Money Men

Central Bankers Are Propping Up Growth Around the World

Central bankers are the reluctant, wonky rock stars of global finance. Matthew Zeitlin spotlights the key players.

Getty Images

Getty Images

We live in an age of heroic central bankers. In the U.S. and Europe, political dysfunction is leading countries to engage in counterproductive fiscal austerity measures. The interconnections of the global banking system mean bad debt problems in a dusty outpost like Greece can lead to serious problems in the world’s financial markets. So time and again, investors, analysts, and consumers are turning to the men who control the monetary spigots—for stimulus, for insurance and guarantees, for salvation. Here’s a look at five of these titans of global finance and what they’ve done recently.

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Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve (2006)

Born: 1953
Education: Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology  
Recent highlight: Announcement of “QE3,” a program under which the Fed will buy $40 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities every month until the labor market significantly improves.


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Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England (2003)

Born: 1953
Education: M.A., Cambridge
Recent highlight: “Funding for Lending,” a program (“scheme” in England) launched in August, made some £80 billion available for cheap borrowing by banks if they then pass on the low rates to small businesses and households. A report released last week by the Bank of England concluded that the scheme had increased the credit available to individuals and small businesses “significantly.”


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Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (2011)

Born: 1947
Education: Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology  
Recent highlight: Earlier this month Draghi unveiled a plan under which the ECB could buy up an unlimited number of the bonds of troubled countries whose cost of borrowing to fund their governments (read: Spain) were in danger of spiraling out of control. The announcement itself helped calm debt markets, but recent large protests in Spain over further budget cutting has once again cast doubt on whether the ECB and European government have a sustainable solution to the continent’s debt troubles.


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Masaaki Shirakawa, Governor, Bank of Japan (2008)

Born: 1949

Education: M.A., University of Chicago

Recent highlight: Along with his fellow central bankers Draghi and Bernanke, Shirakawa announced aggressive moves to support Japan’s ailing economy this month. The Bank will continue and increase its asset-buying program, similar to the Fed’s quantitative easing, and it pushed back the end of the plan to June 2013, instead of the end of this year. Under the new plan, the asset purchases would reach a total of more than 1 trillion yen over the lifetime of the program. 


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Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the People’s Bank of China (2002)

Born: 1948

Education: Ph.D., Tsinghua University

Recent highlight: This week, the People’s Bank of China joined the stimulus party, injecting some 365 billion renminbi (about $58 billion) into the country’s money-market funds over three days using a transaction called a “reverse repo.” Like his counterparts in Japan and the U.S., Zhou took the aggressive action to counter disappointing, slowing growth.