What Is a Board of Governors?

A board of governors is a group of people that oversees or manages the running of an institution. The U.S. Postal Service, the BBC, the World Bank, numerous colleges and universities, as well as professional organizations such as CFA Institute and regulatory bodies such as Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) all have boards of governors.

Understanding a Board of Governors

In the financial world, the best-known board of governors is that of the Federal Reserve. The U.S. central bank's board of governors is comprised of seven individuals who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Members of the board of governors serve 14-year terms, running on a staggered basis to ensure continuity. Appointments to the board are supposed to consist of a "fair representation of the financial, agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests and geographical divisions of the country.” In practice, appointments have predominantly been of academics and former banking professionals.

The board of governors is a group responsible for overseeing the running of an institution.

Duties of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors

The Federal Reserve Board analyzes domestic and international economic developments, supervises and regulates the operations of the Federal Reserve Banks, has responsibility for America's payments system, and oversees and administers most consumer credit protection laws. The board of governors has seven of the 12 seats on the Federal Open Market Committee, which determines U.S. monetary policy. The board alone has authority over changes in reserve requirements, and it must approve any change in the discount rate initiated by a Federal Reserve Bank.

Members of the board frequently testify before congressional committees on the economy, monetary policy, banking supervision and regulation, consumer credit protection and financial markets. In addition, they are responsible for supervising the work of the regional Fed banks, including approving budgets and appointing directors.

Members of the Fed’s board of governors sit on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the body responsible for setting out U.S. monetary policy. The presidents of five of the 12 regional reserve banks make up the remaining members of the FOMC. The Chair of the Fed’s board of governors is responsible for chairing the FOMC.

Recent notable chairs of the Fed’s board have governors include: Janet Yellen, the first female chair to be appointed, who served from 2014-2018; Ben Bernanke, who led the Fed from 2006-2014, overseeing a range of unconventional monetary policy actions to address the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the recession that followed; and, Alan Greenspan, whose time as chair spanned nearly 30 years and four presidential administrations.

Key Takeaways

  • Many organizations have a board of governors including the post office and the World Bank.
  • The most well-known board of governors is the Federal Reserve.