Mon, Dec 01, 2008 - Page 12 News List

NEWSMAKER: High hopes as Chen becomes top regulator

WALK THE TALK: Some had speculated that Sean Chen did not possess the necessary connections to rise to the top, but his success has proven them wrong

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORER

After being repeatedly tapped for the post of top financial regulator, Sean Chen (陳冲) will be sworn in as chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) today, embarking on a journey that will attempt to lead the domestic financial sector away from the financial storm, analysts said yesterday.

“Chen is a clear-headed and smart banker. There is nobody more suitable to lead the commission,” said Lin Tien (林田), president of Taiwan Cooperative Bank (合作金庫銀行), which Chen chaired for more than two years starting in July 2004.

Lin is referred to as an “idea king” for his innovative policies that facilitated Taiwan Cooperative’s initial public offering in Taiwan in 2006 and a more than 10-fold increase in earnings at the bank.

The 59-year-old Chen is renowned for his fable-telling commentaries and ideas, which he never seems to run out of.

Just two weeks ago, Chen, then chairman of publicly traded SinoPac Financial Holding Co (永豐金控), came up with the idea of incorporating a plastic card in the government’s consumption voucher scheme, an idea that the Cabinet declined to adopt.

LIKE A WOLF

His book, titled French Wolf and Owl published early last year to celebrate his pearl wedding, also details his financial thinking and perspectives.

In it, he said the country should be led by real leaders, like the wolf Grisdos in the French fable. He or she should walk the talk rather than be like Old Owl, who only talks.

Many expect that after his appointment Chen will extend his forward-looking vision to help make the financial sector more competitive globally.

“He is very aggressive and knows how to delegate to make sure the ship is on course,” said Su Song-chin (蘇松欽), former president of Taiwan Stock Exchange Corp, where Chen was chair from 2002 to 2004.

Su said that Chen played an important role in establishing policies to facilitate the dual listing of overseas Taiwanese companies on the TAIEX as well as the issuance of Taiwan Depositary Receipts.

Chen also initiated the exchange-traded funds in the local market to bolster the nation’s capital market, Su said.

His legal background will also help him with policymaking, as the job involves complex legal matters, Su said.

As a law student, Chen began his three-decade career in government at the International Bank of Taipei (台北商銀) and Farmers Bank of China (農民銀行) in 1975.

In 1989, he was promoted to secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance’s legal department before moving on to head the ministry’s insurance and banking bureaus, and eventually the deputy minister’s post.

DISADVANTAGES

Many had speculated that Chen’s lack of political connections had put him at a disadvantage under the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) governments.

But Kenneth Lin (林向愷), a professor of economics at National Taiwan University, said the fact that Chen earned top positions, such as the chairmanship of TWSE and Taiwan Cooperative in 2002 and 2004 under the DPP government, showed that he was a polished networker.

Lin said he expected Chen, who has a low-key, professional image, to prioritize market liberalization and discipline after taking office.

Lin said Chen would have to ease concerns over possible conflicts of interest arising from his past appointments in the private sector by restoring order in the market.

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