Dallas Fed seeks chief with PhD as search enters 8th month


by Ann Saphir

Source: Reuters

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is seeking a chief with a "direct, open and honest personality" and the scholarly chops to make his mark as U.S. central bankers near the critical decision of when and how fast to raise interest rates.

The ideal candidate, according to a job description provided to Reuters, will be "objective and pragmatic," have a "high emotional IQ and (be) capable of asserting a point of view and engaging intellectually with other colleagues to ensure the best decisions are reached."

He or she will be well-known in the world of economics, finance or banking, and will understand monetary policy and the financial services industry. A PhD, the bank said, is "highly desirable."

Most Fed policymakers from the chairman down have PhDs, lending their arguments intellectual heft as they debate the finer points of monetary policymaking when interest rates are near zero, as they have been since 2008.

Richard Fisher, who ran the Dallas Fed for 10 years until his retirement in March, was an outspoken policy hawk. He left without convincing his colleagues to raise rates, although most appear ready to do so later this year.

Fisher does not have a PhD. Twelve of the other 16 Fed policymakers do.

"Seems like the Dallas Fed wants someone very similar to Richard Fisher, PhD excluded," said Eric Stein, a portfolio manager for Boston-based Eaton Vance.

A PhD, of course, is no sure recipe for policymaker persuasiveness. The Minneapolis Fed, whose scholarly outgoing president has been unable to win converts to his very dovish views, does not include a PhD on its list of desirable attributes for a new chief.

The Dallas Fed hired search firm Heidrick & Struggles last November. Fisher had for months prior made no secret of his plans to leave the bank.

"I am surprised that the Dallas Fed hasn't chosen a new president yet," said Bob McTeer, who led the Dallas Fed before Richard Fisher. The post was vacant for about five months before Fisher filled it.

Typically, a regional Fed bank selects three top candidates to be interviewed by the Fed's Washington-based board, which usually signs off on the local board's top choice. It did so earlier this year when the Philadelphia Fed recommended Patrick Harker, who had been on the regional bank's own search committee. Sometimes it rejects the candidates.

It is not clear where in this process the Dallas Fed stands.

"The timeline is based upon finding the right person," James Hoard, a spokesman for the Dallas Fed, told Reuters. "The search is moving along fine ... These are important jobs so it’s important to conduct a thorough search."