Watchdog’s bite is much too hard

 
Elizabeth Fournier
POOR Mark Gregory. The 15-year veteran of Legal & General – yesterday named as its new finance chief – must be wondering how far down the list his employer got before it saw his name.

No doubt Gregory is an accomplished, capable candidate for the job. But after the Bank of England’s prudential regulatory authority (PRA) threw a spanner in the works of the insurer’s attempt to give Oliver Tant the role – prompting the ex-KPMG man to walk away – it’s obvious to all involved that he wasn’t the first choice. The PRA’s boss Andrew Bailey has never worked in insurance himself, but the regulator reportedly felt Tant, head of audit at a big four firm until last year, was insufficiently qualified. The fact this process has taken a year implies two things. One: L&G was not spoilt for candidates, spending significant time and resources tracking down its man, and two: the regulator’s meddling only slowed down the process further. No doubt the newly formed PRA is keen to stamp its authority across the wide range of industries it has been tasked with patrolling. But this intervention looks a lot like petty minded meddling.

Former PRA head Hector Sants said back in 2011 that regulators “cannot rely on the judgment of the management they supervise.”

Surely the watchdog has enough on its plate without also dealing out votes of no confidence, and casting doubt into investors’ minds.