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In Character We Trust
Commencement Address
ABA Stonier Graduate School of Banking
Philadelphia, PA
June 13, 2019

Patrick T. Harker
President and Chief Executive Officer
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

The views expressed today are my own and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve System
or the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

In Character We Trust
Commencement Address
ABA Stonier Graduate School of Banking
Philadelphia, PA
June 13, 2019
Patrick T. Harker
President and Chief Executive Officer
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Hello Stonier, and congratulations! It’s great to be in front of this group again. For those of you
who don’t remember, I delivered the welcome address when you started this program three
years ago. I certainly understand if you’ve forgotten because a lot has happened since June
2016. A lot.
In the intervening years, we’ve all had an education — you’ve mastered the intricacies of highlevel banking management; I learned from a crash course in monetary policymaking; and we all
finally, finally learned what it feels like to win a Super Bowl …
So I’m very pleased to bring this full circle and see you receive your diplomas.
The first order of business today is to give yourselves a round of applause. I like to do that
because it’s important to recognize hard work, and because it guarantees people will clap at
least once while I’m on stage.
The second order of business is another round of applause to the people whose support helped
make this day happen … the friends, family, and faculty here today.
Fantastic! Now you’ve clapped twice while I was up here.
The third order of business is a few words about the importance of what you learned here at
Stonier, and what it means when you apply it in the professional world.

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The fourth is getting the actual diplomas, which is the most important, so I’ll keep the third part
shortish.
The financial industry is only going to get more and more complicated and more and more
complex, particularly in this current age of technological innovation. I say “current age” because
of course, technology is always evolving and has already had several “ages,” as it will in the
future.
In this iteration, financial institutions face challenges from cybersecurity to the rapid expansion
of fintech.
We’re going to need people at the helm with an extraordinary set of skills, because financial
institutions are important. And they’re always going to be important, because a financial
system is fundamental to the human experience as we know it.
I’m not saying that as some sort of consumerist rallying cry; it’s the simple fact of our existence.
Financial systems have existed in some form across human history.
From the barter system to banking, societies spanning time and space have found ways to
execute the basic functions of payments, finance, and credit. It’s how we’ve amassed the things
we need to live and the things we crave for comfort.
From the central agora to apps on our phones, whether it’s a creditor’s note or a series of 1s
and 0s, the essentials of the system have stood the test of time. Each individual system, of
course, has not necessarily been so lucky.
But that’s important, too. Because just as history illustrates that we’ll always find our way back
to those systems, it shows what it takes for those systems to last.
It takes trust.
A financial system can only exist if we collectively agree to it. That takes an act of faith. A
system of savings, credit, exchange, and investment only survives because we have trust in
people we don’t know, currency we have no individual control over, payment systems with

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inner workings we can’t see, and institutions we grant power to — both to execute and to
regulate those systems.
And since a strong and sound economy can only exist when it’s underpinned by a strong and
sound financial system, the people who run those institutions have a unique responsibility.
So, you know, no pressure.
That responsibility extends to institutions of all sizes. Bigger organizations can have impacts
that resonate on a national or even global scale. Smaller ones, particularly community banks,
can be a lifeline for a community, and are a necessity for small, local economies’ survival.
Of course, you already know all this — I mean, you’re Stonier graduates, after all. But it’s a
point worth repeating every once in a while, because that kind of responsibility doesn’t just
require a mastery of balance sheets or investment acumen.
It calls for good leadership. And that’s something I know Stonier excels at.
When I spoke to you three years ago, I mentioned the importance of character. A lot may have
changed in the intervening years, but that hasn’t. I don’t think it ever will.
There’s a narrative — and, yes, sometimes a culture — in financial services that says cutthroat
is king. I’ve spent a lot of my time as a Fed president talking to the banking community, and
what I’ve seen and heard from them is the same thing I’ve seen in every other aspect of my
career: The most respected leaders are honest, authentic, and trustworthy.
Sure, there are outliers; bad people can thrive, and flashes in the pan can last longer than they
should. But eventually, those people get found out. And in the long run, the most important
asset any of us has — and the one thing in life we can control — is our integrity.
We don’t usually have a say in what life throws at us, but we do decide how we handle it. Our
financial system needs people at the top who can roll with those changes and make the right
calls, even when they’re the hard ones.
In the end, the financial system exists to perform some pretty basic functions: It keeps savings
safe; ensures that we can easily price, buy, and sell things; and helps us direct resources to their
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best advantage. But what that actually means in our day-to-day lives is pretty huge: It’s how we
get an education, or put a roof over our families’ heads. It’s how we start a business, or invest
in our kids’ future. It’s how we get sustenance and fulfillment. There’s a lot riding on it, and a
lot riding on the people who run it.
It’s a big job. It’s going to take some Stonier grads to do it right.
Thank you, and congratulations to everyone again.

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