People Moves

UK Financial Regulator CEO To Stand Down; Osborne Says FCA Needs "Different Leadership" But Adds Praise

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, London, 17 July 2015


The CEO of the UK's financial watchdog is standing down in September. The UK government says the organisation needs "different leadership" but also hailed the outgoing chief as having done a "brilliant job".

The chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority since it was created, Martin Wheatley, is standing down, the regulator said today.

His departure takes effect from 12 September, the watchdog said in a statement. He will continue to act as an advisor to the FCA’s board until 31 January next year with a focus on implementing the Fair and Effective Markets Review, which he co-chaired. The FCA did not state what Wheatley’s future plans are.

“Britain needs a tough, strong financial conduct regulator. Martin Wheatley has done a brilliant job of launching the FCA in tough circumstances," UK finance minister George Osborne, said in a statement.

“Now that phase is complete, the government believes that different leadership is required to build on those foundations and take the organisation to the next stage of its development. The government is launching a worldwide search; Martin’s replacement will – like him – need to be passionate about protecting consumers, promoting competition and completing the job of cleaning up the City, so it is the best-regulated market in the world," he said.

Wheatley has been at the helm of the regulator since it took over from the old Financial Services Authority in 2013; he had originally joined the FSA in September 2011 as managing director of the Conduct Business Unit; previous roles have been those of CEO at Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission, and deputy CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group. His reign at the FCA has coincided with a period of relentless changes to UK and global regulation in the wake of the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s. On his watch, the UK, for example, saw the advent of the Retail Distribution Review programme of reforms to financial advice as well as moves by the watchdog to crack down on investments deemed "unsuitable" to non-sophisticated investors.

Earlier this month, the FCA revealed that Wheatley saw his pay jump 15 per cent to £701,000 ($1.09 million) in the year to the end of March, thanks to a £92,000 bonus. Wheatley received no bonus in the previous financial year due to the watchdog's handling of its closed book life insurer review. While the chief's basic salary remained steady at £460,000, he continued to receive a non-pensionable supplement of £41,000 in lieu of pension contributions.

Tracey McDermott will take over as acting CEO from September 12 while the search for a permanent replacement takes place, the organisation said.

“Martin has done an outstanding job as Chief Executive setting up and leading the FCA over the last four years. We owe him a lot and I and my Board would like to thank him for his great efforts in setting up the organisation and for the contribution he has made to putting conduct so firmly at the top of the financial services agenda,” John Griffith-Jones, FCA chairman, said in a statement. 

There have been a number of senior changes at the regulator; one of the most high-profile was the departure at the start of this year of Clive Adamson, who had been under fire over his role as head of supervision. (For more on that case, see here)

Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the Treasury Committee panel of lawmakers that scrutinise appointees to bodies such as the FCA, said: "I would like to thank Martin for his work at the FCA and I wish him well in the future. Martin took over at an exceptionally difficult time. He was faced with the challenge of changing the culture of both the regulated community and the regulator, given the exposure by the crisis of the shortcomings of the FSA."
“With the interests of millions of consumers to protect, tens of thousands of firms to regulate and the need to secure more competition in the financial services sector, it will be essential to find a high-quality successor. The Treasury Committee will hold a hearing prior to his or her appointment," Tyrie added. 

The True and Fair Campaign, a lobby group created in 2012 by some industry figures to higlight what they claimed is a lack of transparency in financial services, was harsh in its assessment of Wheatley's tenure and of the performance of the FCA more broadly.

"Whilst Mr Wheatley set out with good intentions in 2011, under his stewardship over the last four years, there is scant evidence of any real cultural change within the FCA. Millions of savers and investors continue to be defrauded by many financial services companies resulting in deep-seated mistrust and London’s dire reputation for never delivering any genuine fairness or honesty. his situation is partly due to the significant conflicts of interest resulting in revolving doors whereby senior regulators leave the FCA and emerge in highly paid jobs within firms they were regulating.  The resulting culture has been one of costly, worthless consultations, thematic reviews that do not spell out any clear action, practices or recommendations, and no fundamental reforms to improve the industry’s ethics and integrity."



Register for WealthBriefing today

Gain access to regular and exclusive research on the global wealth management sector along with the opportunity to attend industry events such as exclusive invites to Breakfast Briefings and Summits in the major wealth management centres and industry leading awards programmes