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Switzerland’s central bank offers a glimpse behind the curtain

SNB Behind the Curtains Thomas Jordan

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The Swiss National Bank is offering a rare look into how it sets monetary policy.

A video of SNB President Thomas Jordan and fellow members of the governing board shows them beginning their quarterly policy assessment discussing the state of the economy with about 30 people. According to the voiceover, the group comprises experts from different departments engaged in a question-and-answer session.

“Welcome to our policy assessment,” Jordan tells the gathering. “Today we must ask ourselves important questions — as you know monetary policy hasn’t become any easier.”

The film — which also features snippets of the central bank’s December 2015 press conference — was recorded over the past two years, according to SNB spokeswoman Silvia Oppliger. The segment that includes Jordan’s comment also shows Jean-Pierre Danthine, who retired as vice president in June 2015.

Here’s where transparency ends and the SNB’s sense of secrecy takes over.

After the exchange with experts — which examines Swiss and global economic developments — “the governing board withdraws to deliberate,” according to the video, published on the bank’s Youtube channel on Sept. 30. “With a smaller group of key advisers, it explores the options and makes its monetary policy decision,” says the voiceover while the video shows a hallway of closed doors.

What happens there won’t be known. Governing-board members don’t disagree with one another publicly, and no minutes of their deliberations are revealed. By contrast, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of England both issue voting records, and the European Central Bank offers a detailed account of monetary-policy meeting deliberations.

While the SNB’s 15-minute film explores some of its headline-grabbing decisions of the past years — the introduction of a minimum exchange rate in 2011 and the shock decision to abandon it in January 2015 — it omits to mention that these actions were taken outside of scheduled meetings.

Scope for a second season, Mr. Jordan?

 

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