WASHINGTON — Elizabeth A. "Betsy" Duke, who began her career as a bank teller in Virginia Beach, was sworn in as a Federal Reserve Board governor Tuesday — the only banker among the six sitting board members.
"There should always be at least one banker with practical experience on the board," said Edward L. Yingling, the president of the American Bankers Association. "I think one of her roles will be to keep taking the temperature of banks all across the country. This is a critical time for that."
Ms. Duke, 56, spent six years on the ABA board and was its 2004-05 chairman.
She took her Fed oath in time to participate in the Federal Open Market Committee meeting Tuesday, but observers say she is more likely to have an impact on regulatory versus monetary policy.
Chris Low, chief economist at First Horizon National Corp.'s FTN Financial Capital Markets, said Ms. Duke would likely bring her commercial banking experience to bear on the broader regulatory issues the credit crisis has raised.
"Long term, I think her big contribution is ensuring that the regulatory reform, which the Fed and Treasury are pursing right now, are compatible with the needs of the banking system," he said.
Ms. Duke's term will expire Jan. 31, 2012; she is completing a 14-year appointment that Susan S. Bies, another banker, vacated in March of last year.
President Bush nominated Ms. Duke and two others for the Fed board in May of last year. The Senate Banking Committee did not confirm her nomination until June 27. The two other nominees, including a Capital One Financial Corp. executive, have not been confirmed.
Ms. Duke rose through the ranks of community banks in the area, eventually becoming the chief executive officer of Bank of Tidewater.
"She really worked her way up from an entry-level position in the banks, so she's seen banks from the bottom up," Mr. Yingling said. "She's very inspirational to women."
Most recently Ms. Duke was the senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of TowneBank in Portsmouth, Va. Before that she had been an executive vice president at Wachovia Bank and earlier at SouthTrust Bank.
Ms. Duke's arrival brought the Fed board closer to its full strength of seven members, but Gov. Frederic S. Mishkin announced his resignation May 28, and his last day is set for Aug. 31.
Mr. Low said rebuilding the board is especially important for decisions the Fed may make to stabilize the financial system.
"Any action taken to address liquidity concerns in the market — for example, when the Fed opened the discount window to brokers — requires four votes from the board," he said. "Lately it's been four out of five, not four of seven."
In a statement, Ms. Duke said, "As a banker, I've worked through all types of economic situations. With these experiences in mind, I want to do everything possible to help create stable prices and maximum employment."