Chairman, Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Home Town: Sydney
Greg Medcraft must be a sucker for a challenge: he's taken the lead of Australia's corporate watchdog at a time when it desperately needs to bare its teeth, and while the markets continue to fluctuate wildly.
Still, The Power Index is tipping the banking supremo to become one of Australia's most powerful law enforcers. As long as he can get the house in order by taking control of ASIC's incredible new powers, and transform the Commission into a competent regulator that can come out on the winning side of a big end of town battle to send the ultimate signal to the corporate world – fear.
After all, ASIC can put a company on the map and its individuals in a courtroom or, worse, splashed across the pages of the press. It can also dictate infamy, play the advocate in the debate of investor responsibility and stir the pot of public accusations of corporate greed.
But in recent years, following a string of high profile losses in the Federal Court, ASIC has suggested to the corporate world that sometimes it can't. So is Medcraft the man to turn the watchdog's fortunes around?
Perhaps. But first he has to prove to the business community that he's willing to take on a fight. So far, he's showing all the signs that he is.
Those who've been in his company, and know his previous record, have confidence in his abilities.
Insiders say he's a master technician: an operator and a networker who knows who to get involved, who to make feel involved, and who to simply leave out. "He's certainly personable, people tend to get on well with him," says one industry veteran, who notes his preference to work through committees and ability to make people feel empowered.
And while lawyers have questioned whether a man with no legal qualifications can handle the heat in the courtroom (lawyers have typically taken the helm of ASIC), Medcraft's experience on the frontline of one of the world's largest banks certainly can't hurt.
Medcraft spent 27 years at Societe Generale climbing from promotion to promotion, from continent to continent, and ultimately ending his career there as the bank's global head of securitisation. He plays well in large organisations. He likes to hunt in packs.
One insider goes so far to describe him as a politician. And even if he's not one, says another, he's at least got the connections to help.
His relationship with Wayne Swan is, a spokesperson from ASIC confirms with The Power Index, that the Treasurer appointed him and that "they know each other professionally", as is his relationship with shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey (although they did wind up working on the same deal during Hockey's tenure at law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth).
What the comms people at ASIC can confirm by way of political connections is that Medcraft is still a councillor at Woollahra Council, where he once served as mayor, and that he did hand out how-to-vote cards on behalf of Clover Moore during the 2008 election.
And in the two years he's spent with ASIC as a Commissioner, Medcraft has proven he's able, and willing, to get serious on the corporates and money movers, and to play the fear card when needed. His success in reforming the contracts-for-difference (CDF) market is a good example of how: he got tough on advertising. He sought to expose the risks of CFDs. He tore down the blinds of complexity that had, for years, protected the CFD market.
Now at the helm of that entire organisation just imagine what he could do: at least once he manages to set the future ASIC apart from the old.
ASIC has suffered a number of high profile losses in the last couple of years: One.Tel, AWB and its case against the James Hardie directors (lost on appeal) chief among them.
The watchdog's ultimate humiliation came in late 2009 when Justice Robert Austin said ASIC had "failed to prove any aspect of its pleaded case against either defendant", following 232 sittings days and a long-running investigation against former One.Tel directors Jodee Rich and Mark Silberman.
ASIC took it as a lesson: then chairman Tony D'Aloisio declared the loss had provided some necessary guidance on how ASIC could run similar cases in the future. Others saw it as the culmination of ASIC's ultimate failures: that it did not have the competence to organise the necessary resources and come out on the winning side of a high profile win.
Medcraft will be hoping to turn such perceptions around. He already has a head-start on his predecessor D'Aloisio, with a range of new powers set to assist the watchdog with its crackdown on company directors including investigative powers that, as of September, grant the watchdog extensive new information-gathering abilities, as well as ramped up financial and gaol-term penalties.
And Medcraft's declared a renewed focus for ASIC, promising upon his appointment in May to hold the "gatekeepers" to account (those being accountants, lawyers and other advisors) while also placing an emphasis on investor and financial consumer education.
It's ultimately up to Medcraft to play the game. "Politically, he'll have to drive the process", says one liquidator. "He's the leader. If he can push matters and push them in the right direction, he can achieve enormous things."
But Medcraft could not confirm such things himself. He has given few direct interviews since being appointed chairman, and did not wish to change this trend with The Power Index.