[LONDON] Andrew Bailey, who takes the reins of the Bank of England on Monday, has the typical profile of a central banker but is dogged by his controversial record as the country’s top financial watchdog.
Mr Bailey was the continuity choice when in December then finance minister Sajid Javid, who has since left that role, selected him to succeed Canadian Mark Carney as BoE governor.
The 60-year-old begins his term at a fraught moment, amid a severe financial downturn prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and with the impact of Brexit on the British economy still uncertain.
Despite an abundance of qualified competitors for the top job, Mr Javid said he was the “standout candidate” in the contest to succeed Mr Carney, who became BoE head in 2013.
Analysts said Mr Bailey appeared a safe pair of hands.
“Having previously worked at the bank in various guises for over 30 years, Mr Bailey can be considered an insider with outside experience,” said Paul Dales, of Capital Economics.
However, he has attracted criticism for lax oversight during his recent three and-a-half years as head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the watchdog for Europe’s largest financial sector.
Ahead of becoming the BoE’s 121st governor its 325-year history, Mr Bailey told MPs this month that his FCA posting had been “very tough” but that he did not regret having taken it on.
Cambridge-educated Bailey began his career as a researcher at the London School of Economics, where his wife Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey is a professor of political science.
The father-of-two, a native of the central English city of Leicester, then went on to work at the Bank of England in various posts between 1985 and 2016.
He played a crucial role during the global financial crisis a decade ago and a subsequent vicious recession, overseeing its special operations to help troubled banks.
In a 2012 interview with the Financial Times, he reflected on the bailout four years earlier of the crippled Royal Bank of Scotland.
The then RBS treasurer had come into his office “and I thought he was going to have a heart attack… and he looked at me and said I need £25 billion today, can you do it?” Mr Bailey said, according to the FT.
“I said ‘Yes, I can do that,'” he recounted.
The newspaper said the RBS official “looked shocked at Mr Bailey’s cool confidence, but what he did not know was that Mr Bailey had already done the same thing for HBOS”.