Jonathan Hill is in no doubt as to the most important issue confronting the new commission - the economy. Hill says, "everything I do, I will look at through the prism of jobs and growth". The commissioner adds that, "I want the financial industry to be an instrument to serve the economy: ensuring that the right conditions are in place for that to happen is an important part of my job." Hill believes that "if this commission can deliver on its commitment to help create more jobs, growth and investment we can strengthen trust in the EU as a whole". This is something that is very important in addressing "low levels of public trust in government, politicians and businesses".
For Hill, the financial stability, financial services and capital markets union portfolio "goes to the very heart of the biggest challenges we face: how do we get sustainable economic growth?" The former leader of the UK's house of lords has "a very clear political objective: contributing to the commission’s collective agenda of encouraging jobs and growth through an effective, well-regulated financial system and a capital markets union".
"A key challenge is for us to strike the right balance between financial stability and jobs and growth: financial stability underpins jobs and growth, but zero risk means zero growth"
Building a "strong single market for capital for all 28 member states" is among Hill's priorities for the future. This will get capital moving "more easily around Europe so that it can be put to work in support of Europe's businesses - and particularly smaller businesses, our engines for growth." Many financial reforms have been agreed in the past few years aimed at addressing the economic crisis. Hill wants to ensure these are "actually implemented" and assess "what impact they are having on the ground".
Another concern for the commissioner is tackling "major sources of risk to financial stability". He says this requires the help of the co-legislators in "concluding existing dossiers which they are still grappling with, such as benchmarks or bank structural reform". Additionally, he says there is a need to be "alert to new sources of risk - for instance by looking at how we would cope if a major part of our financial infrastructure, like the central counterparties for derivatives trading, were to fail." The financial markets commissioner notes that, "A key challenge is for us to strike the right balance between financial stability and jobs and growth: financial stability underpins jobs and growth, but zero risk means zero growth".
The British commissioner acknowledges that the there is a disconnect between the EU and its citizens. Hill says, "Many people cannot see what they are getting out of the EU and they feel remote from it." He believes the single market in financial services has a role to play in demonstrating the benefits of Europe to citizens as it brings "more choice and lower prices for retail products"
In relation to the new commission structure, Hill says he is "a fan of the new arrangements" and "the new system is helping to provide focus". He believes "it is good to break down silos because there are obviously a number of issues to do with the economy and the role that our financial system plays in it that cut across to other areas". Work completed to date on the capital markets union illustrates the benefits of this team approach, according to Hill. While it is his role to "lead the work" on capital markets, he notes, "my colleagues with responsibility for insolvency and taxation need to be part of a common endeavour". Hill adds, "I strongly believe in acting as a team player and building consensus as a member of the college of commissioners."
The British official has high expectations for cooperation from the parliament and stresses the need to have "open channels of communication". Hill hopes his experience as the former leader of the UK's house of lords can help in this regard. Working without the support of parliamentary majorities, Hill recalls, "I am used to working across party and to building consensus". In particular, he identifies his wish to "cooperate closely" with the chair of parliament's economic and monetary affairs (ECON) committee Roberto Gualtieri, as well as with other relevant committees. Hill adds that, "I look forward to my first structured political dialogue with ECON on 24 March."
"I strongly believe in acting as a team player and building consensus as a member of the college [of commissioners]"
Some corners of the banking sector have said that reforms initiated by the EU aimed at addressing the economic crisis amount to a 'regulatory onslaught', a criticism Hill rejects. He says that these reforms "were essential to respond to the financial crisis and to restore financial stability" and acknowledges that “the parliament played an important part". "Where we need to reduce risks to financial stability in future we should not hesitate to act, and we shouldn’t listen to special pleading", Hill warns. However, he observes that "businesses need stability to be able to plan ahead" and is confident there "should no longer be a need for the volume of new legislation which the crisis necessitated". The priority for Hill now will be "implementation, enforcement, and evaluation" but if "evidence appears that we have not got the balance quite right between ensuring stability and creating growth, we should not be afraid to go back and change things".
Jonathan Hill is European financial stability, financial services and capital markets union commissioner