Economist Susan M. Collins Will Lead Boston Fed

Sara G. Norris

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has selected Susan M. Collins, a University of Michigan economist and administrator, as its new president — making her the first Black woman to lead a regional reserve bank in the Fed system’s 108-year history.

Ms. Collins, who is a provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the university, will be one of 12 regional reserve bank presidents within the Fed system and will vote on monetary policy in 2022.

Ms. Collins identifies as Jamaican-American, and she will add to the diversity of the Fed at a moment when it is moving away from its heavily white and male makeup in the past.

Lisa Cook, a Michigan State University economist who is also a Black woman, has been nominated as a Fed governor but has yet to be confirmed. Raphael Bostic, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta president, was the first Black person ever to lead a reserve bank.

Ms. Collins will start July 1, the Boston Fed said in its release, which will plunge her into the policy discussion at a challenging moment. Officials are trying to combat rapid price increases without choking off a robust economic rebound from the pandemic. Joblessness has fallen swiftly and wages are rising, though not quite enough to overcome the burst of inflation as supply chain issues spur shortages.

“I look forward to helping the Bank and System pursue the Fed’s dual mandate from Congress — achieving price stability and maximum employment,” Ms. Collins said in the Boston Fed’s prepared release.

Four regional central banks rotate in and out of rotating voting positions each year, while the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and members of the seven-seat Board of Governors in Washington hold a constant vote on monetary policy.

The Fed is expected to raise interest rates, its main policy tool, several times this year to slow borrowing and spending, cooling off demand.

Ms. Collins has had a wide-ranging economic career, including as a visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund and as a staff member at the Council of Economic Advisers during the George H.W. Bush administration. Much of her research has focused on international economics.

But she has at times spoken about monetary policy. In a 2015 article in The Detroit Free Press, she noted that it was difficult to be both reactive to incoming economic data and completely predictable. Locking in a preset pace of rate increases, she said, could set the market up for tumult if conditions changed.

“The Fed wants to avoid surprising the market,” she said in the article.

In a 2019 interview with Yahoo News, Ms. Collins said that the Fed should reassess how it was approaching the economy at a time when the link between unemployment and inflation was not as clear as expected.

“The Fed is not in the business of making dramatic changes” to how it operates outside of crises, Ms. Collins said, but she noted that the Fed could in the future think about raising its inflation target above 2 percent.

“Some of us think that being a little bit bolder there would be helpful,” she said.

That could be relevant now, at a time when the Fed is trying to set policy against a virus-stricken and uncertain backdrop. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, has emphasized that the central bank will be “humble” and “nimble.”

Ms. Collins was selected by directors on the Boston Fed’s board and approved by the Fed’s Board of Governors in Washington. Ms. Collins will replace Eric S. Rosengren, who retired as the Boston Fed’s president last year following a trading scandal, citing health concerns.

Ms. Collins has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


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