ECONversations Special Edition: Selecting a Reserve Bank President - October 6, 2016

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis P. Lockhart will step down from his position on February 28, 2017. The Atlanta Fed's board of directors has launched a nationwide search to find the next president.

During a special ECONversations webcast on October 6, Tom Fanning, chair of the Atlanta Fed's board of directors as well as the Bank's presidential search committee, joined John Harpole from Spencer Stuart, the executive search firm assisting in the process, in explaining the selection process.  Mike Chriszt, vice president and head of the Bank's Public Affairs Department, moderated the discussion.

Fanning detailed various ways this presidential search is setting new standards for transparency. For example, the Bank built a
web page detailing the search, through which the public can submit candidate names.

Fanning and Harpole said the Bank is seeking an accomplished executive or academic with a powerful intellect, an appreciation for monetary policy's effects on the real economy, humility, strong leadership skills, the ability to listen, and the desire to communicate publicly about the Federal Reserve. While the position of Reserve Bank president is prestigious, it is foremost about public service, and not self-aggrandizement, Fanning explained. Fanning and Harpole also stressed the importance of the Fed's independence within government. "The Federal Reserve is assiduously apolitical," noted Fanning.

Finally, ensuring the candidate pool is diverse is a must for the search committee. "Diversity leads to better vision, courage, and outcomes," Fanning explained. Spencer Stuart brings a solid record to that pursuit. Fully a third of the senior executives the firm has placed in the financial services industry are minorities or women, said Harpole.

Questions and Answers

The following additional questions were submitted during the live webcast, but time did not permit a reply. We offer responses here.

Do you believe that monetary policy won't adequately weight the special concerns of minority communities without diversity in the Federal Reserve System?

The Federal Reserve is committed to ensuring that all communities benefit from our efforts to ensure price stability and maximum employment. The System's community and economic development function, with offices in all 12 Reserve Banks and at the Board of Governors, focuses specifically on the conditions in low- and moderate-income communities. Information gathered through these contacts, along with views from our directors and advisory groups, is shared with the Bank's president in preparation for meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee.

That said, many Fed officials, including Chair Janet Yellen, have acknowledged that the Federal Reserve System would benefit from greater leadership diversity.

Do you have a special opportunity to appoint a person of color given Atlanta's talent pool?

While the Atlanta Fed is conducting a national search, we recognize that Atlanta has a rich history of diversity and leadership talent.  As Tom Fanning, our board chair, has said, the search committee's goal is to identify the best candidate, irrespective of location.

Should candidates have experience with and exposure to labor market conditions in the region, and is familiarity with economic disparities by race a consideration in your search?

Yes. We expect the incoming president to gather insightful, anecdotal regional economic intelligence, including labor market conditions and data on economic disparities, to inform Fed policy decisions.

Would you consider appointing someone as young as age 35?

We are seeking the best candidate according to the criteria we have outlined above. There is no predetermined minimum age requirement.

What other aspects of the search process will be made public before the final decision is made?

We have committed to respecting the privacy of our candidates as the search process unfolds. Therefore, we do not expect to make further public announcements before the appointment is final.

Does the Atlanta Fed have a succession plan?

The Atlanta Fed's nationwide search process, as outlined in the webcast, represents our succession plan.

How do the Class B and Class C directors ultimately decide on a final candidate—by vote or by consensus? Will there be a public record of any dissents?

The search committee will determine the final candidate by consensus. There will not be a formal public record of a vote.

Will I receive an acknowledgment of my interest?

As noted on the website, we are not responding to all comments received. For those submitting recommendations or personal interest in the role, we're forwarding all names to our executive search firm, Spencer Stuart, for proper vetting.

What is the Bank's leadership structure?

In addition to President and CEO Dennis Lockhart and First Vice President and COO Marie Gooding, the Atlanta Fed is organized under the following functional areas, with leaders identified for each area: frbatlanta.org/about/atlantafed/officers

What standards has President Lockhart established that you would like to see continued by the next president?

President Dennis Lockhart has set an extraordinarily high standard in terms of monetary policy and economic research expertise, public outreach, regional economic intelligence, and overall organizational excellence across all six offices in the Atlanta Fed district. The search committee would like to appoint a successor who will continue these rich traditions.