The 12 Reserve Banks, including the St. Louis Fed, reach out to their districts in many ways. The most formal and enduring way is through their boards of directors. Periodically, the On the Economy blog will feature thoughts and experiences of former directors. The first post in this series is by Bob Jones, the chairman and CEO of Old National Bancorp who served on our board from 2008 to 2013.
One of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my 30+ years as a banker was serving as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis from 2008 to 2013, as well as a member of the Federal Advisory Committee of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 2007.
During my tenure, I was honored to serve alongside some incredibly talented and dedicated fellow directors from banking and business. Together, we brought a diversity of views, backgrounds and perspectives to the St. Louis Fed board table, while sharing a common belief that we could make our region and nation stronger.
As Chairman and CEO of Old National Bank, a $14.9 billion community bank that is literally headquartered on Main Street in Evansville, Ind., I was able to gather perspectives from Main Street America and bring those insights to the Federal Reserve Bank. Much like my fellow directors, I spoke frequently with business, community and political leaders to gain their feedback about economic issues and other topics that were germane to our regional Reserve Bank board.
Over time, many of these leaders began to seek me out, unsolicited, to offer their perspectives on the issues of the day. These discussions were invaluable to our board meeting discussions and to our Reserve Bank president in his role representing the Fed’s Eighth District on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in Washington.
Conversely, my fellow directors and I gained incredibly valuable insights and information from the board table that we took back to our communities. This is because the Fed’s regional structure creates a powerfully reciprocal relationship that strengthens both the Federal Reserve and our nation’s cities and towns.
As an example, fueled by the knowledge and insights I gained as a Reserve Bank director, Old National spearheaded the creation of the first “Bank On” program in the Midwest. Launched in 2009 through a partnership with local government, financial institutions, community organizations and the St. Louis Fed, Bank On Evansville was modeled after the Bank On San Francisco initiative that I learned about at the St. Louis Fed.
Featuring LMI-specific products geared toward serving the unbanked and underbanked populations, Bank On has been a tremendous success in Old National’s footprint. In the eight years since we introduced the program, Old National has been the catalyst in creating another 16 Bank On programs.
Our regional Reserve Bank boards play a crucial yet appropriately limited role in our Federal Reserve System. And the sincere commitment that these directors have to public service and furthering the Fed’s work of fostering a healthy economy and financial stability is invaluable. They bring a vibrant, vital voice and resource that help our regional Reserve Bank boards be the voice of Main Street.