Carl Powell Faces Tough Job In Putting Fed on a Tech Diet

Federal Reserve Bank veteran Carl E. Powell has taken on a new and daunting role as the point man remaking the Fed's technology operations.

Over the next three years, Mr. Powell, 46, will head the Fed's multimillion dollar project to consolidate 12 data centers into three. The move is expected to reduce the Fed's costs substantially and improve its ability to recover from disasters.

Starting from Scratch

In taking on the job of director of the newly created Automation Resources division, Mr. Powell exchanged a relatively stable job as chief operating officer of the San Francisco Fed.

"We're starting this from scratch," said Mr. Powell. With only five poeple on staff now, Mr. Powell's days are spent composing his own correspondence, talking to vendors, and interviewing job applicants. Late last month he selected his four top aides, but he is still filling positions in an organization that eventually will employ about 250 people in data centers in Richmond, Va., Dallas, and East Rutherford, N.J.

"He had a secure position with the S.F. Fed," said one former colleague, who asked not to be identified. "This new job is going to be tough."

Mr. Powell relishes the challenge: "The areas I'll be involved in are more technical than anything I've been involved in before."

But colleagues believe he's the right man for the job. "He has good instincts - even where he didn't have the background or knowledge of the details," said Laurence Washtien, senior vice president in charge of the computer services group at the San Francisco Fed.

Born in Leavenworth, Kan., Mr. Powell has business degrees from Emporia State College in Emporia, Kan., and Stonier, a graduate school of banking that was then a part of Rutgers University.

After a brief stint in the Army, Mr. Powell joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where he remained until 1986, when he moved to San Francisco.

While the 22-year veteran of the Federal Reserve System calls himself a generalist rather than a technologist, he got plenty of experience managing technology during his five-year tenure in the 12th District, the largest Fed region. California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, and Utah are part of it.

Previous Consolidation Effort

"From a management point of view, we did a lot of things that were firsts for the Federal Reserve System," Mr. Powell said.

Among them was overseeing the consolidation of five data centers into two. The 12th District closed data centers in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Salt Lake City, cutting costs and improving customer service in the process.

An avid skier and golfer, Mr. Powell will - for the time being - be putting off all vacations but one: He plans to get married in January. His fiancee is a partner in a North Carolina law firm.

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