Monday 23 October 2017

Finance had reservations about 'IFSC czar'

Emmet Oliver Deputy Business Editor

The Department of Finance expressed reservations about the idea of appointing an ambassador for the IFSC earlier this year, suggesting an "advocate'' for Ireland generally might be better, confidential minutes show.

The post of IFSC czar has since been taken up by former Taoiseach John Bruton, but in January a lively debate over the idea seems to have taken place, according to minutes of the influential Clearing House Group, which comes under the aegis of the Department of the Taoiseach.

The minutes record the secretary-general of the Department of Finance, Kevin Cardiff, saying: "The idea of an internal policy advocate might be misinterpreted and what is needed . . . is an advocate for what Ireland is about and not simply international financial services''.

Mr Cardiff is reported as saying: "This concept has to be about our external reputation."

The meeting on January 15 was also attended by Matthew Elderfield, who is recorded as saying that getting a similar message out was important. He added that "the regulator will support the industry message in a pragmatic way, the co-ordination of the message from industry is important''.

Mr Bruton is expected to make several key speeches later this year, particularly to foreign audiences in an attempt to keep the IFSC competitive.

In line with that, the financial centre is pressing on with plans for a "Green IFSC'', involving clean, tech and carbon reduction companies. Tax incentives are expected to be part of this initiative, with some measures possibly included in the Budget.

The IFSC is trying to remain competitive after a very difficult two years. The centre and many of its companies are concerned about regulation in Ireland "overcompensating'' for the recent banking crisis.

The IDA and German banks have both expressed concern that any new regulations, particularly those covering corporate governance, must be "balanced'' and take account of the different types of banks headquartered in Ireland.

The funding for Mr Bruton's post was put in place in April and, despite reports, Mr Bruton is believed to have been the only candidate.

Some reports had suggested that former EU Commissioners Peter Sutherland and Charlie McCreevy were being targeted for the role.

Irish Independent

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