Sunday 25 February 2018

Bruton lined-up for IFSC frontman role

Joe Brennan

Former Taoiseach John Bruton is being wooed by the financial industry to become the frontman for a massive rebranding and promotion of the IFSC, the Irish Independent has learned.

Mr Bruton, who returned to Ireland in January following a five-year stint as the EU's ambassador to Washington, has not yet committed to becoming the so-called IFSC 'tsar'. However, it was understood that all other potential candidates have been ruled out at this stage.

A number of private sector bodies -- representing financial and fund services, banking and insurance interests -- have been lobbying at the Taoiseach's IFSC Clearing House Group for over a year for the appointment of a tsar to push through an overhaul of the centre.

Government officials told the sector in January to come back with a detailed proposal on their strategy to have an IFSC figurehead appointed -- in line with other major global financial hubs.

The IFSC has surprised many observers by maintaining employment levels at about 25,000 throughout the crisis. But there is concern about how the centre has dropped in a major global index of financial hubs over the past year -- from 10th to 23rd place.

The proposal to set up a one-stop-shop for marketing and developing the IFSC is at an advanced stage. It is hoped that a recommendation for the top job could be put to the government within weeks.

"John would be a very well supported candidate by all the stakeholders in this," said one senior financial source.

Another said: "He ticks all the boxes -- including having a huge network of contacts on both sides of the Atlantic, and having been a former Minister for Finance."

IDA Ireland, which is responsible for inward investment, was known to be concerned that the IFSC only has a very small window to win new business, as global financial groups restructure after the financial crisis.

Observers hope that the new head of financial regulation will help repair Ireland's damaged reputation abroad.

Speaking at at an IBEC conference yesterday, Regulator Matthew Elderfield said he would be adopting a "risk-based" approach to regulating firms in the IFSC.

Irish Independent

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