The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, which monitors large banks in a district that includes Charlotte, announced a new president on Monday.
Thomas Barkin, chief risk officer for consulting firm McKinsey & Company, assumes the Fed role Jan. 1. He replaces Jeffrey Lacker, who abruptly retired this year after acknowledging he had improperly discussed sensitive information involving Fed policy with an analyst.
Barkin, the organization’s eighth president, is not new to the Fed. He served on the board of directors for the Fed’s Atlanta district from 2009 to 2014 and chaired that board from 2013 to 2014.
On Monday the Fed highlighted that Barkin’s duties at McKinsey have included overseeing offices in the South. In his new role at the Fed, Barkin will head the Fifth District which covers the Carolinas, Maryland, Virginia, most of West Virginia and the District of Columbia. He will also oversee examiners who monitor big banks such as Charlotte’s Bank of America.
In a statement, Margaret Lewis, chairwoman of the Richmond Fed’s board, said Barkin has unique insights on many industries “as well as a well-informed perspective on issues facing the Federal Reserve and our nation.” The Richmond Fed said a nationwide search was conducted to fill the role and that more than 700 candidates and candidate sources were identified.
In a statement, Barkin, 56, said he was honored by his appointment and that he deeply supports the central bank’s public service mission. He also said he planned to be heavily engaged in learning more about the challenges and opportunities facing communities in the Fifth District.
The appointment drew criticism from some community activists, who seized on his ties to the financial sector he will now regulate. According to his McKinsey bio, Barkin “is a senior partner in the Atlanta office where his primary client focus is helping financial institutions and travel and transportation companies.”
Fed Up, a coalition of groups that has urged the Fed to do more to help middle-class workers, said Barkin’s appointment to the Richmond Fed “continued the trend of elevating a white man from the financial sector.”
“The Fed Up coalition is deeply disappointed that the board of directors at the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank failed to select a diverse candidate with demonstrated independence from the financial sector,” Shawn Sebastian, co-director of Fed Up, said in a statement.
“In choosing Thomas Barkin to lead the Richmond Federal Reserve, the Richmond Fed’s board ignored the voices of our coalition, over 14,000 petition signers, numerous congressional representatives, and local elected officials from the Fifth Federal Reserve District who had urged a transparent, publicly inclusive process resulting in the selection of a candidate who reflects the Richmond region’s racial and economic diversity,” Sebastian said.
Monday’s announcement comes after the Richmond Fed made headlines earlier this year with Lacker’s departure.
Lacker, a frequent dissenting voice at the central bank who criticized financial industry bailouts, stepped down early after announcing in January that he was retiring in October. He had served in his role since 2004.
In resigning in April, Lacker disclosed speaking in 2012 with an analyst with Medley Global Advisors, which publishes research on economic policy for hedge funds and other institutions. In the conversation, the analyst brought up an “important non-public detail” that had been discussed by Fed officials before their September meeting, Lacker said in a statement in April, adding that he should have “declined to comment and perhaps have ended the phone call.”
Charlotte is home to one of the Fifth District’s two branch banks. The other is in Baltimore.
In Charlotte, the branch spans an entire city block across from the Spectrum Center, where millions of dollars in bills are kept underground in a three-story vault encased in steel. That money is shipped daily by armored vehicles to and from North and South Carolina banks with agreements to store it at the Fed. The establishment in 1927 of the Fed’s Charlotte office gave a big boost to the city’s reputation as a financial center.