Jerome Powell sworn in as new US Federal Reserve chair

Former lawyer will be first Fed chief without extensive economics background since 1970s

Jerome Powell  takes the oath of office as he is sworn in as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve in Washington DC on Monday. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Jerome Powell takes the oath of office as he is sworn in as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve in Washington DC on Monday. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

 

Jerome Powell was sworn in on Monday as the US Federal Reserve’s 16th chairman.

Mr Powell (64) has been a serving Fed governor since 2012. A centrist on monetary policy, he is known as a pragmatic and down-to-earth official with private sector and government experience.

He studied politics at Princeton University, before earning a law degree from Georgetown University.

Mr Powell is a former partner at private equity firm Carlyle, while he also served in the treasury under former president George H W Bush in the 1990s.

Mr Powell’s predecessor Janet Yellen issued a statement congratulating Mr Powell at the time of his nomination, noting his “seriousness of purpose”.

The former lawyer will be the first Fed chair without an extensive background in economics since G William Miller in the late 1970s. He brings a background in financial markets, a contrast with Ms Yellen and her predecessor, Ben S Bernanke.

People who have worked with Mr Powell say he studied economics assiduously after joining the Fed, gathering stacks of papers on the questions of the day, then reading and discussing the findings with colleagues.

If we were to face another period where you need innovative and creative leadership, Jay has a lot of skills, and it could still go OK, but you’d like to add to those skills a lifetime of studying monetary policy

Jon Faust, a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University who worked with Mr Powell at the Fed, said he had endeavoured to understand monetary policy and had demonstrated a strong grasp of the subject.

Recession

But Mr Faust said it might be particularly important to have a trained economist as chairman if there was another recession.

“If the economy broadly behaves, I don’t think it’ll be of great consequence,” he said.

“If we were to face another period where you need innovative and creative leadership, Jay has a lot of skills, and it could still go OK, but you’d like to add to those skills a lifetime of studying monetary policy.”

Mr Powell, who regularly commutes to the Fed by bike, was born in the Washington DC area.

Married with three children, he worked at the treasury under Mr Bush before going to Carlyle. He joined the Fed’s board in 2012 after being nominated to the post by then president Barack Obama.

He is a Republican with deep roots in the party’s establishment and in the financial industry.

He has steadily supported Ms Yellen’s approach to monetary policy and financial regulation, creating an expectation that he would be unlikely to attempt large or sharp changes in the Fed’s course.

One White House official described Mr Powell as a “safe” choice as well as the candidate who most closely fits US president Donald Trump’s penchant for filling top jobs with characters from “central casting”, as he has often put it. – Agencies