FCA Appoints Nikhil Rathi as CEO, First BAME Leader

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced the appointment of Nikhil Rathi as its next chief executive officer, formally replacing Andrew Bailey four months after his departure. Rathi is set to take over from interim CEO Christopher Woolard and will begin his five-year term in October, on an annual salary of £455,000. The 40-year-old, who is of British-Asian heritage, will be the first Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) leader in the City regulator’s history.

Oxford-educated, Rathi has served as the CEO of London Stock Exchange plc since 2015 and as director of international development at the London Stock Exchange Group since 2014. Prior to LSE, Rathi had an 11-year career in government at HM Treasury, where he led international legislative negotiations and served as director of its financial services division for five years. Rathi has sat on the FCA’s markets practitioner panel since 2015 and was appointed chairman in July of last year. FCA chair Charles Randell said Rathi “brings both private-sector management skills and experience of domestic and international regulatory policymaking.”

Given his international ties and task to oversee the UK’s regulatory response to Covid-19, Rathi’s appointment makes a big statement on the regulator’s priorities post-Brexit. His immediate challenge will be to phase out short-term coronavirus measures, such as loan repayment holidays while protecting consumers in financial difficulty due to the pandemic. Rathi envisions the FCA “supporting the recovery with a special focus on vulnerable consumers, embracing new technology, playing our part in tackling climate change, enforcing high standards, and ensuring the UK is a thought leader in international regulatory discussions.”

As the first Black, Asian and minority ethnic leader of the FCA, officials hope Rathi’s appointment will exemplify the drive to create more diverse organizations. A survey published by Business in the Community revealed that BAME professionals made up only 10.3 percent of the 3.7 million leadership roles across public and private sectors last year, despite making up 14 percent of the UK population. Diverse appointments to the upper echelon in the financial sector shift representation at all levels, which the FCA trusts will strengthen business by creating a distinct and inclusive workforce. 

Rathi must now prepare for a grilling by MPs from the Treasury Select Committee, as part of a pre-commencement hearing to be scheduled before he takes on the role in October. According to UK chancellor Rishi Sunak, the regulator remains confident in its new CEO’s capabilities, “We have conducted a thorough, worldwide search for this crucial appointment and, through his wide-ranging experiences across financial services, I am confident that Nikhil will bring the ambitious vision and leadership this organization demands.”