Central Banker of the Year 2024

Global and Europe

Andriy Pyshnyi, Ukraine

Few governors have had an introduction to central banking like that of Andriy Pyshnyi, who heads up the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). Appointed in October 2022 after former governor Kyrylo Shevchenko resigned, Mr Pyshnyi’s job has been complicated from day one by the realities of war, with missile and drone strikes on the country’s economic and energy infrastructure.

Mr Pyshnyi led the country’s innovative response, aptly titled “Power Banking”, which enables more than 2375 bank branches to provide essential financial services to the public even during long power outages.

Andriy Pyshnyi

I am proud that I can make an important contribution to the country’s resilience in these times of severe challenges.

Andriy Pyshnyi, governor, National Bank of Ukraine

But it is Ukraine’s remarkable economic resilience that stands out the most. On his watch, the NBU’s key achievements have included:

  • Increased confidence in the hryvnia — according to data provided by the NBU, hryvnia term deposits of individuals rose by 28% in the first 11 months of 2023;
  • The domestic debt market recovered with a 98% increase in the volume of loans relative to 2022;
  • Inflation fell from 26.6% to 5.1% in the first 11 months of 2023.

In October 2023, the NBU successfully transitioned from a fixed exchange rate to managed flexibility of the exchange rate. After the transition, the central bank says the difference between cash and non-cash rates decreased to 3%. For comparison, at the beginning of the year, it was 10%, and in May of the previous year, it was 25%. 

Mr Pyshnyi played an important role in achieving this sustainability, the central bank says, and engaging in constructive dialogue with key partners in Ukraine such as the Ministry of Finance, as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

In 2023, the NBU abandoned the monetary financing of the budget (in contrast to Hrv400bn [$10.8bn] in 2022). Working closely with the Ministry of Finance it leveraged tools to successfully revitalise domestic borrowing.

The central bank also credits the role the governor’s active involvement and personal communication played in the IMF approving its programme monitoring with board involvement for Ukraine amid a full-scale war. After it was successfully implemented, the IMF approved an Extended Fund Facility (EFF), which lays the groundwork for more financial support from other partners.

Mr Pyshnyi says it is an honour to be named Central Banker of the Year. “This is the international recognition, which I see primarily as further proof of the capabilities of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, and our ability to overcome the challenges of the full-scale war with dignity. 

“I am proud that, together with the NBU’s team of professionals, I can make an important contribution to the country’s resilience in these times of severe challenges, maintaining macro-financial stability even in the face of constant missile and drone attacks.”

Ukraine has received assistance under the IMF’s EFF and successfully passed two reviews, says Mr Pyshnyi, as well as activated the domestic debt market so as to completely avoid monetary financing of the budget deficit. The NBU eased its interest-rate policy, conducted a resiliency assessment of the banking system and expanded Power Banking, which will continue to run as a single system even in the event of blackouts. 

“Most importantly, we have maintained Ukrainians’ confidence in our actions and in our national currency,” Mr Pyshnyi says. “These achievements would not have been possible without support and co-operation: the war galvanised both our domestic efforts and large-scale assistance from international partners, including in the financial sector. Global assistance and the phenomenal anti-fragility of the Ukrainian people have helped our economy and financial sector survive and continue to operate.”

However, the full-scale war drags on. Mr Pyshnyi says that risks persist and new challenges are emerging. “We realise that we need to do even more to ensure that when we hear the priceless word ‘victory’, we will have the macro-financial stability to be able to start the reconstruction,” he adds. “The words ‘partnership’ and ‘support’ in this formula are essential for making Ukraine’s victory a joint victory for the whole world.”

Africa

Abdellatif Jouahri, Morocco

Abdellatif Jouahri has served as governor of Morocco’s Bank Al-Maghrib (BAM) for more than 20 years, helping steer the country’s banking sector and wider economy through a period of remarkable growth during his tenure. Mr Jouahri receives The Banker’s Central Banker of the Year award for Africa for 2024 in recognition of BAM’s role in relief efforts following the devastating earthquake in the west of the country in September and its relative success in tackling inflation. 

Abdellatif Jouahri

The protracted inflationary trends around the world are a further concern for central banks.

Abdellatif Jouahri Governor, Bank Al-Maghrib

After lifting its key interest rate to 3% in March, BAM was one of the first major African central banks to hold rates in 2023, allowing for the impact of rate rises to work their way through the economy. After a slight uptick in August, the bank continued to hold its nerve, a move that was vindicated by inflation falling back down to 4.3% in October from a high of 10.1% in February. 

Within days of the September earthquake, BAM donated Dh1bn ($98m) to the country’s main relief fund for the resettlement of earthquake victims, and was quick to offer support for sectors of the economy most impacted by the tragedy. The bank also established free helplines to assist with money transfers and remittances to further boost relief and recovery efforts.

Another highlight of the year was the launch of the country’s Virement Instantané bank instant payment system (IPS) in June, built on messaging standard ISO 20022 systems architecture, in collaboration with local clearing house Groupement pour un Système Interbancaire Marocain de Télécompensation. The new system complements the country’s existing MarocPay IPS system. 

“It is with considerable satisfaction that I receive this award from such a prestigious international publication as The Banker,” says Mr Jouahri. “I am convinced of central banks’ pivotal role in overcoming the major challenges that beset the world. Foremost among these is climate change: the consequences of which are steadily worsening.

“At a time of intensified political tensions, the protracted inflationary trends around the world are a further concern for central banks,” he adds. “They are therefore called upon to optimise their monetary policy decisions to safeguard the purchasing power of citizens, especially the most underprivileged among them, and improve investor confidence in the future of their companies.”

Americas

Victoria Rodríguez Ceja, Mexico

While many countries in Latin America are cutting interest rates, others in the region might feel pressure to ease monetary policy. 

GET-Victoria Rodríguez Ceja

Victoria Rodríguez Ceja, governor, Banco de México. Image: Getty Images

Instead, Banco de México (Banxico) resisted and maintained a proactive policy stance by shrewdly setting a reference rate that has been consistent with bringing headline inflation down to the 3% target. 

The central bank, which began a tightening cycle in June 2021, made important efforts to communicate why a restrictive monetary stance was required. From its May 2022 meeting, the governing board — led by governor Victoria Rodríguez Ceja — started to include in its monetary policy statements a roadmap for the reference rate. This helped the market to understand Banxico’s intentions for future monetary policy actions.

These efforts bore fruit when inflation started to decline in the fourth quarter of 2022, although it is still above target. 

The authorities remained committed to relying on exchange rate flexibility to facilitate adjustment for external and domestic shocks. Banxico adopted a more cautious approach to maintaining reserve levels and opted for a derivatives hedging programme to complement the policy toolkit for foreign exchange interventions.

Despite tight global monetary and financial conditions, the Mexican peso has remained resilient compared with other emerging market economies’ currencies. 

The Mexican economy has stayed strong thanks to a solid macroeconomic framework. “This framework has been built over many years, anchored in fiscal discipline and a monetary policy focused on price stability, a sound financial system, a well-capitalised banking system and sustainable external accounts, a flexible exchange rate regime and adequate levels of international reserves,” says Ms Rodríguez.

Mexico’s central bank has been quick to respond to other challenges. Hurricane Otis hit the state of Guerrero in October, destroying banking infrastructure and infrastructure. With other Mexican authorities, Banxico activated an emergency plan to provide cash and allowed banks to offer relief programmes to their clients. “Actions like the ones adopted to relieve the damage caused by Otis refer us to our final objective: improving the wellbeing of the Mexican population. These actions bring Banxico closer to the people, and create a trust relationship central for the functioning and transmission of monetary policy,” says Ms Rodríguez.

Asia-Pacific

Rhee Chang-yong, Korea

In a world struggling with soaring inflation and struggling economies, Rhee Chang-yong has helped to keep the South Korean economy strong. Having previously worked at the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, his experience has helped raise South Korea’s profile on the global stage. 

BLM-Rhee Chang-yong

Korea’s could serve as a good example of integrated policy frameworks in monetary policy

Rhee Chang-yong, Governor, Bank of Korea

In the face of rising inflation, Mr Rhee has been resolute in holding a restrictive monetary policy, with inflation at the end of 2023 having eased to a 3.3% year-on-year increase in November 2023 compared with the previous year. The speed of the easing has been noted by commentators, adjusting at a faster rate than other developed economies. 

Recognising the pressures being felt in South Korea, he has called for controls on consumer debt levels, which have been driven by mortgage demand, and measures to be taken on both a macro- and microeconomic level to address the problems. 

Mr Rhee has also identified issues with the growth of the South Korean economy being stymied by the problems within the labour force and the country’s ageing population, and called for more female workers and immigrants to be mobilised. He believes this is essential if the country wants to maintain a stable rate of 2% gross domestic product growth.

Additionally, Mr Rhee was named the chair of the Committee on the Global Financial System at the Bank for International Settlements. This three-year role, which commenced in November 2023, will see him steer the monitoring and analysis of financial issues and international central bank policy. The committee will meet four times a year, with additional meetings held to discuss emergency issues.  

On winning the award, Mr Rhee says: “Despite the Bank of Korea’s early policy normalisation, it implemented seven consecutive rate hikes during the global inflation surge of 2022/23, resulting in a cumulative increase of 300 basis points in this tightening cycle. Inflation is currently trending towards our target, but the last miles of disinflation will be challenging. 

“We continue to face sensitivity to energy prices, increasing geo-economic fragmentation, divergent monetary policies between the US and Europe versus China and Japan, and the need for further progress in household deleveraging. Korea’s successful navigation could serve as a good example of integrated policy frameworks in monetary policy.”

Middle East

Khaled Mohamed Balama, UAE

The UAE’s banking sector begins 2024 in fine fettle, with local lenders benefiting from the country’s strong economic performance in 2023. Lower impairment charges and rising non-interest income saw the country’s largest 10 lenders post a 15.4% quarter-on-quarter rise in profits during the third quarter of 2023, according to data compiled by Alvarez and Marsal. 

H.E Khaled Balama

Khaled Mohamed Balama, governor, Central Bank of the UAE

While the country’s interest rates continue in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve, prices remain under control, with the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) forecasting inflation of 2.8% for year-end 2023 and 2.6% for the end of 2024. 

Khaled Mohamed Balama, governor of the CBUAE since 2021, is The Banker’s Central Banker of the Year for the Middle East for 2024, in recognition of the bank’s enhanced anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) efforts, as well as a series of significant international agreements. 

Following the country’s inclusion on the Financial Action Task Force ‘grey list’ in March 2022, the CBUAE has worked closely with other government agencies to improve its AML/CTF regulations and enforcement regime; the bank conducted more than 600 inspections (on- and offsite) during the first quarter of 2023, issuing fines worth nearly Dh70m ($19.1m), and in May issued further AML/CTF guidelines for dealing with virtual assets. 

Among the numerous international agreements signed by the bank, perhaps the most significant were two memoranda of understanding signed with the Reserve Bank of India for the development of a framework to increase the use of local currencies in Indian–Emirati trade, via the streamlining and linking of the two countries’ instant payment platforms, local payment card systems and financial messaging systems. 

Other significant agreements concluded by the CBUAE last year include a Dh5bn currency swap agreement with the Central Bank of Egypt, and a collaboration agreement with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority on the development of virtual assets regulations and fintech development. 

The CBUAE unveiled its strategy for a central bank digital currency in March, in collaboration with local cloud platform G42 Cloud and US-based blockchain developer R3, with the first phase set for completion by mid-2024.



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