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 the CFA Institute—and regulatory bodies, such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), all have boards of governors.

In the financial world, the best-known board of governors is that of the Federal Reserve, the U.S.’s central bank.

Key Takeaways

  • A board of governors is a group of people appointed to oversee an organization's operations, including financial matters.
  • The most well-known board of governors is the Federal Reserve, whose responsibilities include analyzing domestic and international economic developments and overseeing operations of the Federal Reserve Banks.
  • A board of directors, with roles similar to a board of governors, is an appointed group that oversees a corporation's business.
  • Most often, a board of governors is elected by shareholders of a company or upper management of an institution. In the case of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the President nominates the board and the Senate confirms them.
  • A competent and well-organized board of governors is seen as a key component of the success of an organization.

Understanding a Board of Governors

The U.S. central bank's board of governors is composed 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.

Only one governor can represent a Federal Reserve District.

Legally, appointments to the board are 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.

Duties of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors

The board of governors has seven of the 12 seats on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the body responsible for setting U.S. monetary policy. The current Federal Reserve Board only has six members, with one vacancy. 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.

Responsibilities

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 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. Also, they are responsible for supervising the work of the regional Fed banks, including approving budgets and appointing directors.

Chairs of the Board of Governors

The current Federal Reserve Chair is Jerome Powell. Recent, notable chairs of the Fed’s Board of 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 20 years and four presidential administrations.

There have been a total of 16 Chairs of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve of the United States.

Board of Governors vs. Board of Directors

Non-profit organizations, government divisions, and higher academic institutions typically have a board of governors, rather than a board of directors, as their governing body. Corporations, as required by law, have a board of directors appointed to oversee financial decisions and business operations.

Often, when two or more boards exist within an entity, the board of governors reigns supreme as the decision-making authority.

Board of Governors FAQs

How Many Governors Can Serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve?

A maximum of seven governors can serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Who Nominates and Confirms the Fed Board of Governors?

The governors of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve are nominated by the President of the United States of America and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Why Are the Fed Governors Appointed for Staggered 14-Year Terms?

The purpose of the staggered terms is to ensure stability and continuity over time."

Who Are the Current Board of Governors?

The members of the current Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve are Jerome H. Powell, Richard H. Clarida, Randal K. Quarles, Michelle W. Bowman, Lael Brainard, and Christopher J. Waller.

Who Is the Current Chair of the Federal Reserve?

The current chair of the Federal Reserve is Jerome H. Powell.

What Are the 12 Banks of the Federal Reserve?

The 12 banks of the Federal Reserve are the Federal Reserve Banks of San Francisco, Minneapolis, Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Boston, New York, Richmond, and Philadelphia.

The Bottom Line

A board of governors is a group of highly qualified individuals that are responsible for overseeing and managing an institution. Most institutions, from corporations to nonprofit organizations to media outlets to government bodies have a board of governors. The most well-known board of governors is that of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board.