BERNE Jan 9 With his down-to-earth,
soft-spoken manner, Switzerland's interim central bank chief
Thomas Jordan will differ in manner but not in substance from
suave former head Philipp Hildebrand, who resigned on Monday
over a currency dealing scandal.
Jordan, born in 1963, will take the helm from
Oxford-educated Hildebrand after an uproar over a currency trade
by Hildebrand's wife just a few weeks before the SNB capped the
franc at 1.20 per euro, prompting accusations she had profited
from privileged information.
Having joined the SNB in 1997, Jordan, who received his
doctorate from the University of Berne and did postgraduate work
at Harvard, is no newcomer to central banking.
SNB watchers say he is an excellent economist who has played
a key role in shaping SNB policy. He headed the financial
markets unit and for the past two years has overseen the
regulatory department, which is pushing for flagship banks UBS
and Credit Suisse to solidify their balance sheets.
"He is a very bright thinker, quiet but tenacious. Also
great international experience and esteem, extremely reliable
and trustworthy. Certainly a very tough negotiator," said Ernst
Baltensperger, professor emeritus at the University of Berne and
Jordan's PhD supervisor.
"He would without doubt guarantee a continuation of current
SNB policy, in particular its orientation towards the goal of
monetary and financial stability," said Baltensperger, who
himself worked for the SNB in the late 1970s.
Policymaking may also be helped by the fact that Jordan
likely will be more palatable to the right wing than his
"He is well-versed in subject matter and a very careful
person," Sarasin economist Alessandro Bee said of Jordan. "That
will certainly help calm the situation. He argues in a very fact
Hildebrand made enemies in the banking world by championing
tougher bank regulation and came under fire from Christoph
Blocher, a leading member of the right-wing Swiss People's Party
(SVP), after the SNB ran up a 21 billion franc annual loss in
2010 due to forex interventions.
It was Blocher who handed Hildebrand's bank data to the
Swiss cabinet and who had several times in the past year called
on the central bank chief to quit.
Parliamentarian Christoph Moergeli, also from the SVP, had
advocated Hildebrand be replaced by his deputy. "Mr. Jordan is a
good man," he told Reuters last week.
Blocher declined on Monday to comment on Jordan.
Hildebrand and Jordan both hail from the canton of Berne and
spent time at top English-language universities, but the
exterior similarities end there.
At conferences, Jordan comes across as quiet, almost
reticent, in contrast to the outgoing Hildebrand, who sports a
luxury watch, appeared in a glossy magazine spread and hobnobbed
with the likes of Bill Clinton at the World Economic Forum.
Yet despite his mild manner, Jordan is seen as resolute; he
is seen as able to resist pressure on the independent SNB from
politicians seeking to shift the franc cap to 1.30 or 1.40 per
euro to weaken the franc further.
"From his appearance Mr. Jordan is more dry and academic,"
said Sarasin's Bee. "But it won't have any influence on policy."