Is UBS banker John Fraser the right man to lead Treasury?

UBS banker John Fraser is set to return to Australia and replace Martin Parkinson as Treasury secretary. The Mandarin found economists approve of the pick.

A London-based executive of a scandal-plagued financial giant is set to become the nation’s next chief economist and most powerful bureaucrat. And The Mandarin could only find praise for the decision this morning.

John Fraser (pictured) heads the asset management group at Swiss bankers UBS. But he spent two decades in Canberra at the pointy end of Treasury and according to media reports will have unwanted Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson’s job by the end of the year.

The 63-year-old Monash-trained economist was Treasury’s point man in Washington under Paul Keating and become deputy secretary for a three-year stint in 1990. He then chased the obscene money in the private sector, joining the Swiss Bank Corporation in Australia which later merged with UBS.

Fraser was one of the few executives to keep his job in a post-GFC clean-out at UBS which came to the brink of collapse. He told The Australian earlier this year he was “appalled” at a series of scandals — the Swiss government had to bail out the bank after a series of missteps — and threatened to quit. “I resigned and gave my 12 months’ notice in August 2008 as I was so fed up with the whole situation,” he said.

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  • Darryl Gobbett

    Treasury needs a Secretary with high level business experience. John Fraser has that and the policy experience and representation of Australia at the very highest levels. The absence of the private sector experience and the understanding of what will be the impacts of policy decisions has been, in my view behind many of the recent fiascos and the shambles of financial services regulation. I worked in Treasury and PM&C for 9 years from the mid 70s and John is sorely needed in the top leadership role.