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Irish Financial Watchdog Matthew Elderfield to Exit Central Bank

Irish Central Bank Deputy Governor Matthew Elderfield, who presided over the overhaul of the nation’s failed banking system, will depart in six months.

Elderfield, who joined the bank in 2010, will to return to the U.K. to pursue other interests, the Dublin-based central bank said in a statement today, without giving additional details. The 47 year-old British national declined a request for comment on his departure and future plans.

“Although it was always evident to me that we were very likely to have Matthew with us for only a few years, it is sad that this period is now drawing to a close,” Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan said in the statement. Elderfield, who is paid an annual salary of 340,000 euros ($443,000) waived his 100,000-euro bonus entitlement at the end of his employment.

Along with Honohan, Elderfield oversaw the reconstruction of the Irish financial system after the collapse of a real estate bubble blew it apart. He led two rounds of stress tests of the nation’s lenders, requiring taxpayers to commit as much as 64 billion euros of capital to banks. On his watch, the state took over five of the six biggest domestic lenders, which are still grappling with the legacy of the crisis.

‘Decent Stint’

“He is leaving the Irish banking system in a more stable and better-regulated position, even though it still has significant problems,” said Dermot O’Leary, chief economist at Dublin-based Goodbody Stockbrokers. “I’m not overly surprised that he’s leaving now, having done a decent stint over the last three years.”

Some 25 percent of all Irish mortgages have been restructured or were in arrears at the end of last year. Irish home prices have halved since their peak in 2007, according to the country’s statistics office.

Honohan tapped Elderfield as head of financial supervision, as holes in regulation were exposed by plunging property prices. He had served as chief executive officer of the Bermuda Monetary Authority between 2007 and 2009 and previously spent eight years at the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority.

Elderfield also oversaw the administration of Quinn Insurance Ltd., the insurance arm of the former cement-to-hotels empire of Sean Quinn, the nation’s one-time richest man. The hole in Quinn Insurance’s book is estimated to be as much as 1.65 billion euros, according to the central bank.

“A lot of cleaning up has been done since he joined,” said O’Leary at Goodbody. “They’re probably going to look in-house for a replacement, to find someone who has inside knowledge of the culture that’s been developed in the central bank over the last few years.”

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