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Matthew Elderfield, financial regulator: The future face of Irish financial services

There was no honeymoon period for Matthew Elderfield when he was appointed as Ireland’s new banking regulator in January. He quickly had to roll up his sleeves and deal with the solvency issues of one of the country’s biggest insurers, Quinn Insurance. “I knew we had some big problems on the banking side,” he says, “but to find that one of the largest insurance companies in the country had a severe solvency problem and needed to be put into administration, within three months of me arriving, was a big challenge.”

Matthew Elderfield when he was appointed as Ireland’s new banking regulator in January

Matthew Elderfield: challenging times

The Quinn problem quickly gave Elderfield an insight into how dysfunctional financial regulation had been in the years leading up to Ireland’s banking crisis, where vested interests had pressured the regulator to "stay their hand", he tells Euromoney. The same day Quinn Insurance was placed in administration, the provisional cost of the banking crisis was published. "People then realized the consequences of regulators not taking action," Elderfield says. Recruited from Bermuda where he was the financial services regulator from 2008, the 44-year-old UK national has a busy agenda. His first task has been to tackle the banking crisis by quantifying the losses, accelerating the recognition of the losses and the recapitalization process, before attempting to put banks in a position so that they can begin to fund themselves in the future. To do that, the regulator has had to be better resourced and be much more forceful with the institutions. Elderfield aims to increase his headcount from 350 to 520 by the end of the year, before adding a further 200, so that there is eventually a ratio of 10 supervisors to each big institution, compared with an astonishing one supervisor per two institutions before the crisis.

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