The UK’s competition watchdog is set to appoint former Phoenix Group and HSBC executive Clive Bannister as its chair after a two year hunt, according to reports.
Bannister will takeover as chair of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after Andrew Tyrie, the former chair, was ousted in 2020 in a boardroom coup, the Financial Times reported today.
Bannister’s appointment comes amid a period of boardroom turnover as the government begins the hunt for a chief executive to replace outgoing boss Andrea Coscelli.
The delay to Bannister’s appointment has hampered the hunt for a successor to Coscelli, who announced at the start of the year that he would be stepping down in July.
An interim chief executive is now set to be appointed, with the CMA’s general counsel Sarah Cardell leading the field of prospective candidates, according to sources cited by the FT.
Competition experts at law firm Hogan Lovell’s said the new leadership may pivot direction after some criticism of its interventions in recent years.
“It will be interesting to see whether the new regime will follow the previous strategic direction,” Christopher Hutton, partner at Hogan Lovells told City A.M.
“For example, there has been some criticism that the CMA has, in the past few years at least, not made enough use of its market review powers. It will be particularly interesting to see if the CMA takes a more proactive approach in that regard.”
Head of antitrust at law firm Dechert, Alec Burnside, said Bannister would take over after a setback in the delay to digital markets unit (DMU) legislation, which would have empowered the CMA to take on more of a role in enforcing pro-competition rules on larger social media platforms.
“The CMA has suffered a temporary setback in the delay to the new DMU legislation, but it remains determined and has the resource and expertise to be effective under existing powers,” he told City A.M.
“Naturally the imminent change it its two senior office holders, CEO and Chairman, implies a period of transition. But overall the vigour CMA has shown post-Brexit shows it to be punching at and above its weight in international anti-trust matters.”
The executive churn comes amid a testing period for the watchdog as pressure grows on the UK’s regulators to rein in Silicon Valley tech giants and revamp the regulatory regime after Brexit.
Ministers committed to a financial services bill in the Queen’s speech on Tuesday designed to slash red tape and deliver a boost to the City, but commentators said today that patience is wearing thin for a long-promised “bonfire of regulation”.
City veteran David Buik told City A.M. today that the UK is “so far behind the curve” on a regulatory refresh “it’s almost embarrassing”.
The CMA has been contacted for comment.