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A Century of Service

D.Blake Prichard

The Federal Reserve Act enacted 100 years ago established a central bank for the United States and assured a framework that would promote economic stability, safe and sound practices at financial institutions, and efficient payment systems that support economic activity. For those of us at the Fed, this is less of a celebration and more of a reflection on how our actions have forged a new understanding during the past century of why an effective central bank is essential to the long-term health of our economy.

On December 23, 1913, the Federal Reserve Act became law, and nearly a year later on November 16, 1914, all 12 Reserve Banks simultaneously opened for business. The Reserve Banks, under the supervision of the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., began to provide their Districts with a variety of services that have evolved over time. There were coins and currency to be provided to banks, checks to be cleared, and regional economies and communities to be understood. Everything we do today grew from the seed of these service obligations, adapting to a changing and growing economy, and building a legacy of service.

Much has changed in the past century. Checks peaked and ebbed, and new payments emerged that were unimaginable, even 50 years ago. The number of banks has waxed and waned. Our economy was complex 100 years ago. Today, it is staggering in its complexity, with moving parts modeled by powerful computers and translated into discussions that form monetary policy.

Today, as in the past 100 years, the Federal Reserve is an institution focused solely on the public interest, always promoting equal access to its services, striving to be efficient and effective in performing our mandate, and demanding the highest integrity in all that we do. I hope the learning over our first century translates into a deeper understanding of lessons learned to help us be even more effective in our second century of service to America. The “2013 Bank Highlights” on the pages that follow provide clear examples of how we continued to build on a century of service.