Jan 4, 2022 - Economy

Get ready for 2022's Fed

Illustration of dollar bills on a marionettes control device.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Get ready for new faces who could leave a mark on the economic recovery.

Where it stands: There are three open slots on the seven-seat Federal Reserve Board of Governors, plus openings for permanent heads at two regional Fed banks — all of which may be filled this year.

Why it matters: Fresh voices are coming at a delicate moment. The Fed is moving to choke off soaring inflation, teeing up this year for a pivot away from its ultra-easy money policies.

  • "The Fed faces what could be quite a lot of turnover relative to a normal year. Changing the mix with five — it's enough to influence debate on the Fed committee," UBS economist Jonathan Pingle tells Axios.

One important vacancy is the Fed's vice chair for supervision, its most influential bank cop.

  • Former Fed governor Sarah Bloom Raskin, who in recent years has called on financial regulators to do more to address climate change, is the leading candidate for that post, Axios' Hans Nichols reported last night.
  • "Regulatory policy is where I think you're going to see a really sharp shift," says Karen Petrou, co-founder of Federal Financial Analytics, a banking consulting firm.

The big picture: Fed watchers say new additions to the board may introduce a sea change for issues the central bank has started to be more outspoken about. Climate change is one, and a more inclusive definition of full employment — that factors in indicators like the Black unemployment rate — is another.

  • "I think you'll see more discussion of inclusive monetary policy, but whether we see actual inclusive monetary policy is much harder to predict," says Petrou.

For right now, it's a waiting game. The White House said it would appoint the three new Fed governors by the end of last year.

  • Even if announcements are imminent, they'll face "a bruising confirmation battle," in the Senate, says Ian Katz, a policy analyst at Capital Alpha. (Jerome Powell and Lael Brainard also need to be confirmed as chair and vice chair.)

It's also unclear when the Dallas and Boston Fed will get new leaders after their longtime presidents stepped down amid a trading scandal last year.

  • Regional banks hire search firms to help in the replacement hunt. Certain board members at the banks eventually work to appoint the president, subject to approval from Fed governors.
  • The Fed presidents "are ballasts for this ship when you have storms. They have a good ear to the ground about what's going on in the real economy," says William Nordhaus, an economist who served on the board of the Boston Fed.

How it works: Which regional Fed presidents get to vote on interest rate decision rotates every year.

  • Boston is among the four new voters, but another Fed president will sub in until a permanent leader of the bank is named. All 12 regional Fed presidents are involved in policy discussions (whether they vote or not).

Go deeper: What's next for the Fed on climate change

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