Outside FINRA office in New York. (Photo: Ron Pechtimaldjian, ThinkAdvisor)

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced Monday that Robert Cook, former director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Trading & Markets, has been named by FINRA’s Board as the self-regulator’s new president and CEO, replacing Richard Ketchum.

Cook, who will join FINRA next month, hails from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, where he has served as a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC, office since June 2013. While at Cleary Gottlieb, Cook has focused on the regulation of securities markets and market intermediaries, including broker-dealers, exchanges, alternative trading systems and clearing agencies.

FINRA said that its Board intends to name a new chairman in the coming months.

“Having known and worked alongside Robert for several years, I know that he brings extensive expertise as one of the leading practitioners on broker-dealer and market regulation, as well as proven regulatory and leadership experience,” said Ketchum, who stated at FINRA’s annual conference in late May that his successor would likely be named in June. “Robert’s appointment is the result of the Board’s careful and thorough search process to identify the right leader to carry on FINRA’s important role of educating and protecting investors in the years ahead. It has been my honor and privilege to lead this extraordinary organization.”

Cook noted in the same statement that he looks “forward to building on Rick’s many years of excellent work and collaborating with FINRA’s Board, members and other stakeholders to strengthen investor protections, promote market integrity and enhance FINRA’s core competencies of examinations, enforcement, rulemaking, market transparency and market surveillance.”

While serving as head of trading and markets at the SEC from 2010 to 2013, Cook also directed the staff’s review of equity market structure and its analysis of the Flash Crash of May 6, 2010. Prior to joining the SEC, Cook served as a partner at Cleary Gottlieb since 2001, and joined the firm in 1992.

SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White noted in a Monday statement that Cook served the SEC “with great distinction, advancing a wide range of important initiatives that included significant enhancements to U.S. equity market structure. I have no doubt that Robert will be a tremendous leader for FINRA, and I look forward to working with him to further strengthen our markets and protect investors.”

Former SEC executives applauded FINRA’s choice of Cook as the new CEO.

“I think it is a brilliant choice,” former SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher, who’s now president of Patomak Global Partners, told ThinkAdvisor in an email. “Robert is one of the best minds in the securities space. He is thoughtful, careful, and incredibly hard working. He’s the whole package.”

Steve Crimmins, who served for eight years as the SEC’s deputy chief litigation counsel and is now with the law firm Murphy & McGonicle in Washington, told ThinkAdvisor that FINRA has made “a terrific move in picking Robert Cook as its new leader. He has the deep technical knowledge and experience needed to succeed in this critical position for our markets. And securities lawyers on both sides of the table will find him smart and fair-minded.”

During his years of private practice, Cook worked extensively on broker-dealer regulatory matters, advising large and small firms on a wide range of compliance questions.

He graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in Social Studies in 1988 from Harvard College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received his Master of Science with distinction in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the London School of Economics in 1989, and received his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1992.