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Matthew Elderfield

Englishman drafted in to sort out Irish banking mess

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Matthew Elderfield

Ireland has brought in an Englishman to sort out its banking mess.

His name is Matthew Elderfield, the former financial regulator for Bermuda. He has cleaned up a lot of  financial messes and plans to do the same in the Emerald Isle.

Elderfield, already a hot contender to head up the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA), is extremely firm on getting things done right.

On Wednesday, Elderfield was introduced to the House Committee on Economic and Regulatory Affairs.

Some immediately liked him. Others weren't so sure.

 In the past, the office of the Financial Regulator in Ireland was a support system to the banks,  and its main purpose was to promote growth and expansion.

But this financial regulator will do the opposite. He will clean up a huge mess and provide realistic measures for the Irish banks.

There is already fear amongst businessmen and politicians that Elderfield will be ruthless.

Although only present in Ireland three months, Elderfield has already made two impacting decisions that have been met with mixed reactions.

His first move was to insist the banks hold eight percent capital on their balance sheets, to recoup losses from loans, mainly mortgages.

Elderfield is preparing the banks to cope with severe losses from loans in the future.

He admitted on Wednesday this decision wasn't "hugely popular" among certain banks.

Some banks expressed their worry about meeting such a high figure by the year-end.

Elderfield got his way, and the Irish government backed him all the way. To date, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is behind Elderfield's decisions 100 percent.

Moving on from the banks, Elderfield switched to the issues facing Quinn Insurance Limited, a hot mess in Ireland at the minute.

For the past two years Quinn Insurance and the previous financial regulator, Patrick Neary, were at each other’s throats over the company's financial standings. Nothing was resolved.

Elderfield was anxious to get moving on it and he took no prisoners.

He has been tough with Quinn Insurance and they're not happy.

He insisted that Quinn insurance, like all other insurance companies, must have assets worth 50 percent more than it's liabilities, no exception granted.

Elderfield told the government on Wednesday, "We don't do favors."

Some opponents say his rule insistence is too stringent.

What about all the jobs at stake at Quinn insurance, they asked.

His answer, there are 1.3 million policyholders who trust Quinn to provide them with the protection they paid for.

He is standing his ground but not alone.

He is assisted by the a former FSA staffer, Jonathan McMahon, who was also drafted in from the U.K.

They may not like the fact that an Englishman is governing their financial systems or they may despise his stringent rule following but one thing is for sure, Elderfield is about to shake Ireland back to reality and put some foundations in place for the future.
 

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