Michael Faulkner looks at the task ahead for the claims watchdog

Former ABI director general Mark Boleat has his fingers in many pies. Not literally, of course, but metaphorically. A non-executive director of St Paul Travelers, the head of a trade association representing gangmasters, and a member of the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission, to name but a few posts.

And now he'll have one more pie in which to plunge an appendage. I refer, of course, to him being the man handed the (poisoned?) chalice of claims management industry regulator.

Despite the fact that the DCA kept the appointee's name under wraps until last week, it was one of the worst kept secrets in Westminster.

"Has it been announced it yet?" Lord Hunt of Wirral asked Boleat in the House of Lords two weeks ago. "Not yet," replied Boleat in hushed tones (but it was a small room, so ears were in shot).

"Well it's a good job no one from the DCA heard me," Lord Hunt said - Janet Howe from the DCA had yet to arrive.

It comes as no surprise that Boleat will be the claims regulator. Following his work on assessing the suitability of the Claims Standards Council for that role, he knows more about the claims farming industry than most. He also knows a lot about regulation.

"Regulation is often seen as the solution. But the design of the regulations is vital.

It is important not to rush things," was the opening gambit of his brisk speech.

And rush things the DCA won't. While the Compensation Bill sped through parliament, with a swift amendment relating to mesothelioma claims, it only sets out a high-level framework for the regulation.

The substantive rules will be set in secondary legislation and a code of practice, which are being consulted on a present.

The major problem is that no one knows how many claims management firms there are or how many will apply for authorisation. "It could be 50, it could be 5,000," said Boleat.

So the regulator will need to be flexible enough to cope with whatever the level of demand is for its ‘services'. Boleat insisted that it would be able to "upsize or downsize" to reflect the number of firms regulated.

So how will the success of the new regulator be determined? Boleat is blunt: "Quantifiable targets will always be met." In his opinion the test will be whether the new regime stamps out misleading marketing, ends unsolicited approaches of people on the street, and creates total transparency "so claims are run for consumers' benefit".

Boleat admits that the claims management company sector is already plagued by "extensive malpractice", so it seems he will have his work cut out. Bon chance...