BUENOS AIRES, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Career civil servant Alejandro Vanoli’s banking CV is thin and his staunch defense of reforms to ramp up state controls in the Argentine economy suggest he will be an unquestioning government ally in his new job as central bank chief.
The former markets watchdog chief, 53, brands himself as a “people’s economist” though he is far from a household name in Argentina and barely known in financial circles outside.
A professor in international finance, Vanoli has had stints in the economy ministry and as an advisor to the central bank. He is viewed as politically ambitious and keen to get into left-wing President Cristina Fernandez’s inner circle.
Unlike his predecessor, Juan Carlos Fabrega, he is not expected to resist the expansive fiscal policies of powerful Economy Minister Axel Kicillof despite rampant inflation, or to hike interest rates that are in negative territory.
“The whole point of him is to represent the government in the central bank,” said a local financial market source. “He is always doing what the government thinks has to be done.”
As CNV watchdog chief, Vanoli helped draft legislation giving the body more supervisory powers over listed companies.
Argentine stocks and bonds have fallen heavily in reaction to his appointment as investors fear he may deepen trade and currency controls as the government struggles to protect evaporating foreign reserves.
“The risk remains that recent monetary tightening will now be reversed, with disastrous consequences for the peso,” said Fiona Mackie, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
With the peso crashing through one all-time-low after another since Argentina defaulted on its foreign debt in July, Vanoli inherits a central bank with reserves covering just 4-1/2 months of imports.
Martin Redrado, who stepped down as central bank chief in 2010 after refusing the government’s calls to use reserves to pay debt, told a local broadcaster that Vanoli had little experience to deal with the challenges ahead.
“Throughout my mandate he was a paper-pusher,” he said. “He has not demonstrated any technical capacity that would allow him to earn the respect of central bank officials.”
‘NOT A STAR’
“Vanoli was a nice guy ... but he wasn’t a star,” said Alejo Costa, chief strategist at local bank Puente who took Vanoli’s classes more than a decade ago at the Buenos Aires University, where Kicillof also lectured.
A father-of-three, Vanoli has published a handful of books on international finance and taught classes throughout Argentina.
“Vanoli was part of the Fenix group of economics professors, who take a Keynesian view of the economy, whereas Kicillof was always more radical, more Marxist,” Costa said. “But during his time at the CNV, he seemed to be working more in line with the minister.”
In a sign that his views have become increasingly politicized, analysts said, Vanoli this week echoed Fernandez’s allegations that speculators were plotting the peso’s collapse.
In his last act as market regulator, Vanoli ordered an investigation into stock market maneuvers through which peso investments can be converted into dollars.
“There are concentrated economic interests that are trying to generate instability and a climate in financial markets that has nothing to do with the real economy,” he was widely quoted as saying in local media.
Investors will look to see how Vanoli tackles the peso’s decline.
He is thought unlikely to pressure the government to carry out another sharp devaluation, even though the spread between the official and black market exchange rates has widened to more than 80 percent.
“He will likely look to increase pressures on banks and foreign exchange houses to contain growing pressures on the currency,” said Daniel Kerner at Eurasia Group, adding this would likely only stoke demand on the black market.
Vanoli made the most headlines in his career telling state media last year that “publishing the black market rate is like publishing the daily price of cocaine.” (Editing by Richard Lough and Kieran Murray)