Burnt in effigy, Martin Wheatley has the steel to shake City

The chief of the new Financial Conduct Authority smells blood

Leading Britain's chief financial watchdog might sound like a tough job, but it's nothing compared with what Martin Wheatley had to endure in the same role in Hong Kong.

After Lehman Brothers collapsed he become the focus of the anger of locals who feared losing their investments.

"I had people marching on the streets with banners with photos of me on them saying go home, death of justice, disgrace," Mr Wheatley said. "I had noise all day outside my office where they would camp with klaxons and drums. I had a funeral effigy of me burnt outside the office. That was the set of things I had to deal with. It's a different sort of pressure than in the UK."

The political scrutiny in the UK – he started at the Financial Services Authority in September last year – is also nothing compared with what he experienced in Asia.

"Here I have to appear occasionally in front of the Treasury Select Committee and they'll give me a pretty tough time for an hour or so," he said. "In Hong Kong I think my record was 11 hours in one session in front of the legislative council. They would be shouting at me in Cantonese and I would be listening to an ear piece to an interpreter trying to say to me what was being said in English. I remember after one of those sessions one of my team saying how they thought that it was amazing that I remained calm."

It's rather hard to imagine this thin, outwardly affable 53-year-old losing his cool. And it was this calm intensity that helped Mr Wheatley pull through in Hong Kong. How his difficulties there were resolved is something to which the City of London should pay close attention: "We survived and I'm delighted that, tough though it was, and it was very, very tough, we got them all their money back."

Mr Wheatley is a rather different beast to his predecessors. He is neither grand like Sir Howard Davies was, nor flash like John Tiner; you can't imagine him driving a Porsche like Mr Tiner's with a personalised number plate. Despite spending 18 years at the London Stock Exchange during the first part of his career, he is a long way from being part of the City establishment like Hector Sants, the last chief executive of the Financial Services Authority before it becomes Mr Wheatley's Financial Conduct Authority.

No, Mr Wheatley is all business, bringing to the role a wintry determination to get results. Those who worked with him at the exchange, where he drove through radical reforms, praise his incisive mind. In Hong Kong people who dealt with him talk about his work ethic: "You wouldn't see him at the clubs with the other expats with a gin in his hand," one banking source said.

He rose to deputy chief executive of the London Stock Exchange before making an unlikely career change.

"I didn't chose to go into regulation, I had some time after leaving the stock exchange and I became a cabinet maker. I was designing and making furniture. It was great fun. It had always been a hobby and I'd always fancied doing it on a full-time basis."

He was on a skiing break from his cabinet-making when he was approached by a headhunter about the regulation job in Hong Kong.

He describes watching the meltdown that occurred in Western financial markets while out there as like watching "a complete horror show".

"Not being quite close to it you didn't realise how broken and dysfunctional it was."

And Mr Wheatley doesn't spare regulators from criticism for what happened: "There was a massive, collective bad judgement which includes the regulators, who were seduced by what went on just like everyone else."

Wheatley on...

Banks... "The truth is that if our supermarkets in this country, if John Lewis operated in a way that banks do, they wouldn't have any customers."

Working in Hong Kong... "I had a funeral effigy of me burnt outside the office. That was the sort of things I had to deal with. It's a different sort of pressure than in the UK."

2005-2008... "That was a horror period in terms of what we are discovering today in terms of the way people were abused in their financial services.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world