NZ’s chief financial regulator appoints new CEO

Samantha Barrass FMA CEO

An ex-Reserve Bank of New Zealand economist and veteran of Europe’s regulatory sector has been appointed to lead New Zealand’s Financial Markets Authority (FMA).

Samantha Barrass will become the FMA’s third chief executive, succeeding the widely respected incumbent Rob Everett who in March this year announced that he would depart from the role before the end of the year.

Everett, who served more than seven years at the helm of the FMA, oversaw the implementation of the landmark Financial Markets Conduct Act (hailed by the regulator as the “largest statutory change in our financial markets in at least 30 years”) and was recognised for advocating improved standards of conduct across NZ’s financial services sector.

Speaking at a Financial Services Council event last year, Everett noted that “poor conduct and poor treatment of customers” was typically the result of “sloppiness” – that is, a “lack of process, lack of training, poor systems” – rather than deliberate wrongdoing by staff.

As his successor, Barrass will pick up where Everett left off, pursuing new legislation to regulate the conduct of banks and insurers as well as expanding the implementation of financial adviser reforms.

Commenting on her appointment, Barrass said the regulator is “at an important juncture in its journey to support and enhance the economy and financial health of Aotearoa New Zealand”.

“It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to build on the great work done by Rob Everett and the team.

“I’m very excited to be returning home to lead the FMA in this next phase and working with all to safeguard and foster a financial sector that everyone has a stake in.”

FMA chair Mark Todd praised the regulator’s newest senior appointee as a “proven leader”, with “impressive, directly relevant, regulatory experience in the UK and Europe”.

“Her experience as a consensus-building leader will stand the FMA in good stead as it continues its current activities and readies itself for a wider mandate in regulating banks and insurers, as well as climate change reporting,” Todd said.

Most recently, Barrass led the establishment of the UK’s Business Banking Resolution Service, a dispute resolution service for banks and their SME customers.

Between 2014 and 2019, she served as chief executive of Gibraltar’s Financial Services Commission, a role that encompassed conduct and prudential regulatory oversight for the British Overseas Territory.

Todd recognised Barrass’s leadership “through a period of evolution and expansion” for the Commission.

A largely export-driven financial services sector, which itself represents around a quarter of the Territory’s economy, Gibraltar is recognised for its particularly complex financial regulatory environment.

Notably, Barrass led the Commission’s development and implementation of its first comprehensive international regulatory regime for firms using distributed ledger technology to hold and transfer value.

Earlier in her career, she served nearly a decade in a number of roles within the UK’s Financial Services Authority (now the Financial Conduct Authority).

UK-born, but raised and educated in NZ, FMA chair Mark Todd noted Barrass’s “strong New Zealand connection” with deep international regulatory experience and leadership skills to the role.

“Ms Barrass has had a very successful career to date, operating in a number of complex and challenging environments. Her knowledge and experience of the insurance and banking industries will be particularly relevant for the increased role the FMA is to play in those areas,” Todd said.

Barrass is set to commence her new role in January next year. FMA general counsel Liam Mason will serve as acting chief executive in the interim.