ZURICH—The resignation of Swiss National Bank Chairman Philipp Hildebrand shifted the spotlight here to the question of whether interim replacement Thomas Jordan will get the job permanently and the task of finding a third member of the SNB's three-person governing council.
Thomas Jordan, former vice president and now current interim president of the Swiss National Bank, sits next to the empty seat of Philipp Hildebrand, the central bank's former president, during a news conference on Dec. 15.
Mr. Jordan took center stage after Mr. Hildebrand's sudden departure Monday in the wake of disclosures of currency dealings involving him and his wife last year, at a time when the central bank was intervening aggressively to curb the Swiss franc's relentless rise.
The SNB appointed Mr. Jordan as interim chairman, but the government must still decide whether to approve him as the central bank's permanent chief. Mr. Jordan, who said Monday that he is willing to accept the permanent role, is widely expected to be confirmed, but the process could take several weeks.
If confirmed, Mr. Jordan, 48, would likely provide continuity in top policies —particularly bank regulation and foreign exchange—pursued under Mr. Hildebrand, say analysts.
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Mr. Jordan, who joined the SNB as an economic adviser in 1997, has a largely academic background, having lectured at the universities of Bern and Zurich and written a post-doctoral thesis at Harvard University. He was appointed to the SNB's governing board in 2004 and named vice president at the start of 2010. He is one of the three-person governing board of the bank, along with Jean-Pierre Danthine and, until Monday, Mr. Hildebrand.
Mr. Jordan, who has gained a reputation as a hawk on issues such as inflation, is expected to maintain the SNB's policy of containing any rise in the Swiss franc—a hot-button issue given fears that the festering eurozone crisis could drive the Swiss currency higher again. Last September the bank sought to rein in a soaring franc by declaring it wouldn't let the euro fall below 1.20 francs.
While the franc rose slightly Monday after Mr. Hildebrand's resignation announcement, it quickly fell back. The SNB reiterated the same day that it would defend the limit with the "utmost determination." Currency strategists expect little change in that policy under Mr. Jordan.
"There may be some differences between the two ... but I don't think there will be any fundamental policy shifts," said Felix Brill, senior economist at Wellershoff & Partners.
"Swiss central bank monetary policy is determined by all three of the governing board members, not by a 'hawkish or dovish' individual, and that won't change under Jordan," said Caesar Lack, economist at UBS AG in Zurich.
Mr. Jordan has also overseen the issue of bank regulation at the SNB for the last two years, a period when the central bank pushed for the passage of some of the toughest rules in the world. The Swiss Parliament has largely passed the rules, which have proved something of an edge for Switzerland's two large banks – UBS AG and Credit Suisse Group – during the current financial crisis.
The bank said Monday that it intends to fill the open spot on its governing board as quickly as possible. The new member is likely to be one of the board's alternative members: Thomas Moser, the bank's head of international affairs, Thomas Widemer, head of finance and the SNB's representative on the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, or Dewet Moser, head of financial markets.
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