The Ontario government has reached inward for the next leader of the Ontario Securities Commission, nominating the agency's executive director, Maureen Jensen, to replace departed chair Howard Wetston.
Ms. Jensen, a veteran of capital-markets regulation in Canada, is the first woman to be nominated as chair and chief executive officer of the OSC. Securities experts say they are unaware of any OSC chair who was appointed from within the agency's ranks, with prior chairs coming from the legal, financial or regulatory communities.
She may also be the last chair of the OSC. Ontario has agreed to join forces with the federal government and five other provinces and territories to create a new federal-provincial securities regulator, which will ultimately replace the OSC if the plan proceeds as hoped. The new regulator is not expected to launch until 2017 at the earliest, but its creation means Ms. Jensen could serve a short term in her new position.
That uncertainty may have influenced the province's decision to appoint an insider who is already established at the OSC. Ms. Jensen joined the OSC in 2011 and was previously a senior vice-president of surveillance and compliance at the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, Canada's brokerage-industry regulator.
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Ms. Jensen can see the OSC through the next period in its evolution.
"Ms. Jensen's leadership will ensure that the OSC will continue to operate efficiently and smoothly through a crucial period of modernizing Canada's capital-markets regulatory system," he said in a statement Tuesday.
One of Ms. Jensen's recent roles has been to head OSC's transition team planning the shift to the new regulatory system, known as the Cooperative Capital Markets Regulatory System. She was also prominent in creating the OSC's new disclosure rules for companies, which are aimed at promoting more women to boards of directors and in executive roles.
The OSC said Ms. Jensen will not comment on her new role until she is in the job. Her nomination must still be reviewed and confirmed by the Ontario government's Standing Committee on Government Agencies.
Prior to her role at IIROC, she was CEO of Market Regulation Services Inc., which oversaw trading on Canada's stock markets, and was a director at the Toronto Stock Exchange.
While most OSC heads have been securities lawyers, Ms. Jensen is a geologist by training. She held positions at several mining companies before her regulatory career, including serving as president of Noble Peak Resources Ltd.
Securities lawyer Kelley McKinnon, a former chief litigation counsel at the OSC, said any non-lawyer who heads the OSC has to rely heavily on the legal team for advice on key issues. But Ms. McKinnon said the OSC is also "filled with subject-matter experts" and needs a chair who has a good understanding of the bigger picture of market regulation.
She said Ms. Jensen "should be a steady-hand chair" and understands the complicated politics of regulation.
"Maureen has been in the law-enforcement and capital-markets regulation business a long time," Ms. McKinnon said. "I think she is quite savvy in the securities regulatory politics of Canada."
Securities lawyer Larry Ritchie, who was a vice-chair of the OSC from 2007 to 2014 before returning to Bay Street, said Ms. Jensen is respected as "an accomplished veteran" and will be a popular choice both within the OSC and in the investment community.
"Maureen has a welcoming personal demeanour and a unique depth of experience," Mr. Ritchie said. "Every one of us who has had the pleasure to work directly with her appreciates the undeniably high value she brought to the OSC when she joined a number of years ago."
Pamela Jeffery, founder of the Toronto-based Women's Executive Network, said she was delighted to see Ms. Jensen's appointment because of her commitment to promoting diversity at public companies.
Ms. Jeffery said Ms. Jensen will be a champion for the OSC's new diversity rules and may be willing to push regulations further if companies do not respond to voluntary standards.