The person who is named to head the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. when its chairman and chief executive, Richard G. Ketchum, retires later this year is likely to have experience at the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to experts.
Mr. Ketchum plans to remain in office until the Finra board has chosen his successor, which he hopes will be sometime this summer.
Finra has become more closely linked to the SEC, which oversees Finra, both in regulatory philosophy and in personnel moves over the last few years.
“More and more the SEC and Finra have become connected at the hip,” said Todd Cipperman, principal at Cipperman Compliance Services. “It makes sense to have someone who knows how to interact with the SEC.”
Peter Chepucavage, general counsel at Worth Consulting Group, also sees this trend affecting choices for Finra's top position.
“My guess is that they would lean toward someone from the commission,” Mr. Chepucavage said. “The debate will be business experience versus SEC connections.”
Those mentioned as potential candidates for the top job who do have SEC experience include Robert L.D. Colby, chief legal officer at Finra and former deputy director of the SEC Division of Trading and Markets; J. Bradley Bennett, executive vice president of enforcement at Finra and a former SEC enforcement attorney; Stephen Luparello, director of the SEC Division of Trading and Markets and former Finra vice chairman; and Daniel Gallagher, president of Patomak Global Partners, a financial services consulting firm, and a former SEC commissioner.
Another candidate at Finra without SEC experience is Susan Axelrod, executive vice president of regulatory operations. Though she doesn't have a direct history with the SEC, Ms. Axelrod is seen as being in the running because she is a protégé of Mr. Ketchum's and has risen to a top position at Finra over her career.
Mr. Colby was circumspect about whether he is interested in a promotion to the top job at Finra.
“I wouldn't comment on that to my best friend,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
Leading Finra demands a combination of regulatory and market knowledge, management ability and political acumen.
“The single most important thing is having that superior understanding of the markets and the creative ability to problem solve and develop new ways of doing things in this marketplace,” said Linda Riefberg, a partner at Cozen O'Connor and a former Finra chief counsel.
Following the personable Mr. Ketchum, who spent almost his entire career as a regulator at the SEC, the National Association of Securities Dealers and Finra, will be a big challenge, she said.
“It takes people skills and it also takes sheer intelligence,” Ms. Riefberg said. “Among all of his abilities, Rick is most highly regarded for his intellect.”
It's unclear how long Mr. Ketchum will stay on the job.
“Getting the right person in place is more important than the timing,” Finra spokesman Ray Pellecchia said.