Regulation changes ‘must restore confidence’

THE proposed changes in financial regulation must send a clear signal to international markets that “Ireland is serious about repairing its regulatory system”.

Any changes must be fully discussed in a “transparent debate”, said the chairman of the Financial Services Consultative Industry Panel, David Went.

It will take much more than just changing the structure if the new system is to do its job effectively, said Mr Went, a former chief executive of Ulster Bank.

Putting the industry’s stance on the proposed changes, Mr Went stressed that above all, the quality of the staff appointed to key roles would be vital.

Those appointed must have a “wow factor” and the ability to inspire confidence not just here but among international investors.

Up to 25,000 jobs in banking, insurance and other activities are tied up in the International Financial Services Centre, he said.

It is important that we pay whatever it takes to get the right people to restore confidence to our badly tarnished image. “If we can’t afford them we might as well shut up shop and go back drawing turf.”

What is put in place will have to be coherent and meet the interests of all sections of the community – “a one size fits all” approach will not work, he said.

The economy needs a balanced approach to regulation that recognises the importance of the consumer, the prudential aspect and the markets, and he added the best consumer protection long term is “solvent financial institutions”.

The document also warned that a “rules based regime is not a panacea” for what the Government want to achieve.

In effect the consultative body said the reform package must “be considered very carefully”. Not only must it address the “regulatory failings” that have caused the recent chaos, but they will also have to ensure that international firms who might be interested in setting up in the IFSC will be reassured by what emerges.

Financial Services Ireland, part of IBEC, welcomed yesterday’s document.

Its director Brendan Kelly said: “Skilled experts are the key to successful regulation. Firms want to do business in countries where regulators possess the skill and experience to assess and manage risks effectively. Regulatory staff must be rewarded appropriately and given the tools to do their job.”

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