Is This the First Real Global Financial Leader Since Bretton Woods?

13/04/2012 09:00 BST | Updated 12/06/2012 10:12 BST

There is no doubt in my mind. This week in Washington I saw the most impressive performance of a financial policymaker since the crash began in 2007.

Infact I saw perhaps the most coherent articulation of global financial institutional reform since the post World War II Bretton Woods settlement.

Christine Lagarde's speech at the Brookings Institute was standing room only. I knew it would be so arrived extra early to get a seat and fight my way through the media scrum.

There are few people in financial policy who speak with candour and clarity. Largarde does so with her usual panache and only dodged one question on the upcoming French presidential poll. Fair enough.

She wanted the headlines from her speech to be about her call for the world's finance ministers at next week's annual IMF Spring Meeting to move decisively to strengthen the institution to get ahead of the crisis once and for all and to ensure sustainable and evenly distributed growth across the globe.

But this is no hagiography. While French finance minister she might have been more candid with her president to take the steps necessary to reform France's economy.

But, in this role, I believe Lagarde has been an inspired choice to take the big seat at the IMF. Rather than paying lip service to reforming the IMF to reflect the realities of the new global economic order - she has moved ahead appointed Chinese candidates into top roles.

She rightly used her speech to roundly condemn the continued lack of co-ordination around global financial reform from policymakers and regulators that continues to hold back growth opportunities. "The mission is yet to be accomplished" she said and she is so right.

But her compelling narrative for me is not one of international collectivism. She argued constantly in her remarks for 'country specific' activities to bolster growth and rebalancing.

No - her big idea was to call for a 'Washington moment' - like the 'London moment' at the G20 in April 2009 which created co-ordinated action on financial reform but allowed space for the needs of the individual nation state.

That idea is no less relevant now than it was three years ago.

World financial leaders have, as she defined it, some 'breathing space' to step up the necessary fiscal, monetary and supranational regulatory reforms.

With her comments this week Lagarde showed that vision in spades. I just hope those around the table in DC next week can do the same.

But Lagarde is showing she is the right person for the job in hand.