Gregg steps down as SIFMA leader after only 7 months

Former senator from New Hampshire cites need to cut down on travel, hectic schedule

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Dec 12, 2013 @ 2:03 pm (Updated 12:14 pm) EST

sifma, securities industry and financial markets association, bentsen, gregg
Short timer: Former Sen. Judd Gregg from New Hampshire steps down as CEO of SIFMA after seven months. Bloomberg News

The head of one of the leading Wall Street interest groups is stepping down after only seven months on the job.

Judd Gregg, chief executive of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, is leaving the group immediately, according to a SIFMA statement issued Thursday. He will be replaced by Kenneth E. Bentsen Jr., who was named president and CEO. Mr. Bentsen previously was SIFMA president. Mr. Gregg and Mr. Bentsen were originally appointed to lead the group in May.

Mr. Gregg, a former governor and senator from New Hampshire who will continue to work as a SIFMA senior adviser, said in a statement that his decision to depart "reflects my personal need to spend less time commuting to Washington from New Hampshire and slowing a hectic schedule."

Over the last couple weeks, Mr. Gregg was instrumental in launching SIFMA's campaign to convince the brokerage industry to put its clients' interests first. The initiative, which will include town hall meetings around the country, is designed to bolster the image of Wall Street with middle-class Americans who turned against it during the financial crisis.

In his role as senior adviser to the organization, Mr. Gregg, 66, will remain involved in the effort, according to Cheryl Crispen, SIFMA executive vice president for communications.

“He is going to continue to demonstrate the importance of capital markets to Main Street and to the economy,” Ms. Crispen said.

Although maintaining his home base in New Hampshire created a grinding commute every week to Washington and New York, it also has put Mr. Gregg in a position to return to the Senate.

Speculation started on Thursday that he is considering a race in 2014 against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

New Hampshire Republicans are not satisfied with the potential field shaping up against Ms. Shaheen, according to Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report. But she added that there is no indication that Mr. Gregg is considering running for office again.

“If Gregg does run, he would be a stronger candidate than Brown,” Ms. Duffy said. “He was a successful governor. He was a successful senator. He's well liked. They need a strong candidate there. [Ms. Shaheen] is not easy to beat.”

Mr. Bentsen, 54, a former member of Congress, ran SIFMA's legal, legislative and regulatory affairs operations as executive vice president of public policy and advocacy since 2009 before being appointed president in May.

His ascension to the top spot at SIFMA means that the organization will continue to be led by someone with deep experience on Capitol Hill and in Washington as regulators implement the financial reform law.

“It's a tried and true practice of many trade associations here inside the Beltway to make a veteran legislator the face of the organization,” said Duane Thompson, president of Potomac Strategies LLC.