Greg Medcraft must be a sucker for a challenge: he’s taken the lead of Australia’s corporate watchdog at a time when it desperately needs to bare its teeth, and while the markets continue to fluctuate wildly.
Still, The Power Index is tipping the banking supremo to become one of Australia’s most powerful law enforcers. As long as he can get the house in order by taking control of ASIC’s incredible new powers, and transform the Commission into a competent regulator that can come out on the winning side of a big end of town battle and send the ultimate signal to the corporate world — fear.
After all, ASIC can put a company on the map and its individuals in a courtroom or, worse, splashed across the pages of the press. It can also dictate infamy, play the advocate in the debate of investor responsibility and stir the pot of public accusations of corporate greed.
But in recent years, following a string of high-profile losses in the Federal Court, ASIC has suggested to the corporate world that sometimes it can’t. So is Medcraft the man to turn the watchdog’s fortunes around?
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Perhaps. But first he has to prove to the business community that he’s willing to take on a fight. So far, he’s showing all the signs that he is.
Those who’ve been in his company, and know his previous record, have confidence in his abilities. Insiders say he’s a master technician; an operator and a networker who knows who to get involved, who to make feel involved, and who to simply leave out. “He’s certainly personable, people tend to get on well with him,” says one industry veteran, who notes his preference to work through committees and ability to make people feel empowered.
And while lawyers have questioned whether a man with no legal qualifications can handle the heat in the courtroom (lawyers have typically taken the helm of ASIC), Medcraft’s experience on the frontline of one of the world’s largest banks certainly can’t hurt.
Medcraft spent 27 years at Societe Generale climbing from promotion to promotion, from continent to continent, and ultimately ending his career there as the bank’s global head of securitisation. He plays well in large organisations. He likes to hunt in packs.
One insider goes so far to describe him as a politician. And even if he’s not one, says another, he’s at least got the connections to help.
His relationship with Wayne Swan is, a spokesperson from ASIC confirms with The Power Index, that the Treasurer appointed him and that “they know each other professionally”, as is his relationship with shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey (although they did wind up working on the same deal during Hockey’s tenure at law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth).