The Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the United States. It is also commonly referred to as the Federal Reserve or the Fed. In its role as a central bank, the Federal Reserve serves as a bank for other banks and lending institutions, as well as a bank for the United States government. The Federal Reserve System is comprised of a network of 12 regional districts and banks located in major cities throughout the country. It is overseen by a Board of Governors whose seven members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
History of the Fed
The Federal Reserve System was created on December 23, 1913 when President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Federal Reserve Act. This Act was passed by Congress in response to a series of financial panics that affected the country during the early 1900s. It took nearly a year from the time the Act was signed to determine the boundaries of the twelve Federal Reserve Districts and establish the regional banks.
Role of the Fed
Since its creation the role and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve have evolved and expanded. Today, its major responsibilities focus upon four general areas.
- Overseeing the national monetary policy by influencing money and credit conditions that affect the overall economy. The goal of this influence is to pursue conditions of stable prices and full employment.
- Maintaining the stability of the financial system through containing systemic risks that may arise in the financial markets. These risks include factors such as broad market fluctuations, employment levels, recessions, inflation, deflation and available credit.
- Supervising and regulating banks and other major financial institutions. This oversight is designed for the purpose of ensuring safety and soundness in banking and financial institutions as well as to protect the credit rights of individuals.
- Providing financial services to the United States government, U.S. financial institutions and foreign official institutions. This area includes fulfilling a major role in operating the nation's payment systems.