One of the great privileges in my business career has been to serve for the past six years on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Jacksonville Branch.
During this time, our U.S. economy has held up and performed admirably despite having dealt with the Asian flu, the Internet bubble, the 9-11 crisis, and Y2K. Having had a front row seat for all of these events and many more has given me a rare insight into the incredibly impressive role the FED plays into our daily personal and professional lives.
The Federal Reserve System might be one of the last vestiges of trust in our society. When some of the polls are showing declining trust and respect for our elected officials and the institutional foundations of our communities, our financial regulatory organization remains strong and held in high esteem. Many will rush to credit Chairman Alan Greenspan, but in their haste would overlook the multitude of individuals that keep our monetary system running everyday.
During my tenure, I have not written about the insights into the economy due to the confidentiality of our discussions. However, I do want to share with you the role of a board member. My position was one of seven directors, each representing different economic industries and regions of the State. The Board meets on a monthly basis to report on the economic conditions of our individual communities. Prior to meeting, members are given a list of questions from the chief economist of the Atlanta Bank. The questions are directed at special topics of interest. These issues vary from inventory levels, to the hiring environment, and everything connected to the economy. Our written reports are collated with all of the branches and main banks, and summarized in a report known as the “Beige Book”. (Its name is derived from the color of the cover, a replacement of the red cover that was disliked by a former Chairman of the Fed. The new color, beige, was not chosen with the analysis given to interest rates, but was the result of a Federal Reserve Bank having an oversupply of beige cover stock.) the Beige Book is read by all of the Fed Governors, Chairman Greenspan, and the Federal Reserve Bank presidents.
The Beige Book and the FED’s economic data are the ‘bibles’ to any decision maker wanting to tap into the economic data. You can read the same Beige Book as Chairman Greenspan, by visiting the websites provided by the FED. Here is the link to the home page of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, www.frbatlanta.org. The other recommended site is that of the main website of the Federal reserve System, which represents all of the 12 Federal Reserve districts in the Country. (www.federalreserve.gov)