WITH the global financial system flashing red and banks facing the biggest threat to their existence since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the man in charge of the Irish banks -- Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield -- has left the country on a 10-day trip to travel 18,000km halfway around the world on a junket to South Korea.
Mr Elderfield is scheduled to chair a discussion about "innovation" in the insurance market on Thursday at the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) annual beano in Seoul, South Korea, which kicks off later this week.
"Mr Elderfield is travelling to Korea on Friday, 23 September and will return on Sunday, 3 October," according to the regulator's office. Mr Elderfield will attend IAIS executive committee meetings on Monday and Tuesday and take part in other discussions during the week-long beano.
The conference opens with a welcome reception on Wednesday evening at the National Museum of Korea, where the recent gala dinner for the G20 Seoul summit was held.
A black-tie soiree at the Sheraton Grand Walkerhill Hotel is the pinnacle of the beano. During the gala dinner, "Legend of Flower", a captivating blockbuster show that merges traditional Korean dance and music with contemporary hip-hop dance and Taekwondo, will be performed, according to the blurb.
A series of excursions are also available for the delegates with visits to Changdeok Palace, cultural hot-spot Insdadong and a trip to the official residence of the South Korean president. Other options include a trek to the Namsan Traditional Korean Village and a visit to Myeongdong, Seoul's main business and shopping district.
Mr Elderfield's accommodation in the Coex Intercontinental Hotel for the 10-day trip will cost €188.50 per night, according to the regulator. His return flight -- in economy class -- costs €1,083.
His absence from the Financial Regulator's office comes at a highly sensitive time for the global financial system which has been racked by fears that a second credit crunch could be about to paralyse the banking market unless co-ordinated action is launched.
Last week saw panicked selling of banking stocks and a massive tightening up of the interbank lending market which hit levels not seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Banks are unwilling to lend to each other as they fear a Greek default may smash bank balance sheets.
During last week it was reported that German industrial giant Siemens had withdrawn hundreds of millions of euro from a French bank and lodged the money with the European Central Bank in a move that signalled a massive loss of confidence in the European banking system and French banks in particular.
The Central Bank and Financial Regulator's office have been ardent travellers to exotic climes in recent years. Last year the Sunday Independent revealed that the Central Bank had paid for 52 spouses to travel with their partners on overseas visits.
Sunday Indo Business