British lawyer and former Securities and Futures Commission executive director Ashley Alder is likely to be named the next chief executive of the securities watchdog, according to at least one media report. Alder, the Asia head of the international law firm Herbert Smith in Hong Kong, would replace Martin Wheatley, who left the city last month to take up another regulatory job in London in September. The Financial Times reported yesterday that Alder's appointment would be announced on Monday. The SFC would not comment on the matter and Alder did not return a phone call or an e-mail. 'We do not comment on speculative reports,' a spokesman for the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said. 'We will announce the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer at the appropriate time.' On the Herbert Smith website, Alder is listed as its head of Asia and based in Hong Kong. He joined Herbert Smith in London after he received his Masters of Law with first-class honours from Cambridge University in 1983 and was admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales. He arrived in Hong Kong in 1989. Alder is no stranger to the SFC. He was SFC's executive director of corporate finance from October 2001 to 2004 before he rejoined Herbert Smith to again focus on mergers and acquisitions. In his three-year term at the SFC, Alder was responsible for key listed-company regulation, the takeovers code and the regulation of sponsors. He has also called for closer ties with the China Securities Regulatory Commission on corporate governance issues. 'The mainland challenge is something we need to get to grips with pretty quickly. We need to work out what Hong Kong really is,' he said in 2002. His move to immediately rejoin Herbert Smith after leaving the SFC led to criticisms from legislators that he could have potential conflicts of interest. The SFC bans departing executives from working for regulated institutions within six months of leaving. But Alder received permission to join the law firm immediately by giving an assurance he would not handle client cases connected to the SFC for six months. Chim Pui-chung, legislator for the financial services sector, said he would like to see Alder adopt a fair approach with both large and small investors. 'What Mr Alder needs to address is investor protection issues, such as HSBC's retail version of a dark pool, which may hurt retail investors' interests,' he said. 'He should add regulation to these new market innovations.' Former SFC chief executive Wheatley has said he wanted to see tougher regulations on sponsors since some new listings were of poor quality. Ben Kwong Man-bun, chief operating officer of KGI Asia, said Alder would need to handle the regulation of dark pools, listing sponsors and hedge funds in order to enhance market quality.