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Finance Dublin Conference 2005: regulation to the fore, but overall mood is upbeat Back  
While concerns about over-regulation and under-regulation were top of the agenda at the recent 6th Annual Finance Dublin Conference, the overall mood at the two-day event was optimistic, with numerous new opportunities for the sector outlined, by speakers such as Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, Minister for Finance Brian Cowen, and Eircom chief financial officer Peter E.Lynch, (pictured) who delivered a speech on his experiences as CFO of one of Europe’s largest telecoms companies.
Regulation was very much to the fore at the 6th Annual Finance Dublin Conference which was held on April 5th, 6th in Dublin Castle. With over 250 delegates in attendance, the general mood was upbeat, as the numerous opportunities for the future of Ireland’s international financial services sector outlined in the Deloitte report were presented by Paul Reck and Derek Moriarty.
Click for large image...
Eircom chief financial officer Peter Lynch delivering a speech on his experiences as CFO of one of Europe's largest telecoms companies.

However, there was much frustration too, and also a strong sense that while much may have been done, a lot more needs to be done. Key to the frustration was the lack of action taken to date on the Deloitte report, as well as continued fears that Ireland’s competitiveness is declining due to the trend, both at home and in Europe, of over-regulation.

Pat Farrell, chief executive of the Irish Bankers Federation, who chaired the morning session on Day 2 of the conference, said, ‘There is a growing sense in business generally and across our sector that we are fast approaching such a point here. We are right now building a regime of regulation and compliance which is more demanding than other competing jurisdictions, with compliance provisions which go beyond those introduced in the US under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’.
Pat Farrell, chief executive of the Irish Bankers Federation, speaking on developments in the banking sector at the Finance Dublin Conference.

But, while the concerns were discussed in great detail, particularly with respect to IFSRA’s new consultation process on the ‘Fitness & Probity’ of directors, a very positive aspect to this debate was the commitment evident from the industry’s legislators and regulators over the two days.

The Commissioner responsible for financial services, Charlie McCreevy in a wide ranging speech set out the principles for his agenda for financial services in the EU and Ireland’s place within it, and in an interview with FINANCE editor Ken O’Brien at the conference, he outlined his attitude to over-regulation, saying, ‘I come from the political and philosophical viewpoint that says that if you don’t need to regulate you don’t’.

Gay Mitchell, one of two Irish representatives on the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Committee, made clear that ‘finance Dublin’ will be a core part of his brief.
Mr Gay Mitchell, MEP, Member of the Economic and Monetary Committee

For his part, Liam O'Reilly, CEO of IFSRA, assured the industry that IFSRA, 'will not introduce or impose unnecessary regulatory burdens that will effect the continued competitiveness of our financial industry and will minimise the impact of such burdens coming from Europe'.

He said, 'I know that the financial services sector is faced with a wide range of legislative and non-legislative proposals across the entire spectrum of financial services provision. I know that these proposals are costly to implement. I know they pose challenges, particularly from a competitive perspective. I know that challenges are arising from less well-regulated jurisdictions'.

Warning signs on the continued competitiveness of Ireland as a financial centre were given by the Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, in a key note speech. Ireland’s recent economic success is built, he said, to a considerable extent on capitalising on the opportunities presented by
Minister for Finance Brian Cowen TD, with Fiona Reddan, deputy editor, FINANCE magazine, and Ken O'Brien, editor, FINANCE magazine.

globalisation, which means that we should appreciate more than most that globalisation also means that competition is relentless. If an international financial services centre can be kick-started relatively quickly in Ireland, as the IFSC was, then, in principle, the model can be tried elsewhere.

With respect to the old argument of tax harmonisation in Europe, Dan Mitchell, the McKenna Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Heritage Foundation, the US think tank, and founder of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, an organisation formed to protect international tax competition, outlined the numerous benefits of tax competition and warned that any attempts to harmonise will affect Ireland’s competitive advantage.
Liam O'Reilly, chief executive IFSRA, with Rachel Panagiodis, CEO, Hansard Europe (l) and Mary Fulton, partner with Deloitte (r).

At the tax panel, which featured tax partners from the ‘Big 4’ firms – PJ Henehan from Ernst & Young, Paul McGowan from KPMG, Paul Reck from Deloitte and Pat Wall from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Wall downplayed the risk of tax harmonisation, saying that he wouldn’t hold the EU as being a serious threat to rates in Ireland – not for a long time. ‘Look at the example of VAT, it’s the oldest tax rate in the EU, over 50 years old, and they still haven’t gotten around to harmonising it’, he said.

Also over the two days, three case studies on key IFS companies were presented by Alberto La Rocca, CEO, Pioneer Alternative Investments, Gregory A Boyko, CEO, Hartford Life International, Ltd and Ben Conte, managing director, Susquehanna International Group (SIG).
William Slattery, Chief Executive of State Street International

Other speakers at the event included Deirdre Lyons, head of financial services, IDA, William Slattery, chief executive of State Street International, David Dillon, partner and founder of Dillon Eustace, John Larkin, a partner with William Fry, Walter Brazil, managing director of AIB International Financial Services and Brian Healy, director of trading and regulation, Irish Stock Exchange.

To see more photos of the event go to: www.financedublin.com/conference.

The sponsors of the two-day event were: Deloitte, eircom, Euroclear, The Irish Bankers Federation and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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