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Ed Richards, ex Ofcom chief executive, does a bank job


Ofcom building: Richards' old haunt. via Flickr © Matt Biddulph (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Former telecoms regulator Ed Richards, who resigned late last year after a long career within the UK’s Ofcom, has been appointed by 10 UK banks and building societies to head up a review aimed at merging what that industry clearly views as a ‘plethora too far’ of financial trade associations.

The polite story, according to Reuters, is that the banks want fewer UK trade associations so they can develop a stronger and more coherent voice in Brussels especially,  where European Union financial regulation is agreed.

"In this new role, Ed will assess responses, working closely with stakeholders across the industry to ensure a high level of representation and engagement, and intends to produce revised proposals by the summer," is the official banks’ line. "It is anticipated that the conclusions will begin to be implemented in 2016," it continues.

Richards’ job will be to listen, discuss, decide and finally to cajole the nine bodies that currently act on the banks’ behalf into a mega-merger, with perhaps a few complete disappearances for those bodies whose purviews seriously overlap with others.

As we all know, where the mark of success for a commercial enterprise is profit; the mark of success for a trade body is survival. So Richards will have a job on his hands with this. Luckily - and no doubt this occurred to his new employers - he’s had long experience of dealing with recalcitrant telcos and media outfits and has, as Prime Minister Tony Blair once said about his own bureaucratic struggles, the marks on his back to prove it.

In some ways Richards is a poacher turned gamekeeper, being widely credited with fending off an axe-wielding Conservative administration after the 2010 election when it came looking for economies and gave the reasonably well-staffed Ofcom a hard stare.

He got his organisation out of trouble that time, now he has to turn that experience round and wield an axe of his own.

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