Federal Reserve Bank Field Trip

Wednesday, 5 December, 2007:  snow and ice covered I81, wind-battered vehicles crawled along, and visibility was almost nonexistent.  Nevertheless, 16 brave and emboldened EC-BU majors fought the elements and traveled to Richmond to tour the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank. This was the second semester during which Col. Gutermuth’s Money and Banking class was able to tour the Fed and meet with the interesting folks involved with the management of this country’s monetary policy.

The tour included the usual areas open to the public;  the law enforcement center (where cadets asked Fed officers what their personal choice of firearms was), the “cash area” where millions and millions of dollars pass through every day (and where we held a healthy discussion on the possible ways one might rob a Federal Reserve Bank and concluded there is absolutely NO possible way), and of course the board room where important meetings are held (and cadets impressed the tour guide with their knowledge of the complex structure of the Fed and its components).


This semester’s trip was uniquely special due to the help of a recent VMI graduate.  John Nemish, class of ’02 is currently an assistant examiner for the Richmond Fed and made  special arrangements for our visit.  We began by having a spectacular lunch in the executive dining room, situated on the 21st floor and with equally spectacular views.  Another alumnus, Brannon Howle, class 0f ’99, joined us for lunch and talked about his job with a newly created department of the Fed.  Of course, with that many cadets and alumni in one room, “war stories” abounded!

We were somewhat taken aback when Jeff Lacker, the president of the Richmond Fed, came in (with his entourage) and spoke briefly with us.  It was a surprise because he is on the powerful FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) which was gearing up to meet in less than a week.  While Mr. Lacker was not at liberty to tell us what actions the committee might be taking, he was open about the atmosphere of the meetings under the relatively new leadership of Chairman Ben Bernake.  His style was obviously informal, albeit professional, and all those around him clearly had the highest regard for him.

After the tour, the group engaged in an informal Q&A session.  Employees of the Fed made quite an impression as to the friendly atmosphere and collegiality of the organization.  Another VMI alum, Eddie Arnaldo, class of ’91, explained how the Fed was very accommodating when he got called up for military duty, and made a potentially difficult situation bearable.  Bottom line?   All seemed quite happy with their positions at the Fed and all seemed to love what they do.

In the end, we all felt welcome and special on our day at the Fed.