Mary Schapiro, a registered independent voter who has chaired the Securities and Exchange Commission since January 2009, is stepping down on 14 December.
She will be replaced by Elisse Walter, who has sat on the SEC board since 2008 and whose own term is due to end next year.
Walter served a short spell as interim chairman before Schapiro was appointed during the depths of the banking crisis.
“The SEC is stronger, and our financial system is safer and better able to serve the American people – thanks in large part to Mary’s hard work,” President Barack Obama said yesterday.
Speculation had been rife for months that Schapiro would leave soon after the November presidential election.
Walter, a Harvard law graduate with decades of regulatory experience, takes the reins as the SEC grapples with a raft of new rules in the wake of the Dodd-Frank Act to separate investment and retail banking operations.
The SEC, which came under fire for its handling of the crisis sparked by Lehman Brothers’ collapse in 2008, has logged record numbers of enforcement actions in recent years as it attempts to clean up the financial sector.
The SEC’s five commissioners are appointed by the President for five-year terms. No more than three commissioners can belong to the same political party, to try and keep the regulator non-partisan.