The Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced Tuesday that economist John Williams will be its next president and chief executive officer, one of the top leadership roles at the Federal Reserve.
Williams, who has led the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank since 2011, will take control of the most prominent regional bank of the Fed. The New York Fed is unique among 12 regional Fed banks as it supervises Wall Street and buys and sells the Fed’s holdings when needed.
Williams has extensive experience in the Fed system. Before leading the San Francisco Fed, he was head of research there and a top staffer for former chair Janet Yellen.
Williams was chosen by a selection committee and does not require confirmation from the U.S. Senate. His selection has already been approved by the Federal Reserve.
Williams is seen as a close ally to current Fed chairman Jerome Powell, but his selection comes with an unusual amount of controversy.
Progressives, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, are upset the search committee is once again choosing a white man at a time when the Fed’s leadership is already 80 percent male and 87 percent white. Some on Wall Street are also concerned that Williams, a Stanford economist who has spent most of his career at the central bank, does not have enough experience with markets.
Williams will take over in New York on June 18.
The search committee hired a search firm, Bridge Partners, to help look for female and minority candidates, as well as candidates outside of the business world. The co-chairs said Tuesday that they narrowed a list of hundreds of candidates down to 30 qualified ones and that half of those were either women, minorities or both. They then narrowed that group down to 13 candidates, six of whom were not white men. Williams was the only white man in the final pool of three candidates.
The committee picked Williams because of his extensive knowledge of the Fed, his substantial contributions to research and his track record of community development and recruiting diverse staff at the San Francisco Fed, the co-chairs of the search committee said Tuesday.
“After a thorough process, my fellow search committee members and I felt that John best fulfilled the criteria we’d identified as well as the feedback we’d received through our public outreach efforts,” said Sara Horowitz, co-chair of the search committee and founder of the Freelancers Union.
Some outside observers applauded the selection.
“The choice of John Williams … represents a much needed economic ally for Chairman Powell,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “There is a need for diversity in the system. I don’t see Williams as a rejection of that as much as an embrace of the legacy and a level of continuity provided by Yellen.”
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