There really has been a lot of rubbish written about Hector Sants’ decision to step down as FSA chief executive.
And some of the worst rubbish has been reported in the supposedly best informed places with pure ‘tittle tattle’ that he has been forced out by Westminster or Whitehall. I just do not buy this at all.
I am not surprised in the least by his decision. Like many of us, I was surprised in 2010 when he said he would be staying on to oversee the transition to the new regulatory regime. Remember he had been on the record before the general election opining serious misgivings about the Conservative Party’s plans to scrap the FSA.
But his decision to stay on and provide continuing leadership has been extremely important at this juncture.
He was appointed FSA chief executive in July 2007 just weeks before the sub-prime market cracked. So his tenure which ends in the summer of 2012 is defined by the ongoing financial and economic crisis. As CEO he has never known ‘normal’ – whatever that is anymore.
When he became chief executive many in the retail industry had the knives out for this former investment banker – what would he know or care about the average consumer. And some have used this mantra as a constant refrain against Sants. Despite this on the RDR he has stuck to his guns and, in the end, he has carried considerable political traction with the arguments.
He put his hands up quickly on Northern Rock and cried ‘mea culpa’ for the FSA’s failings. Then he quickly put in place the supervisory enhancement programme for major firms which has radically altered the landscape and modus operandi of the regulator.
Finally he has set in train the functional separation of the FSA’s day-to-day operations well in advance of the formal passing of the legislation creating the PRA and the FCA.
Whatever you think of those changes this has been no small task.
People in public life these days are subject to ongoing opprobrium which makes most of us think twice about leaving the private sector to do public good.
Five years at the top of the UK’s financial regulator through this crisis would be long enough for anyone.
You may not like everything Hector Sants has done – but you can’t say he has not been focused on the job.
Iain Anderson is director and chief corporate counsel at Cicero Group