued the FCA on a string of issues, including demands for it to publish a fuller account of an investigation into Royal Bank of Scotland's Global Restructuring Group, a unit which dealt with the loans of troubled companies.

The regulator has so far declined to publish the document, a position which is expected to be resolved well before Mr Griffith-Jones' successor takes over.

Nevertheless, if he did land the FCA chairmanship, Mr Tyrie could find himself having to defend the watchdog for actions that he had previously criticised while sitting as an MP.

Since retiring as the MP for Chichester at June's General Election, Mr Tyrie has explored a number of other professional opportunities, including approaching the big four accountancy firms and their regulator about an initiative aimed at restoring trust in the audit profession.

Mr Tyrie is said to have been interested in establishing a body similar to the Banking Standards Board, which emerged several years after the 2008 banking crisis.

"His pitch was essentially that auditors are likely to be next to be staring down the barrel of a gun," a person briefed on the conversations told Sky News in July.

The FCA chairmanship would be a more time-consuming role for Mr Tyrie, particularly as it attempts to navigate the challenges posed by Brexit.

Mr Griffith-Jones found himself thrust into the spotlight in 2014, when the FCA inadvertently sent the share prices of big insurance companies tumbling by mishandling a briefing on its plans.

A number of senior executives at the watchdog departed soon afterwards, culminating in the exit of Martin Wheatley, its chief executive, the following year.

Mr Griffith-Jones had to deal with much of the industry backlash triggered by Mr Wheatley's comment on appointment that he‎ would "shoot first and ask questions later".

The FCA is now run by Andrew Bailey, who was persuaded by Mr Osborne to move across from his role at the top of the banking regulator.

Its priorities during the next year include progressing the advent of a deadline for payment protection insurance mis-selling claims and assessing the impact of Brexit on financial services consumer regulation.

The Treasury and FCA both declined to comment on Monday.

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