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SuperSIB snubs City by plumping for Docklands 600w

SuperSIB, the City's mega watchdog, will not be located in the Square Mile. It has told 2,000 staff how to get to its proposed new office in London's Docklands - but failed to name the senior figures who will report to new chairman, Howard Davies. Tom Stevenson, Financial Editor, reports.
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SuperSIB snubbed the City yesterday, choosing a building in Docklands to house the enlarged financial regulator from the start of next year. The move, greeted with resigned acceptance by the staff of the new City watchdog, is a big blow to the Corporation of London, which was unable to provide a large enough building quickly or cheaply enough.

The decision came as senior regulators admitted privately that there had been a delay in naming senior appointments to the watchdog, leaving the heads of the self-regulatory organisations on tenterhooks as to whether they would have a place in the new regime.

The decisions, expected this week, will not receive approval from the Chancellor's office for another two weeks it has been estimated.

The delay is an embarrassment for Mr Davies just days after Colette Bowe, head of the Personal Investment Authority (PIA), indicated she did not want to be considered for any of the senior positions to be filled. It is also not clear how keen others such as Imro's Phillip Thorpe or the SFA's Richard Farrant will be to exchange control of their fiefdoms for a lieutenant's position in the new monolith.

There are further concerns about how successful a new structural model for the new watchdog will be. Mr Davies is pushing through a radical shift from a vertical structure, where regulators control all functions from authorisation to investigations and supervision for one type of firm, to a horizontal model where they will oversee, say, authorisation for all financial companies.

NewRO, as the regulator will be known until a suitable acronym has been agreed, is moving to the last vacant building in the Canary Wharf development, built by the Reichmann brothers at the height of the last property boom and rescued from receivership in 1992. The decision was taken by a meeting of the board of the Securities and Investments Board on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Corporation of London said there was "obvious disappointment" at the decision, which means the unified regulator for activities in the Square Mile will not be located there. He added, however, that the decision was in part a reflection of the City's success - there is simply no accommodation left in the City big enough to satisfy SuperSIB's requirements for around 300,000 sq ft of space to house its 2,000 employees.

The Corporation played down any suggestion that past disagreements between the City and Docklands had flared again over the move. "We are happy that Docklands is there. If it had not been, and if the City had not relaxed its building regulations when it did in the 1980s many firms would have simply moved away to the Continent."

Staff at the various regulators that are dotted around the City and Docklands, and which will be folded into SuperSIB next year, were informed yesterday of the decision and supplied with information packs in an attempt to allay fears that they were being asked to move to the south-east's own version of Siberia.

Howard Davies said: "After an exhaustive search, we have concluded that Canary Wharf offers the best available accommodation for us. The space is flexible, the price is right and, crucially, we can put all our staff together on one site in just a year's time."

NewRO will take on the regulatory responsibilities of a range of watchdogs, including the Bank of England, SIB, Imro, the PIA, SFA and DTI. The combining of the regulators will take place next year despite Royal Assent for a new Financial Services Act not being possible for two more years.