John Williams was named Tuesday as the next president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, succeeding William Dudley. He brings with him monetary-policy chops, a long history at the central bank and some notable quirks.
Over the years, his public speeches have yielded a few key insights about the 55-year-old economist, who is taking over one of the most important roles in the global financial system.
The job carries a permanent vote on interest-rate decisions and traditionally the vice chairmanship of the Federal Open Market Committee; a direct line to Wall Street’s biggest banks and brokers; and a front-row seat among international bank regulators. Williams, who currently leads the Fed’s San Francisco bank, starts in New York on June 18.
1. Hard to Label
Though he was viewed as a monetary-policy dove in the early days of his seven-year tenure at San Francisco’s helm, Williams was more recently labeled hawkish: mid-2016 found him pushing for two or three rate increases (the Fed made one) and in mid-2015 he was calling for two (the Fed made one that year as well).
But his prescriptions were pretty consistent with what his colleagues were laying out in their quarterly economic projections, and that remains the case.
Williams is currently saying three to four quarter-point rate hikes would be appropriate this year, which would place him smack in the middle of the forecast range that officials updated in March. He always emphasizes the importance of being data-dependent, and his views shift slowly.
As you might expect of a centrist, Williams has never dissented from a Fed decision.
2. Fed Veteran
Williams has spent almost his entire career at the Fed, as the timeline below shows. Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen made him San Francisco’s research director when she was president of the regional bank, and he succeeded her into the top job in 2011.
He’s co-authored influential work with two of the most widely-cited researchers within the Fed system: Thomas Laubach, now director of the Fed Board’s monetary affairs division, and David Reifschneider, formerly Yellen’s personal economic adviser.
3. R-star and the Rethink
Fed officials have increasingly leaned on the concept of a “neutral” interest rate in their communications about their policy strategy.