Drawn to the public service after spending the early part of his career in the private sector, Ed Sibley joined the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2008, just weeks before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the financial crisis. For the last four years he has been at the Central Bank of Ireland where he was recently promoted to director of credit institutions supervision.
About Ed Sibley
Can you tell us a bit about your education and early career?
My main qualifications are a first class BA economics degree from the UK and an MBA from UCD Smurfit. I had a couple of full-time jobs before doing my economics degree, which I completed in 1997. From university I joined PwC, working in risk management solutions, initially in London and then moving to Dublin in 1999.
I was there for six years. It was a really good foundation for my career in terms of developing my business skills and confidence in dealing with a wide range of topics and circumstances. Working with very bright and highly committed people also influenced my work ethic longer term.
In 2003, I joined Bank of Ireland here in Dublin, initially in an internal audit role. After a couple of years I moved back to the UK and took up a risk and compliance role with the bank there.
What was the thinking behind doing the MBA?
A lot of people decide to do an MBA because they want a change. It’s a very serious qualification and will open up other opportunities and that’s the way I looked at it. I thought it would broaden me in terms of my knowledge and skill set, which it definitely did. But, fundamentally a large part of my decision was about wanting to change and to give myself more options to do different things.
What kind of change did it lead to?
I think I was reasonably successful at PwC and Bank of Ireland but I’d never been entirely satisfied with the value of the work I was doing. I finished the MBA in 2006 and moved to the UK shortly after that. I subsequently moved to the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which was a very conscious and considered change. The MBA absolutely contributed in terms of my ability to do that.
Tell us a bit about your time at the FSA
I joined in August 2008 and it was just before the Lehmans bankruptcy, the collapse of the Icelandic banking system, the Irish guarantee and the bailout of the UK banking system. I headed up our work on European banks at the height of the Eurozone crisis. It was an extraordinary period.
There were and continue to be huge economic and social costs associated with the crisis, and that is something we should never forget. For my own experience and learning and being able to make a contribution it was an incredible time to be there.
The organisation was going through a degree of change as a result of the failures it had experienced. That, together with all the issues we were dealing with, made it a really interesting time. I learnt a huge amount, more so than any other time in my career until then. And I’m very proud of what was achieved with the FSA.
What led to your move back to Ireland?
My wife is Irish and moving back here was very much driven by what was best for my family.
But there was only one place I was going to come to work. The Central Bank was the only place I wanted to work, and I wouldn’t have returned for any other job at that time. What we do in the Central Bank is really important and I find it very interesting and it appeals to the things that drive me.
Tell us about your roles at the Central Bank
When I first joined in 2012 I was responsible for the supervision of the domestic banks. We were halfway through the Troika programme, arrears were still going up, the banks were still vulnerable in terms of their own positions and the economy was still very much in recession. So there was a huge number of challenges for the State, for the Central Bank and the banks themselves. A lot has been achieved since then, but there is clearly more to be done.
In early 2014, I was promoted to head of division. We restructured banking supervision shortly after that and I took on responsibility for the day to day supervision of all the banks. The restructure was in response to the changes arising out of ‘Banking Union’, and the associated transfer of overall responsibility for banking supervision to the European Central Bank (ECB). We now operate as part of a wider, international mechanism – the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) – as part of the banking supervision within the Eurozone.
Earlier this year, I was promoted to director of credit institutions supervision. I’m now responsible for leading around 200 staff in the delivery of the supervision of all the banks operating in Ireland, including inspection and analytical work, and also the credit union sector, working with the registrar of credit unions.
How has your role changed?
My primary responsibilities now are really around making sure that we are supervising in an effective, intrusive and appropriate way and delivering the right supervisory outcomes for the banks and the credit unions. That’s what I am ultimately paid for, so that’s my primary focus.
We don’t operate in isolation so it’s also very much an international role. I’m in Frankfurt every two weeks or so, attending meetings at the ECB decision-making body and engaging with ECB staff and colleagues from other national central banks and supervisory bodies. I see being influential in a European context as a key part of my role, as it’s crucial to our delivery of the right supervisory outcomes. We also still have quite a lot of engagement with the likes of the International Monetary Fund, which I typically am heavily involved with.
The other part, and one of the things that really attracted me to the role, is as a member of the leadership team here. I’m now directly involved in the running of the bank. We are a people organisation: we’re dependent on the quality and capability and motivation of our people so that’s a critical part. We’ve learnt a lot of lessons and have moved on a great deal from the dark days of 2008 and we’re fundamentally a different organisation. The Central Bank is a great place to work, full of dedicated, intelligent, expert people driven by the public good. But we need to continue to improve and develop and I think I have a role to play in that as a member of the senior leadership team.
What are your main motivators?
What I’ve learnt from a work perspective is that being passionate and believing in what you do and spend time on is really important. Being able to believe in the aims and ambitions and ethos of the organisation you work for is vital. My role today really does match my drivers. The things that make me tick are working for societal or public good, doing something that I think is meaningful, and being able to continue to develop and learn and do interesting things.
When I moved out of industry and into the regulatory side I found something that I could really engage with and be proud of. And I think that’s made a real difference in how I’ve progressed. It’s more difficult to reach your potential if you don’t feel passionate about what you do. I have a degree of relentlessness about me in terms of wanting to improve things and wanting to be better myself. That, combined with the connection I feel with the Central Bank and what we do, is reasonably powerful.
What is your leadership style?
It’s one of the things I’ve spent a lot of time thinking on, working on and developing. I would certainly aspire to being focused on instilling a sense of purpose for people, as well as thinking about what we are trying to achieve for the future. It’s about really trying to elevate the meaning of our work: why it is important, why we are doing it, what we are hoping to achieve and where we are trying to get to.
That’s the aspirational piece. On a more practical level, I try to be pretty inclusive. I would hope I have an open style. I try to engage with people and take contributions but at the same time act decisively at the point when a decision needs to be made. Once a decision has been made I throw my focus and efforts into getting things done.
What are your tips or advice for success?
I think if you’re passionate about what you do, believe in what you do and try to continuously develop and improve what you do it’s a powerful combination. In the earlier part of my career I worked really hard and was reasonably successful. More recently, I’ve had much better connection with and have been a lot more passionate about what I do and have consequently been more successful, and, really importantly, happier. If you can connect with what drives you, whatever that might be, I think that’s a good recipe for success.
Who or what are your main influences?
It’s a bit of a cliché, but my father was and still is very driven, both professionally and in all that he does. He rarely sits still and whether that’s genetic or experience transferred, I think I’m very similar. Both my parents were and still are committed to public service and societal good and I think that’s also been influential in how I’ve wanted to spend my life.
From a more professional perspective, I’ve been really fortunate across a range of organisations and roles to have worked for and with some very good people, and some very different people and management and leadership styles. I am a bit of a magpie so I’ve tried to pick up and learn things from lots of different people and apply them myself.
What are your interests outside work?
I spend a lot of time working, so when I’m not working I try to focus as much as I can on my family. So family comes first. When I do have time, I love sports. I have relatively recently accepted that I’m no longer in the first flush of youth and have stopped playing football to any serious level, but I do continue to watch and support my local club in the UK – Southampton – when I get the chance. I love cricket and I’ve just taken up running in the last year, which I’m just about enjoying. It’s keeping me fitter than I would otherwise be since I stopped playing competitive sports.
I’m also involved with the charity ALONE, which is very rewarding and I’m very proud to be associated with it.
Any plans for the future that you want to share?
I’ve never had a five-year plan. I’m not one to think in that way. But from a work perspective, I’m really committed to the Central Bank and I hope to be here for many years. Our plans for the future are to continue to improve what we do and how we do it.