The chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is the public face of the Federal Reserve Bank. Officially, the chairman is the active executive officer of the Federal Reserve Board. The main responsibility of the chairman is to carry out the mandate of the Fed, which is to promote the goals of maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates. The Fed is comprised of 12 Federal Reserve banks located in regions around the United States. The Banks of the Fed carry out the day-to-day operations and policies of the Fed.
Jerome Powell took over the role of chairman on February 5, 2018. He was nominated by President Trump in November 2017. Powell was previously a partner at The Carlyle Group, a private investment firm, and served as an Assistant Secretary and Undersecretary of the Treasury during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
The position of chairman was previously held by Janet Yellen, who took over the post in 2014 under President Obama.
Appointment of the Chairman
The chairman is picked from one of the seven members of the Board of Governors. As set forth in the Banking Act of 1935, the president appoints the seven members of the Board of Governors, who are then confirmed by the Senate. Members of the Fed serve staggered terms of 14 years and may not be removed for their policy opinions. The president nominates a chairman and vice chair, both of whom the Senate must also confirm. The chairman and vice chairman are appointed to four-year terms and can be reappointed, subject to term limitations.
Duties of the Chairman
By statute, the chairman testifies before Congress twice a year on issues that include the Fed’s monetary policy and objectives. The chairman also meets regularly with the secretary of the Treasury, who is a member of the president's Cabinet. One of the chairman's most important duties is to serve as the chair of the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC), which is critical in setting short-term U.S. monetary policy.
The Federal Open Markets Committee
The FOMC meets eight times a year and is comprised of the seven members of the Board of Governors, along with five reserve presidents of the Fed. The president of the New York reserve bank serves continuously, while the other four bank presidents rotate regularly.
The FOMC determines near-term monetary policy at its meetings. Its main monetary tools are the federal funds rate, the discount rate, and the buying and selling of government securities.
The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which member depository institutions lend each other money held at the Fed overnight. It is the key interest rate for the U.S. economy because it is the base rate that determines the level for all other interest rates. A higher federal funds rate makes it more expensive to borrow money.
The FOMC has kept the federal funds rate close to zero since the 2008 financial crisis to increase the monetary supply and help achieve the Fed's official mandate. The Fed has indicated in recent meetings that it is on track to raise the federal funds rate, probably in September 2015 or early in 2016. Any rise in the rate will be based on job growth and the overall health of the economy.
The discount rate is the interest rate charged to banks that receive loans from regional Federal Reserve Banks. It is also known as the discount window. There are three types of discount windows: primary credit, secondary credit and seasonal credit.
The FOMC also buys and sells government treasuries to increase and decrease the monetary supply as necessary. The Fed undertook the largest economic stimulus in history during the 2008 financial crisis by buying massive amounts of U.S. Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The program, called quantitative easing (QE), added around $3.5 trillion to the Fed’s balance sheet. This controversial program ended in 2014 after three large rounds of bond buying.