Mark Kim named MSRB CEO

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After a year-long candidate search, Mark Kim will be the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s new chief executive officer.

Kim, MSRB’s current chief operating officer, will start his new leadership position on Thursday. The MSRB announced the decision Tuesday, filling the vacancy created when longtime chief Lynnette Kelly stepped down almost exactly one year ago.

Mark Kim was named MSRB CEO on Tuesday.

“At a volatile time for our market and our country as a whole, Mark has consistently impressed the board with his creative and compassionate leadership and his understanding of the evolving needs of our internal and external stakeholders,” said Bill Fitzgerald, chair of the MSRB’s CEO search special committee.

Kim said he plans to advance specific initiatives in his new role, such as improving MSRB’s technology to strengthen its data collection efforts, while continuing the regulator's core function to protect issuers and investors.

“As incoming CEO of the MSRB, one of my top priorities is to advance the mission of this organization,” Kim said. “Our congressional mandate is to regulate broker-dealers and municipal advisors and to protect issuers and investors. These are our core stakeholders.”

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton praised Kim's collaboration with the SEC in a statement provided Tuesday.

“The MSRB has made significant progress in advancing governance, accountability and transparency initiatives," said Clayton. I am grateful for Mark’s continuing commitment to the partnership with the Commission’s Office of Municipal Securities on key transparency initiatives in order to advance investor protection in this important segment of our markets.”

The pandemic slowed the board’s search, hampering in-person interviews and causing the MSRB to momentarily pause the search.

The CEO special search committee cast a wide net, looking for a candidate with leadership experience, knowing how to manage organizations, as well as experience in the regulatory process and knowledge of data systems and information technology, Fitzgerald said.

The MSRB hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart as part of the effort.

“We wanted candidates that had knowledge of the fixed income markets and we were interested in candidates that had some experience in managing meaningful and significant technology projects,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re in the midst of advancing our technology that underscores the EMMA (Electronic Municipal Market Access) system and provides disclosure data to the marketplace. That is an important initiative for us, so we were looking for that as another characteristic for our next leader. Mark’s qualifications fit very nicely with this criteria.”

Kim joined the MSRB as a board member in 2015 and became chief operating officer in 2017. He led market transparency initiatives like migrating the MSRB’s EMMA system to the cloud, which will make it easier for the MSRB to access and analyze market data.

Before coming to the MSRB, Kim was chief financial officer for the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, he was deputy comptroller for New York City and an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, UBS and Fidelity Capital Markets.

At DC Water, Kim received the Washington Metropolitan Area chapter of the Government Finance Officers Association’s Excellence in Government Finance Award in 2014 and 2016. DC Water also won The Bond Buyer’s Northeast Deal of the Year Award in 2014 and Non-Traditional Deal of the Year Award in 2016 while he was CFO.

The 2014 Bond Buyer award was for a $350 million century bond offering, marking the first sale of a century bond by a water and sewer utility and the first independently certified green bond sold in the U.S.

Tim Firestine, the former chief administrative officer of Montgomery County, Maryland, served on the board of DC Water during Kim's time as CFO. Firestine said when Kim brought up the idea of a 100-year bond, Firestine was not keen on it.

“When he first brought that to me, I think I almost threw up on it,” Firestine said. “A hundred years, I was like Mark what are you talking about?”

But Kim did his homework, Firestine said, and helped the board members understand what Kim wanted to accomplish.

“He wasn’t afraid to take on a challenge and patiently educate me and the rest of the board,” Firestine said. “To accomplish that at the short amount of time he was at DC Water was pretty amazing.”

In 2016, DC Water won The Bond Buyer Deal of the Year Award for its $25 million issuance of the nation’s first Environmental Impact Bonds. The proceeds financed its green infrastructure program.

Kim was also on the GFOA’s debt committee, where he played a key part in discussions about best practices in governmental debt management.

In his first year in the top job, Kim said he plans to modernize the MSRB’s rulebook under its 2012 retrospective rule review. In the past, the board has named certain rules every year for review, so this would be a new approach looking at the guidance more broadly.

Kim also wants to improve the MSRB’s technology systems, noting that the organization recently migrated all of its market transparency systems to the cloud.

“It was a seamless transition with zero system downtime,” Kim said. “It was a major complex initiative that was brought on time and on budget. What this investment has allowed us to do is to focus this next year on modernizing our systems and reengineering all of those core market transparency systems to take advantage of cloud computing.”

Kim received a Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University, a J.D. from Cornell Law School and a B.A. from Northwestern University.

Since last year, five senior officials have left the organization, including former President and CEO Kelly. Kelly occupied that position for 12 years.

Former MSRB Chair Gary Hall said the board did not make Kim interim CEO when Kelly left in order to be transparent. Hall’s term ended shortly after Kelly left in August 2019.

“I have always been a big fan of Mark,” Hall said. “I thought he did some incredible things for the MSRB during my tenure. The transformation and migration of data centers to the cloud was something he shepherded and it look a lot of intricate financing to get it done and he did it with a tremendous amount of professionalism, but seamlessness as well.”

Late in 2019, the MSRB retained Spencer Stuart to reach out to prominent muni market figures to gauge the MSRB’s current standing. In January, the board released information on the qualifications it seeks in a new CEO.

The MSRB will publish its annual budget on Oct. 1. MSRB Chief Financial Officer Nanette Lawson said they plan to keep an eye on its reserves, noting earlier this year’s market volatility.

“We want to ensure we have enough in reserves to manage market uncertainty and continue to fulfill our mission and regulating the market, but we also want to be careful stewards of regulated members who fund us,” Lawson said. “Industry funding is something we keep a close eye on. I think about it regularly as does the board.”

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MSRB Career moves Washington DC EMMA