Taking It to the Bank

by Robert Bradford

Louise Tench Willard ’97 decided she wanted to work at the Federal Reserve Bank during her senior year at Scripps College. The economics major had heard stories about the Fed since she was a child from her grandfather, who was in the banking business, and she was interested in the economic issues on which the Fed focuses.

The Federal Reserve System is perhaps one of the most high profile yet least understood organizations in government. On the Fed’s website, a statement captures the challenges the bank faces:

“The Federal Reserve sets the nation’s monetary policy to promote the objectives of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. The challenge for policy makers is that tensions among the goals can arise in the short run and that information about the economy becomes available only with a lag and may be imperfect.”

Willard was drawn by the complex mission of the Federal Reserve and began the process of researching jobs at the bank. She learned that a representative from the bank was speaking at an event in San Francisco, attended the presentation, and shared a résumé with the speaker after the talk. Soon after, she secured an interview with the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco — one of 12 such regional banks — and she was hired and began working for the bank after graduation.

She says her career at the Federal Reserve Bank over the past 15 years has been full of challenges, and she has relished her diverse experiences at the organization. “I started out doing economic research, and I have moved on to the operations side of the Fed,” she says. In her current role as director in the Cash Product Office, she and her team manage software development projects that support the Fed’s role in the distribution of currency and coin throughout the country.

“The Federal Reserve does so many things to support the economy in the United States, from providing financial services to helping banks communicate with each other,” says Willard. “We are the banker’s bank.”

Willard says there is a shared sense of responsibility and camaraderie among those who work for the Fed. For Carla Kitchin ’05, that sense of purpose working for a major force in the U.S. economy ultimately attracted her to work alongside Willard at the Fed.

Like Willard, Kitchin was an economics major at Scripps and was researching possibilities for her career after graduation. She began talking to alumnae in a range of fields and heard about Willard’s role at the Fed. A few phone calls and emails led Kitchin to interview at the bank in San Francisco, and she has been part of Willard’s team since 2005.

Kitchin works on technology upgrade projects for the Federal Reserve’s automated cash infrastructure, but she points out that on any given day there can be new responsibilities and tasks. “I can come in one day and I think my day is going to look one way, but things change quickly and it’s a completely different day. It requires all of your attention.”

Kitchin says her Scripps education has prepared her well for the fast-paced environment of the Fed. “Scripps taught me to ask tough questions, to communicate complex information clearly — these are absolutely invaluable skills in my career,” she says.

You can bank on that.


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