Thomas Jordan is the man responsible for the investor panic hitting currency markets on Thursday.
As head of the Swiss National Bank, the buck ultimately stops with him on the surprise decision to scrap a cap in the value of its currency against the euro, sending the Swiss franc soaring 30%.
It was a distinctly different message from the one he gave less than a month ago, when he said the cap would be defended with the “utmost determination”.
The move instantly made him unpopular with Switzerland’s exporters, making their goods more expensive to buy abroad at a time when many of the country’s trading partners in Europe are already struggling.
Described as “the most hated man in FX [foreign exchange markets] today” by one market strategist on Twitter, it is safe to say he is probably having quite a challenging day.
Jordan is not exactly a household name, so here is a little of what we do know about him.
Now married with two sons, he was born in 1963 in Bienne, a city in north-west Switzerland. Educated in business and economics at the nearby Swiss university of Berne – also attended by the British author John le Carré – and at Harvard, he still lectures at Berne in monetary theory and policy.
Jordan joined the SNB following studies in Harvard in 1997 as an economic adviser. A series of promotions enabled him to climb the central bank’s hierarchy, taking him from researcher, to member of the governing board, to chairman in 2012. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, and a member of the steering committee of the Financial Stability Board – the international regulator.
Jordan took his opportunity to land the top job at the SNB following the resignation of his predecessor, Philipp Hildebrand, in controversial circumstances. Hildebrand was forced to resign following revelations that his wife ordered $504,000 three weeks before the central bank intervened to weaken the Swiss franc. She made a profit on the sale of the dollars less than two months after the purchase. Hildebrand claimed to have no knowledge of the transaction.
Now Hildebrand’s replacement as the head of the central bank is back at the centre of controversy, albeit for very different reasons.
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