New Central Bank governor tells staff he is in ‘listening mode’

Context in which regulator is operating is ‘challenging’, Gabriel Makhlouf tells staff

Gabriel Makhlouf, the Central Bank’s new governor. Photograph: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gabriel Makhlouf, the Central Bank’s new governor. Photograph: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

The Central Bank of Ireland’s new governor, Gabriel Makhlouf, told staff on his first day that he will be in “listening mode” over the coming months as he seeks to ensure the bank is up to the task of safeguarding monetary and financial stability, and serving consumers and the economy.

“The context in which we are operating is challenging,” Mr Makhlouf, the first overseas official appointed to lead the bank in its 76-year history, said in an email sent to the organisation’s 1,900 staff on Monday.

“At home the ongoing need to strengthen the resilience of the financial sector and the economy, the many possible consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and continuing need to enhance our framework for consumer protection, are just some of the issues that are front-of-mind.”

The Cairo-born governor added that tensions in international trade and the global economic outlook also frame the Irish and euro-area macroeconomic environment.

“I shall be spending my first few months in listening mode: listening to you, listening to our stakeholders and listening to our partners in the euro system and further afield,” he said.

“More than ever, ensuring we deliver on our mission is critical. That is, to safeguard monetary and financial stability and work to ensure that the financial system operates in the best interests of the consumer and the wider economy. This is how we serve the public interest. Our organisational capability will be crucial to our success.”

Mr Makhlouf made no reference in the email to the controversy that has surrounded him since he was nominated as the 12th governor of the Central Bank by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe on May 1st.

A former UK civil servant who was hired in 2011 to head New Zealand’s treasury department claimed in his last weeks in office in May that the ministry’s IT system had been deliberately and systematically hacked, resulting in the leak of sensitive budget information.

Blame

However, it later emerged that the information had been published on the ministry’s website and could be accessed using a search function. New Zealand’s public-service watchdog concluded at the end of June that Mr Makhlouf sought to blame others and managed the incident poorly.

Mr Makhlouf said in a letter dated July 15th to Mr Donohoe that he could have handled the issue “more clearly and with a different emphasis”, though he was “pleased” that he “honesty, integrity and political neutrality are not in question”.

In his email to staff, the governor said that he would be focusing on three key areas in the coming months, including staffing, the Central Bank’s engagement with outside “stakeholders”, and the organisation’s vision.

On staffing, he said the main questions will be: “How do we recruit, retain and develop people? How do we spot talent and nurture it? How do we maintain and develop technical skills? How do we select and grow our leaders? How well do we manage performance? How diverse and inclusive are we?”