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President's Message: Learning to Talk Fed-Speak


William Poole
Wednesday, April 1, 1998

It is a great honor to have been appointed president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis recently. I am keenly aware of all the responsibilities that come with this unique position, and I am eager to begin fulfilling them.

The Bank's most important responsibility is to exercise its vote at the monetary policy table. There is the literal table—the one in that imposing Board Room at the Board of Governors in Washington. Even more important, however, is the public debate table. The St. Louis Fed has had a major influence on the nation's monetary policy over the years because of the active role it has taken in both monetary policy and academic debates. The Federal Reserve System has a lot to be proud of, and the superb state of the current economy justifies a little crowing.

But the Fed's responsibilities are much broader than the policy process that determines the decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee. The central bank has overall responsibility for the smooth functioning of the nation's banking and payments system. Our aim is not to be noticed; if we are out of the news, you will know that we are doing our job well. The role of the Fed in the examination and supervision of banks, the handling of currency, the clearing of checks and the provision of other such services is vital to ensuring that banks are safe and sound and efficient. The Fed is a regulatory agency, but our aim is certainly not to make life difficult for banks. Rather, our goal is to provide oversight and necessary services so that banks themselves can give their customers what they need and want. We should always remember that, in our vigorously competitive economy, the interests of firms and consumers and regulators are essentially the same: High-quality products and services and enhanced efficiency yields benefits for all.

A Reserve Bank presidency is a highly visible position. That position carries with it special responsibilities in the community. As a new citizen of the Eighth Federal Reserve District, I will contribute wherever I can to improving economic education and promoting economic development throughout the region. I know that economic change often unearths many conflicting interests. Although the Fed has no legal responsibilities for local economic development, I believe it does have a responsibility to act as an honest, impartial broker in bringing people together to resolve policy disputes.

Those in positions of responsibility often talk of things that happen "on our watch." I will do my best to see that, on my watch as St. Louis Fed president, the Bank will continue to faithfully execute its duties, while acting as a leader by embracing and encouraging the innovation that will carry us into the financial world of the future.

(For a biographical sketch of William Poole, see the related story.)

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