SEC headquarters SEC headquarters in Washington. (Photo: Diego Radzinschi/ALM)

Fewer registered investment advisor exams will take place this year due to the government shutdown, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s exam unit said Monday.

“We’re still struggling to have good coverage in the IA space,” Pete Driscoll, director of the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, said at the Practising Law Institute’s SEC Speaks conference in Washington. He noted, however, that OCIE will be able to hire a couple of individuals this year to help in the advisor space.

“Our [advisor exam] numbers will be less this year because we lost 35 days” during the shutdown, Driscoll said, adding that OCIE will not hit the 17% exam rate reached last year.

OCIE, however, is “still pushing forward on our priorities.”

Cybersecurity will continue to be a focus for OCIE, specifically around the areas of governance and risk assessment and data loss prevention, and with an emphasis on cybersecurity measures of advisors with multiple branch offices.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton noted at the SEC Speaks event that for fiscal 2019, the agency’s current fiscal year, employee pay and benefits are expected to continue to account “for a significant portion of our appropriation.”

As a result of a hiring freeze, commission staffing is down more than 400 authorized positions compared with fiscal year 2016, Clayton said.

“To ensure we can continue to meet our mission objectives, the resources Congress provided the agency for fiscal year 2019 will allow us to lift the hiring freeze and add 100 much-needed positions. This would put our staffing level on par with where we were five years ago.”

Technology expenditures at the commission “have increased in total dollars and as a percentage of the total budget over the last five years,” Clayton stated, with this “a direct result of our commitment to maintaining and upgrading our information technology systems and enhancing the agency’s cybersecurity and risk management.”

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