Sun, May 16, 2010 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL : New FSC head has his work cut out

Premier Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) announcement on Thursday that First Financial Holding Co chairman Chen Yuh-chang (陳裕璋) would chair the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) after outgoing chairman Sean Chen (陳冲) was appointed vice premier caught people off guard and prompted the question, who is Chen Yuh-chang?

At a time when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) approaches his second anniversary in office, the administration has felt a need to bring fresh blood into its economic team to help the president deliver on his election promises of economic reform.

But again, who is Chen Yuh-chang?

Considered an important member of Ma’s team when he was Taipei City mayor, the 55-year-old Chen Yuh-chang has tended to keep a very low profile in both government posts and the private sector over the past three decades.

He worked at various positions at the securities and exchange commission under the Ministry of Finance between 1984 and 1992. He worked at the Fair Trade Commission from 1992 to 1996 and then at the fourth division of the Executive Yuan from 1996 to 1998, before serving as secretary-general and deputy mayor of Taipei City from 1998 to 2006. After that, he headed the EasyCard Corp, served as managing director of Mega International Commercial Bank and later chaired First Financial Holding Co.

It’s anyone’s guess who made the decision to appoint Chen Yuh-chang, but this selection means the administration hopes to press for continuity in its economic and financial policies and, most importantly, to ensure the policies’ execution.

In other words, an obvious challenge facing the new FSC head is to finalize detailed regulations for the opening of the financial services sector when this sector is included in the “early harvest” list of goods and services subject to immediate tariff concessions or exemptions under a proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.

Other than that, the new financial regulator also faces the task of consolidating the nation’s financial sector, in which inefficiency is still unsolved and the over-banking problem remains — a problem his predecessor, Sean Chen, had addressed in his inauguration on Dec. 1, 2008, but on which he made little headway during his one year and five months as FSC chairman.

In addition, creating a mechanism similar to the financial restructuring fund to prevent systematic failure, strengthening risk management of the nation’s banking sector and helping the banking sector counter the negative impact of low interest rates pose other challenges for Chen Yuh-chang.

Furthermore, the new regulator’s ability to demand discipline in some financial firms will also come under scrutiny. For instance, the question about the backers of a Hong Kong-based consortium’s bid to acquire Nan Shan Life Insurance and the boardroom fight at Waterland Financial Holdings Co regarding the company’s acquisition of MetLife Inc’s insurance business in Taiwan will mark a crucial test in the new FSC chair’s pursuit for corporate governance.

As was said before, no one should put too much faith in one man’s ability to deal with the financial problems the country is facing. Chen Yuh-chang needs the assistance of his capable peers in the commission if he is to succeed. However, as FSC Vice Chairwoman Lee Jih-chu (李紀珠) is also moving to another official post in this partial Cabinet reshuffle, an immediate challenge for Chen Yuh-chang is to make sure his new team can work well together.

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