Technology for Today’s Fed
The Fed's IT team is responsible for developing and securing one of the most important technology infrastructures in the world. We describe the role that IT plays in enabling the Fed to fulfill its mission in our 2015 annual report, What We've Learned…and why it matters. We learn the surprising facts about how our cash operations teams, bank regulators, and monetary policymakers rely upon our robust IT capabilities. Not only do our IT teams work on solving a variety of large-scale and unique issues, but they must do so while upholding the highest information security standards.
I think a lot of people would be surprised at the number of IT employees that we have here at the Federal Reserve. Can you talk a little bit about what they're doing and why it's such a big piece of fulfilling our mission?
IT definitely fills in a lot of roles at the Fed. We look at IT as a key success partner to our business goals. IT provides a wide range of services all the way from productivity tools like desktops and mobile devices, to custom software which are the cornerstone of our operations. One example of this is the software we provide for our supervision and credit division, which helps them regulate banks, which in turn ensures that the banks and their customer assets are always safe and sound.
Another example of custom software we provide are those which help our customers, which are the depository institutions, conduct their business electronically with us. Some examples of these are software which helps them conduct their daily currency operations with us, as well as software that helps them send in their statistical data to us. The one key area that I want to call out is information security. Information security is really important to us. We ensure that all the data in our networks and all of our information assets are extremely secure, and we go great lengths to ensure that we prevent any threats to those.
That's a pretty extensive portfolio that you just mentioned. As we know in San Francisco, especially, technology is moving very rapidly. Can you talk a little bit about how we adapt and change in sync with all of this technological change?
One of our key guiding principles is to be an agile and innovative service provider that not only focuses on providing high value solutions but also in a very cost-effective way. One of the ways in which we have achieved this is by creatively structuring our workplaces and our teams so that they can succeed jointly in a fast-paced environment. Some examples of these are how we have created virtual teams across geographies. At the same time, how we consistently practice a lessons learned exercise every two weeks so that we are continually improving in that process.
The other area which is of key focus to us is exploring new technologies and how they help us fulfill the Fed’s mission in a completely new way. An example of this is digital technologies and the amazing space of big data. These offer keys to new capabilities that we can provide to our business. We really take pride in terms of being a robust organization, at the same time being agile and responsive to our business needs.
How do you make sure you have all the right people on your team? You’re obviously looking for certain skill sets, but what else does it take to have a great team in delivering on these applications.
One of the things that we have learned is our teams work the best when they learn from each other. To do this, we seek diversity. We not only bring in people who have diverse skill sets, but also bring in diverse perspectives and life experiences to the table. The nature of problems we solve on a day-to-day basis are really unique, and we value the diversity of those perspectives on the table when we are looking at approaching the solutions in a more holistic way.
We're surrounded by high-tech companies here in San Francisco. Are you able to hire talent, and are people surprised that the Fed is doing this much IT work?
I think there are two ways to look at it. One is we are definitely fortunate to be at the zone where there's a lot of great talent available in the market. The second is we have to differentiate ourselves, and we look at differentiating ourselves in three ways. The first is with the robustness of the organization that we are, the second is the public mission that we stand for, and the third is how we do our job, which is to focus on the agile and the innovative ways of executing the day-to-day job.
In December 2015, the Fed raised interest rates for the first time in about a decade. The decision was one thing, executing that decision was another. Can you talk a little bit about the work that our teams do behind the scenes to enable that to occur?
The process is not as simple as waving a magic wand and making interest rates change from 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent. What we do in IT is support a set of robust solutions that help the policymakers adapt to the changing needs of the market place. What we ensure is our systems are nimble and we are able to quickly respond to some of the changes that they would like us to make.
What is really interesting about this process is that we do not know in advance what are the changes that need to be made to these systems. At the same time, we do not know when the changes have to be made to these systems, but our teams are ready to operate at a moment’s notice and respond to the change.
An Overview of Our 2015 Annual Report
Transforming Financial Services
Becoming a Destination Employer
Regional Influences on Monetary Policy