ALEX BRUMMER – The Square Mile’s self-inflicted Conservative leadership spat exposes it to serious risk

The Tory party’s shenanigans have not brought an end to the clattering trains of government. 

Although not on the Cabinet table, desired tax changes such as the reverse of the swinging corporate tax increase from 19% to 25% next year will be discussed at the hustings. 

The City has a new Chairman for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Ashley Alder is now a City enforcer, but not in the best of locations like Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission. 

Political vacuum: One of the great potential wins for Britain outside the EU is the ability to cut itself loose from Brussels red tape

Political vacuum: One of the great potential wins for Britain outside the EU is the ability to cut itself loose from Brussels red tape

Martin Wheatley was a Hong Kong regulator who became the chief of the FCA. He allegedly promised to’shoot now and ask questions later’. In 2015, George Osborne, then Chancellor, removed him. His briefing was not timely and he managed to wipe off billions of dollars from the stock value of UK insurers. 

An injection of energy could be a boon for the FCA. Unfortunately, Alder will not be making an immediate difference as he won’t start his £170,000-a-year job until 2023. 

Hong Kong’s regulator would love to hear what Alder did during Beijing’s restrictions on political and financial freedoms. We also have to wonder what Alder made of London Metal Exchange’s (LME), botched handling the nickel market during the Ukraine conflict. 

LME is owned by Hong Kong Stock Exchange. This LME has been the focus of unpublished investigations by both the Bank of England (BoE) and the FCA. 

The hope was that Nikhil Rathi, the FCA’s chief executives, would clear the backlog of work, following the guidance of Andrew Bailey as Bank Governor. 

Dozens of years after the financial crisis, an investigation into management culpability at Halifax Bank of Scotland is still locked up. 

The outcome of another quest to find out whether there was a cover-up by Lloyds, over the fraud at the former HBOS branch in Reading, is still unknown. 

This writer and many readers await publication of a probe into how up to £1billion of savings were placed at risk when Neil Woodford’s investment funds were shuttered in 2019. This scandal casts a shadow over the FCA and Hargreaves Lansdown (authorized director for Woodford funds Link) which promoted the crash-prone outfit. 

Industrial action: The FCA has been the subject of ill-tempered industrial action

Industrial action. The FCA was the object of industrial dispute.

The FCA, which has also been subject to ill-tempered industrial actions, is charged with making Brexit happen for the financial service sector. 

The Tory leadership battle has made John Glen the trusted City Minister in Square Mile. 

The ability to get rid of Brussels bureaucracy is one of Britain’s greatest potential victories outside the EU. 

As the Bank of England’s top regulator Sam Woods has noted it is a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape insurance regulation’. It is not clear whether this can be done in a political vacuum. 

Nigel Wilson, chief executive of insurer Legal & General, wants early action on an overhaul of the rules. 

It is possible that precious infrastructure investment could be redirected to other countries if it does not happen. The self-inflicted Tory leader ship tussle exposes the Square Mile to serious jeopardy.

Blunted arrows 

Few Japanese politicians are as influential in the development of global economic thought as Shinzo Abe. Not only is it a tragic event for Japanese citizens, but also for those with radical ideas. 

Japan emerged from the inertia that led to the collapse and subsequent period of deflation with Abe’s three arrows reform of fiscal policy flexibility, monetary growth and structural reform. 

Japan was a distant cause when I first reported the crisis 20 years ago. 

The unemployed were made to live in neat, comfortable tented communities, while families were left with negative equity. 

There have been many innovations since then, with Japan leading the charge with advanced electronics, hybrid cars and carbon fiber for new aircraft designs. 

Abe’s fiscal package of $116 billion in 2013 was meant to bring about a constant 2 percent growth rate. While the goals were not achieved, Abe pulled Japan out of deflation by restoring capitalism’s faith after the miracle that was postwar seemed to have ended. 

He will never be forgotten.