China's chief securities regulator Guo Shuqing is tipped to move sideways to become the governor of Shandong province in a move likely to have an impact on the mainland's capital markets.
Guo is credited with a series of major reforms to revamp the country's arcane stock markets since he took office in late 2011.
But the move is also being seen as a step towards grooming him for a more important position in the hierarchy in the future.
A Beijing-based source said: "He is believed to be a favourite candidate by the top state leaders to lead the country's financial policies in the future. The new post is of benefit to his rise."
Government sources said Guo, the 57-year old chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), will take the helm soon in Shandong, a major agricultural and industrial base and one of the key growth engines for the mainland economy. The incumbent governor Jiang Daming , 60, will become the minister of land and resources, pending formal approval by the National People's Congress later this week.
The changes came as a surprise to many, as analysts believed the new leadership under Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang wanted to keep the financial and banking sector stable and would not introduce major changes this year.
This view seems to be vindicated by Beijing's decision to keep People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan , even though he reached retirement age.
The departure of Guo, who introduced many market-orientated reform measures as the head of the CSRC, might create some temporary uncertainties on the A-share market.
It will also create a domino effect as the leadership has to find a replacement for Guo. The moves will surely draw attention from domestic and overseas investors who are closely monitoring the new line-up of China's top financial regulators. Jiang Jianqing , head of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Xiao Gang , the Bank of China chairman, are the two possible candidates to succeed Guo to oversee the CSRC, the sources said. The CSRC could not be reached for comment.
The sources said Guo's transfer was designed to groom him for a more important position. In mainland politics, a rising star has to garner experience at both the central and regional level before being promoted.
Both the CSRC chairman and the Shandong governor are minister-level positions and the transfer will give Guo the necessary credentials to move up in the hierarchy.
One of the major policy changes introduced under Guo recently was the raising of the quota for the renminbi qualified foreign institutional investor (RQFII) scheme from 70 billion yuan (HK$86.5 billion) to 270 billion yuan.
It is a move that will attract capital inflows to the A-share market, while giving Hong Kong institutions a wider access to yuan-denominated A shares by raising offshore renminbi funds in the city.