Jack Guynn, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, earned his master's in management (now called the MBA degree) from Georgia Tech.
When Jack Guynn joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta right out of college in 1964, it seemed like a strange move for an industrial engineer. To help him at least look like a banker, he received a green "eyeshade" visor as a gag graduation gift.
Forty-two years later, his unusual career choice looks like a smart one now that he's president and CEO of the Atlanta Fed, a position he's held since 1996. The Atlanta Fed is part of the Federal Reserve System, the central bank of the United States, which oversees monetary policy, bank regulation/supervision, and operations of a nationwide payments system.
What attracted Guynn, a Virginia Tech graduate who earned his master's in management from Georgia Tech in 1969, to the Fed was learning from a college friend that the organization was discovering automation for use in its payment operations. "I realized it was a ground-floor opportunity for an industry that had never experienced the benefits of industrial engineeringï¿½.," explains Guynn, who'd originally only planned to stay at the bank for a year or two. "I really cut my teeth and first made my mark on the operations side of the Fed."
Over the years, the wide variety of positions he's held for the bank in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Miami have included responsibility for payment operations, bank supervision, lending, human resources, and other support functions. In 1984, he was named first vice president and COO of the Atlanta Fed, overseeing operations of the Atlanta headquarters and five branch offices in the Southeast.
Guynn says he'd never considered taking the CEO spot until his retiring predecessor approached him about the job. "The more I thought about it, the more I thought, 'What the heck,' and threw my hat into the ring," he says.
Unlike Guynn, most presidents of the eleven other Reserve Banks around the country hold degrees in economics. Sitting around the table with them at meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's chief monetary policy body that sets the direction of interest rates, was a little intimidating at first, he remembers. "I had to work harder than some other people might have in making the transition from the operating guy to the policy guy," he says.
Fortunately, he could draw upon his Georgia Tech education to help ease the transition. "The quantitative training I got in industrial management has served me very well," says Guynn, who was inducted into the College of Management 's Academy of Distinguished Alumni this spring. "I took out my macroeconomics textbook and spent hours catching up on esoteric theories."
Responsible for all activities of the Atlanta Fed, Guynn says he's grown to love the CEO role, though he likes to keep a toe dipped in operations. "The policymaking role is a fascinating capstone to my career," he says.
Setting policies that help keep prices stable and economic growth at its maximum sustainable rate is a challenge, given how complicated understanding the U.S. economy has become, he says. The Atlanta Fed's staff of 2,000 in six cities includes twenty economists who advise Guynn, but he also learns a lot from outside contacts as well. "I really enjoy being out there meeting with business people, finding out what's really going on," he says.
He says he feels pretty good about the current state of the economy. "I always have to remind people that not every company and industry is hitting on all cylinders at the same time, but the economy as a whole still looks quite strong," he says. "So I'm not waking up in the middle of the night and worrying about things."
With a busy schedule of sixty-hour weeks involving lots of travel around the Southeast, Guynn gets away whenever possible to his cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, where he likes to fish and wade in the creek with his grandkids when they come for a visit. The sights and smells remind Guynn of his upbringing farther up the mountain range in Staunton, Virginia.
Now a resident of Dunwoody, Guynn refereed soccer for years until his joints quit cooperating. But he still makes plenty of time for other community activities, including service on the boards of the Georgia Tech Foundation, Atlanta 's Midtown Alliance, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Tull Charitable Foundation, the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and Furman and Oglethorpe universities.
"Community work is important to me and to the Atlanta Fed, and I've been very involved in volunteering over the last twelve years," says Guynn, a member of the Carter Center 's Board of Councilors who has served as chairman of the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta as well as the organization's 2004 community campaign. "I love living in Atlanta. I've gotten to watch it grow up."