SEC elevates stature of FinHub

SEC elevates stature of FinHub innovation unit

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology is now a stand-alone division, giving newly minted director Valerie Szczepanik more influence

The Securities and Exchange Commission expanded the stature of its fintech innovation center, the Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology today by designating it as a stand-alone office within the SEC.

From its creation in 2018 until now the unit, better known as FinHub, had been under the control of the Division of Corporation Finance. Now it will report directly to the chairman of the SEC, Jay Clayton, who is departing at the end of the year.

Clayton said elevating FinHub to a stand-alone office “furthers our commitment to facilitate the introduction of new technologies for the benefit of investors and the efficiency and resiliency of our markets.”

Valerie Szczepanik, who has headed the innovation office since its inception, will continue to do so as its first director.

In announcing the elevation of FinHub, the SEC said the office has been spearheading agency efforts to encourage responsible innovation in the financial sector, including distributed ledger technology and digital assets, automated investment advice, digital marketplace financing, and artificial intelligence and machine learning.

On the cryptocurrency front, it has encouraged start-ups to work with it to prevent token issuers from having run-ins with securities legislation. Still, it has issued only a handful of “no-action letters” informing issuers that their tokens would not be treated as unregistered securities

Noting that the “scope and complexity of FinHub’s work has continued to evolve and expand as technology itself has evolved,” Szczepanik said elevating it to stand-alone status “will facilitate the agency’s agility and flexibility to work with market participants and regulators worldwide, and to encourage leading-edge innovation that will shape the intersection between the federal securities laws and technology.”

A bright future under Biden?

FinHub’s status is likely to expand with the transition of the SEC to a Democratic chairman next year.

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team charged with putting people and policy in place in securities regulation is led by a strong fintech advocate who is often mentioned as a prime candidate for the chairman’s job, former Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler.

For the last several years, Gensler has been a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and co-director of its Fintech@CSAIL, as well as senior advisor to the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative.

He is also a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Fintech Advisory Group.

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Ted Knutson is a veteran Washington financial reporter. Knutson does not own any cryptocurrencies.