Sean Hughes

Sean Hughes

2013 Beacon Award

No capital markets can function without effective regulators. Regulation of itself does not result in a return to shareholders. However, by establishing and enforcing a framework of ethical best practise, regulators do set the environment in which all capital markets participants can get a fair deal and concentrate on the commercial aspects of their enterprise or investment.

As first CEO of Financial Markets Authority from its inception in May 2011, Sean has led by example, worked ceaselessly and demonstrated all the skills that anyone could possibly hope for in such a position. As a result, he is a most worthy winner of the New Zealand Shareholders Association Beacon Award for 2013.

Prior to his FMA role, Sean’s international career included over 20 years’ corporate, legal and regulatory experience in Australia, Hong Kong and the UK. He has held senior executive roles in risk management and legal services at two of the major Australian banks, including Group General Manager, Group Compliance at ANZ, as well as senior executive governance roles at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), in both the capital markets and enforcement areas. Sean has also been a non-executive director in public sector occupational health and safety agencies, as well as education and leadership development entities.  He holds degrees in history and law from the University of Canterbury and University of Cambridge. He also holds postgraduate qualifications in corporate governance and is a graduate from the Advanced Management Programme at the University of Melbourne Business School.

A stated role of FMA is to promote investment markets that are fair, efficient and transparent. To achieve this goal, Sean has demonstrated exceptional ability to communicate, listen and build around him a team that shares the same vision. It is a testament to his abilities that in only two years he has built a regulator that is seen as highly credible by all participants in the capital markets. Of note is Sean’s insistence that retail investors be included as one of those key participants in every sense of the word.

Being a regulator means not only setting the ground rules, but also enforcing them when required. It is an astonishing statistic that during his tenure as CEO, Financial Markets Authority has won every single prosecution it has brought. On the other hand, Sean has also insisted on the development of clear guidelines, open communication and a willingness to engage. This sets both himself and FMA apart from many other regulators, not only those involved in capital markets.

When Sean was initially selected in late 2010, he inherited absolutely nothing other than markets still reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis, and an investing community who were not only lacking confidence, but had lost faith in the ability of the regulators to maintain proper governance standards. Less than three years later, the landscape is remarkably different.

In our view, teamwork starts at the top. Sean’s guidance, outstanding work ethic and ability to bring out the very best in his team have been essential components in developing the widely respected culture and capability at Financial Markets Authority. As a result, shareholders, the markets, the community and New Zealand have all benefited.