London Stock Exchange boss tapped to lead finance watchdog

Oscar Williams-GrutSenior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Yahoo Finance UK
Nikhil Rathi, CEO of the London Stock Exchange. Photo: Richard Gray/EMPICS Entertainment/Getty
Nikhil Rathi, CEO of the London Stock Exchange. Photo: Richard Gray/EMPICS Entertainment/Getty

The chief executive of the London Stock Exchange (LSE.L) has been named the new boss of Britain’s top financial watchdog.

The Treasury announced on Monday that Nikhil Rathi has been appointed the new chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the regulator charged with overseeing much of Britain’s financial system.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak said Rathi was an “outstanding candidate” to lead the watchdog.

“We have conducted a thorough, worldwide search for this crucial appointment and, through his wide-ranging experiences across financial services, I am confident that Nikhil will bring the ambitious vision and leadership this organisation demands,” Sunak said in a statement.

Rathi has been in charge of the London Stock Exchange since 2015 and spent 11 years at the Treasury prior to joining the stock exchange group.

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From September 2009 to April 2014, Rathi was director of the financial services group at the Treasury, leading the department’s work with the EU and beyond. Rathi also served as private secretary to the Prime Minister from 2005 to 2008.

FCA chair Charles Randell said: “Nikhil has been closely involved in guiding the FCA’s development through his roles on our Practitioner Panel and Markets Practitioner Panel, and brings both private sector management skills and experience of domestic and international regulatory policymaking.”

Rathi said he was “honoured” to take up the role and said: “In the years ahead, we will create together an even more diverse organisation, supporting the recovery with a special focus on vulnerable consumers, embracing new technology, playing our part in tackling climate change, enforcing high standards and ensuring the UK is a thought leader in international regulatory discussions.”

Rathi, Randell and Sunak all thanked Christopher Woolard, who has served as interim chief executive of the FCA since March. Woolard took the reins from Andrew Bailey, who left to become the new Bank of England governor.

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“I look forward to building on the strong legacy of Andrew Bailey and the exceptional leadership of Christopher Woolard and the FCA Executive team during the crisis,” Rathi said. “FCA colleagues can be very proud of their achievements in supporting consumers and the economy in all parts of the UK in recent months.”

The FCA is charged with protecting consumers when it comes to finance and ensuring market integrity in the UK. Leading the regulator is seen as a largely thankless task given it is mostly associated with responding to scandals, such as PPI.

Rathi takes charge of the FCA at a particularly delicate moment. The UK is facing its steepest recession in 300 years due to COVID-19, which is likely to cause huge amounts of financial distress. The regulator must also navigate Brexit, with the UK’s transition period set to end in just six months.

The FCA is also facing criticism over its handling of a string of mini-bond investment scandals, which have led to charges the regulator was asleep at the wheel.

Questions have also been raised about the conduct of FCA staff, after an internal memo was leaked to the press last November detailed “overflowing bins, stealing plants and charging cables from desks, catering and security teams being subject to verbal abuse, colleagues defecating on the floor in toilet cubicles on a particular floor, urinating on the floor in the men’s toilets and leaving alcohol bottles in sanitary bins.”

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