independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Financial watchdog reveals his lack of a specialist qualification

FINANCIAL Regulator Matthew Elderfield has disclosed that he does not have specialist qualifications for his job.

Mr Elderfield was happy to volunteer the information at the Dail's Public Accounts Committee last week when he appeared to discuss his office's response to the crisis in the financial markets.

Asked by Fianna Fail TD Darragh O'Brien what was the "baseline qualification" for working for the Financial Regulator's office, Mr Elderfield revealed that he himself had never taken a professional exam in his life.

Mr O'Brien asked: "In regard to baseline qualifications, if your staff is regulating the financial sector, should it not be the case where they should have the bare minimum required in the market as well, a qualified financial adviser status, or they've gone through certain industry exams. It's obviously important to have."

But Mr Elderfield disagreed: "I don't agree with that. But I think I'm conflicted because I've never taken a professional exam in my life.

"I was a generalist who went into financial regulation, so I think some people can do without having a professional exam," he said.

Mr Elderfield's academic qualifications are in the area of international relations.

He graduated from Cambridge University in 1988 with a Master's degree in the subject. The previous year he earned a Bachelor's degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in Washington DC.

While Mr Elderfield's view might raise a few eyebrows, it probably will not cause too much concern for a public who have largely applauded the vigour with which he has pursued his job since his appointment last October, including his decision to take on Quinn Insurance for breaches of its solvency requirements. And while he does not have a piece of paper to back up his expertise, there is little doubt he has amassed plenty of experience to take Ireland's financial institutions to task.

Prior to his arrival here, Mr Elderfield had served as chief executive since July 2007 of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the regulatory authority for the financial services sector in Bermuda.

Before that, he spent eight years working at the UK Financial Services Authority as a head of department in a variety of posts in the area of supervision.

Addressing the Public Accounts Committee on the issue of the Financial Regulator's current skills requirements, Mr Elderfield said that his office would this week begin an "orientation programme" for recently recruited and existing staff.

He added that a programme of more dedicated technical training would be rolled out this autumn.

Mr Elderfield's disclosure comes just over a week after the Department of Finance admitted it did not have sufficient expertise to tackle the banking crisis.

Sunday Independent

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