LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - British finance minister Philip Hammond has appointed HSBC’s chief European economist, Karen Ward, to advise him as the country prepares to leave the European Union, the finance ministry said on Saturday.
Ward’s new role as economic special advisor is an influential backroom position in British politics at a time when Hammond is considering how much to cushion the economic shock of June’s vote to leave the EU, and how far to protect Britain’s financial services sector in upcoming EU talks.
Previous people to hold a similar role include Ed Balls, who advised former prime minister Gordon Brown when he was finance minister, and went on to serve as a cabinet minister and then ran unsuccessfully to lead the Labour Party in 2010.
Ward joined HSBC as an economist in 2006 not long after leaving university, and first covered the British economy before tackling global central banking themes and then becoming the bank’s chief European economist late last year.
In June she was the lead author of an HSBC report which said Britain’s vote to leave the EU would act as a “major drag” on euro zone demand, as Britain was the destination for 13 percent of euro zone exports.
“Potential disruption to supply chains and a general cloud of uncertainty may also weigh on growth in trade, and in turn business investment,” the report said.
Hammond and other British ministers have said the EU has much to lose economically if it pursues a tough line in Brexit talks, though many economists have said Britain relies more on EU markets than the EU depends on Britain.
Ward also co-authored a report for HSBC in mid-2014 which argued that inflation in asset prices including housing was “increasingly rampant” in parts of the world, and that policymakers needed to stop bubbles developing.
The Bank of England has been at the forefront of so-called macroprudential measures - such as loan-to-value limits on mortgages - which the report said would allow central banks to keep interest rates low while restraining asset price inflation.
Unlike changes in interest rates, many of these measures needed regular government approval, the report said.
“This will further blur the distinction between central banks and governments. So far as they ever could, central banks can no longer ignore the wishes of their political masters,” Ward wrote with HSBC’s chief UK economist, Simon Wells.
British Prime Minister Theresa May made an unusually direct comment about BoE policy on Wednesday when she said ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing had bad side-effects. (Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Stephen Powell)