Former Which? boss tapped for interim chair at City watchdog

The UK government has tapped Richard Lloyd, the former Which? executive director, as the interim chair of the top financial watchdog, a person familiar with the matter said on Monday night.

The news comes hours after an undisclosed number of the Financial Conduct Authority’s staff completed their ballot on strike action in protest at proposed changes to pay and work practices under a divisive transformation plan spearheaded by Nikhil Rathi, the chief executive.

Outgoing chair Charles Randall said in October that he was stepping down a year before his term ended in April 2023 so that his successor could oversee the completion of a plan that promises to deliver a more efficient data-led regulator in the aftermath of scandals such as London Capital Finance.

Sky News reported on Monday evening that the Treasury was set to name Lloyd on an interim basis. A person familiar with the situation told the Financial Times the report was accurate. The Treasury declined to comment on any aspect of the process of appointing a new chair. The FCA referred queries to the Treasury.

Lloyd, who headed consumer watchdog Which? from 2011 to 2016, has been a senior independent director of the FCA since April 2019. He is also chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and on the council of the Advertising Standards Authority.

He joins the FCA at a critical time, as it struggles to win staff backing for its strategic overhaul, while dealing with a heavy post-Brexit workload, including updating the permissions for EU companies that have been selling into the UK directly from the block.

Trade union Unite argues that the transformation proposals, which include eliminating bonuses that most staff have enjoyed annually in favor of a new scheme for the top 25 per cent of performers, are unfair.

They began balloting staff on industrial action on January 24, promising to “deliver a clear sense of just how dire workforce morale and employee confidence is within the FCA leadership”. The union is pushing to be officially recognized by the FCA, and will not say how many of the agency’s 4,000 staff are members. The ballot’s result is due in the coming days.

As well as the added work from Brexit, the FCA has been further stretched by adding areas to its remit, including cryptocurrency, where the agency has been charged with monitoring the rapidly growing industry’s controls against money laundering and terrorist financing since January 2020.

The FCA will soon take on responsibility for policing crypto ads and has already outlined plans to enforce tighter rules to make it harder for companies to lure customers with promises of big potential rewards without clearly spelling out the risks involved.

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