''I built a reputation for doing deals that other people thought were too hard,'' says Medcraft, 55, who took over as ASIC chairman from lawyer Tony D'Aloisio in May, after 27 years with French banking giant Societe Generale.

Those deals included putting together the first securitisation of non-mortgage assets outside the US in the late 1980s and the first securitisation of a credit card portfolio outside the US in the early 1990s.

''It's actually about getting things done, a bit of a can-do attitude and innovation,'' says Medcraft, who rose to be SocGen's global head of securitisation, managing $30 billion of assets. ''You start making progress where others stop - just because something doesn't exist doesn't mean it can't be done.''

Of course securitisation was one of the root causes of the global financial crisis but Medcraft says this is akin to blaming a car rather than the driver who crashed it. ''Securitisation technology has delivered a great deal for Australian consumers,'' he says, noting that it has increased competition in the mortgage market through non-bank lenders.

He timed his exit from investment banking perfectly, returning to Australia from New York at the end of 2006 so his young daughter could spend time with her grandparents.

In 1990, he'd made a similar, family-related decision, returning to Australia after a three-year stint with SocGen in Paris to help his dyslexic son.

Again, the timing was fortuitous, with European markets stagnating while he put together the securitisation of the David Jones credit card portfolio.

Medcraft insists his plan was to retire in 2007 and play more tennis but soon he'd accepted a part-time job as chief executive of the Australian Securitisation Forum and become mayor of inner-Sydney's Woollahra council, as well as doing some consulting work.

When he was headhunted to become an ASIC commissioner in 2009, he saw it as a challenge. As for the inevitable ''poacher turned gamekeeper'' comments, Medcraft says it's an advantage. ''I understand business, I understand markets - I'm really well equipped for this,'' he says.

The fact he's a chartered accountant and banker, and not a lawyer, has also raised eyebrows. ''Being a banker gave me enough law,'' he says, adding that on complex deals he would spend a lot of time with lawyers.

Medcraft says his focus as ASIC chairman will cover three broad areas: confident and well-informed investors; fair and efficient markets; and efficient registration and licensing.

In superannuation, he is keen to see improved transparency, including full disclosure to investors at the portfolio level of the fund's holdings. He also says ASIC's recently released consultation paper on scalable advice is a priority and applauds the move to develop standard risk measures for super investors.

''I want ASIC to be seen not just as a law-enforcement body but as focused on outcomes,'' he says.

THE BIG QUESTIONS

Biggest break Being able to go to [Melbourne] University for free in 1975; it basically changed my life. My father was a factory worker at Dunlop and I was the first ever on either side of my family to finish school.

Biggest achievement Personally, my family - my wife and three children [aged 6, 22 and 32]. In business, co-founding the American Securitisation Forum. It's really something, particularly being an Australian, to be elected by Wall Street as head of a trillion-dollar industry.

Biggest regret I've had a fabulous life actually, there's not much I regret. You've got to do the best with what you've got and celebrate the good things.

Best investment My houses in Paddington (inner Sydney). I have a home in Paddington and some other property (in Paddington, Byron Bay and New York).

Worst investment A hedge fund in New York that lost everything in the crisis. I took two years to invest because I was so conservative; I met the manager. But I only invested what I knew I could afford to lose (about 2 per cent of his net worth).

Attitude to money I'm a pretty conservative, risk-averse investor and I don't believe in living beyond your means. Being from a working class background, you want to get secure and once you're secure you've got to learn to enjoy what you have.

Personal philosophy I'm very much a glass half-full person. And I like my mother-in law's attitude: 'It's better to wear out than to rust out.'