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SEC’s Exam Priorities: Stronger Focus on Digital Assets, Less on Robos

By Alex Padalka December 28, 2018

The SEC’s examiners will focus next year on areas similar to those they had set out for 2018’s exam priorities: cryptocurrencies and other digital assets; cybersecurity; and issues affecting retail investors, such as fees, expenses and conflicts of interest, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations says in a press release.

Yet the watchdog’s wording has changed. Last year the regulator broke out “developments in cryptocurrency, initial coin offerings” in its press release, while this year the regulator groups them together as “digital assets.”

The OCIE has also added digital assets as the sixth category this year, but while they didn’t get their own category in the 2018 exam priorities, the SEC had clearly set out to keep tabs on cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, secondary market trading and blockchain in the full description of its exam priorities.

In addition, the SEC has removed robo-advisors from its exam priorities, as they no longer make an appearance in the full description as they had in the 2018 priorities.


Overall, however, the SEC’s examiners will maintain diligence on compliance and risks in critical market infrastructure; protecting retail investors, particularly the elderly, with a focus on expenses and fees and supervision of sales by registered representatives; oversight of Finra and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board; cybersecurity issues, including appropriate polices and procedures; and anti-money laundering programs, the SEC says.