COMMENT: Jones picked to put HKEx's stamp on LME

Garry Jones, the London Metal Exchange’s new ceo, had a pre-prepared response to questions about his lack of metals experience: the revelation that he has a degree in geology from Oxford University.

Garry Jones, the London Metal Exchange’s new ceo, had a pre-prepared response to questions about his lack of metals experience: the revelation that he has a degree in geology from Oxford University.

This was a disarming reply: as a fact, it is easy to question its relevance. But it’s an effective quip that confidently and amiably says: "So what?"

Ahead of Jones’ appointment, there was some concern that a new ceo should bring an understanding of the metals industry and the inner workings of the LME.

That person would be able to draw on relationships in the metals trade, and provide some continuity for the LME under its ambitious new owner, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.

In the end, we have an exchange man, rather than a metals man. Jones was ceo at NYSE Liffe, head of strategy and development at Liffe, and ceo at  Brokertec Europe and ICAP Electronic Broking.

Geology degree notwithstanding, he may lack the vaunted metals experience, but this is a CV – and a hire – that speaks much more to the HKEx’s own designs for the LME than it does to a settled or traditional view of the LME, if there is such a thing.

Immediately, HKEx has to address the fraught issues in warehousing and complete the build-out of its own clearing house.

But in the longer term, it wants the LME to consider expansion into other asset classes. It wants to open up the LME to a hoped-for wave of new membership and business from China: one of the key elements in its pitch to buy the exchange.

And, ultimately, it wants the LME to be a vehicle for the transformation of HKEx into the pre-eminent hub for cross-border financial trading with China.

We note that Charles Li, HKEx ceo, said Jones was likely to play a pivotal role not just in the LME but for the development of the HKEx as a whole.

That this appointment puts the new owner’s stamp on a new era for a Hong Kong-controlled LME was underlined in a pointed way this week by the resignation of deputy ceo Diarmuid O’Hegarty, and later that of Liz Milan, md Asia.

With
the departure of former ceo Martin Abbott, business development executive Chris Evans, and now O’Hegarty, the LME is clearly losing a lot of knowledge and experience at the top of the organisation.

But it also means that a fresh new team can lead a revitalised approach to immediate problems, and look forward to what should be an exciting period of change and reorientation for the LME, its users, and its members under Asian ownership.

This being the metals community, Jones can’t expect an easy ride as he gets to grip with the industry. But as some of the comments shown in our Hotline story attest, he begins the job with a healthy dose of goodwill. 

editorial@metalbulletinasia.com

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