THE HUMAN FACTOR: At the Bank of England, the FSA and the London Stock Exchange, new men are in charge - all very different from their predecessors

THE HUMAN FACTOR: At the Bank of England, the FSA and the London Stock Exchange, new men are in charge - all very different from their predecessors - It's back-to-school time and the City must get used to a new roster of prefects. Sir Edward George has left Threadneedle Street, intent on spending more time in his Cornish garden. Sir Howard Davies has left Canary Wharf and starts the academic year as director of the London School of Economics. Don Cruickshank has left the Stock Exchange Tower but, as one of Gordon Brown's favourite hit-men, will surely soon be put to work.

by Patience Wheatcroft, business and City editor of The Times
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It's back-to-school time and the City must get used to a new roster of prefects. Sir Edward George has left Threadneedle Street, intent on spending more time in his Cornish garden. Sir Howard Davies has left Canary Wharf and starts the academic year as director of the London School of Economics. Don Cruickshank has left the Stock Exchange Tower but, as one of Gordon Brown's favourite hit-men, will surely soon be put to work.

All this means that at the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the London Stock Exchange, pivotal institutions of the Square Mile and beyond, new men are in charge. All are very different from their predecessors, and those who will come under their jurisdiction want hints as to what impact this new regime will have on the playground. There may be some relief that two of the three have already assured me that they will be making fewer speeches than the previous incumbents.

George relished his speech-making as much as the whisky with which he liked to lubricate his vocal chords. Mervyn King, his former deputy, will not be seen so regularly in the splendour of the City's livery halls. A highly respected former academic economist, King is the Bank's monetary policy personified. Whereas the avuncular Sir Eddie was a reassuring presence around the City, King gives the impression that the world's economic woes rest on his shoulders.

Rather than stay within the confines and the comfort of the Square Mile, King will venture regularly into the regions, listening to those affected by the Bank's deliberations. Branded a hawk, he has been deeply concerned about Britain's two-speed economy. To have consumer spending bounding ahead while manufacturing is virtually in recession is a contradiction that cannot be sustained. The niggling concern about how this situation will be resolved is never far from King's mind. His many fans in the City are glad to have him worrying on our behalf.

Callum McCarthy, the new chairman of the FSA, wears his worrying lightly. A bouncy, fast-talking character, he is generally considered an ideal choice to head the sprawling financial regulator. He has extensive experience of investment banking, but also the rather rarer addition to a City CV of having been a regulator. McCarthy arrives from Ofgem, the energy watchdog, where he demonstrated remarkable toughness under attack from both industry and politicians.

The financial institutions that moan about the FSA's bureaucratic tendencies are hoping that McCarthy will uphold competition as the most effective form of regulation. At Ofgem, he strove to professionalise rather than personalise the business of regulation.

Davies was the man who effectively created the FSA, being in the driving seat as its component parts were melded into a single regulatory authority. And as executive chairman, without a CEO, he was the organisation's only public face. His cheeky chappy visage would pop up at conferences all over the place and, despite the demands of the role, he'd find time to pen book reviews for the newspapers, and indeed for MT.

Now the FSA is to become Higgs-compliant, with the top jobs divided and John Tiner promoted to chief executive. Optimists in financial services are hoping for the promised 'light touch' regulation. Of the three new City chiefs, the appointment that caused most surprise was that of Chris Gibson-Smith to chair the London Stock Exchange. Before Cruickshank, the role had always been held by a member of the City old boys' club. But the exchange is now a business rather than a club, and one that must find its way in overseas markets if it is to serve its diverse shareholders well.

Cruickshank was a brooding Scot with no time for old City snobberies. But the attack that he launched on Britain's banks, at Gordon Brown's instigation, had not endeared him to the denizens of the Square Mile and, although the stock exchange emerged from his tenure a stronger organisation, his departure was not mourned.

His successor may be more emollient, but he'll want to make his mark on the stock exchange. Gibson-Smith spent 30 years climbing the ranks at BP, but there is only one star there, and that is Lord Browne.

Gibson-Smith looks ready to shine in the City. He presided over the tricky restructuring of the air traffic control service, NATS, of which he is chairman. His ambitions should raise both the stock exchange's profile and that of its new boss.

For enthusiastic people-watchers, the next few months in the City will be a time to reach for the binoculars.

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