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Megan Clubb '79 elected to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco board

As a board member, she helps provide input used to determine national economic policies.

In her first meeting with the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the topic of consumer confidence was a key agenda item. Megan Ferguson Clubb ’79, president and CEO of Walla Walla-based Baker Boyer Bank, recalled President John Williams intensely taking notes as fellow board members Blake Nordstrom (Nordstrom’s) and Richard Galanti (Costco) gave their reports on how Christmas spending revealed an increase in consumer confidence.

As the meeting progressed, Clubb was struck by the significance. The presidents of the 12 regional fed boards and the reserve bank governors in D.C. comprise the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which Clubb said is “one of the most powerful economic policy decision-making bodies in the world.”

Though being elected to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco carries professional recognition, Clubb sees the honor as an opportunity to help others.

“I have been given a tremendous opportunity to be the voice of the community banking industry and a liaison between our region and monetary policy decision makers in D.C.,” Clubb said.

clubb bernanke
Megan Clubb ’79 met Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in Washington, D.C.

Clubb, who is a Whitman trustee and benefactor, was elected to the San Francisco branch in December 2011, after having served a two-year term on the Portland board. She began serving her three-year term in January 2012.

Federal Reserve boards are composed of business and community leaders in the profit and non-profit sectors. She was selected to represent community banking, given that Baker Boyer is one of the top 100 community banks in the nation and one of a small number to have grown through the recession. Her business acumen and her track record of effective leadership further qualified her for the position.

“Monetary systems are a complex topic, particularly today with global economic forces at work. Board members bring information to the table in real-time, and meetings become discussions with the purpose of becoming knowledgeable enough to agree or disagree with monetary strategies recommended by the federal board.”

She said board members write a paper in preparation for the monthly meetings, and there’s a phone call in between. The communication aspect is “huge,” Clubb said. “It’s not just about the analysis. Members educate the rest of the board about what’s happening in their area, then we have to synthesize and understand what is happening across the Western U.S.”

Having been an economics major at Whitman, Clubb said she still loves the “math and science” of the discipline. The fed boards try to anticipate individual behaviors, pondering such variables as the level of consumer confidence and trends in business hiring.

Clubb began building the foundation for her ambitious career while a student at Walla Walla High School, where she was simultaneously president of two organizations – a girls riding group called the Walla Walla Wagonettes and Kappa Ki, a service club.

“I really liked leading, and I was always actively involved in organizations. I still believe that being president of those high school organizations provided valuable experience for what I do today, in business and community involvement,” Clubb said.

After high school, Clubb headed to the University of Washington to study oceanography. But she also took economics courses there. Though she loved the science and found the oceanography field to be intriguing and challenging, the underwater diving itself led her to change course – fully into economics and back to Walla Walla and Whitman, from which her father, Baker Ferguson ’39, graduated.

She entered Whitman as a junior, declaring economics as her major. But it was a history professor, the late David Deal, who challenged her in the most significant way.

“I had David Deal for Chinese history,” Clubb recalled. “He confronted me and said that I didn’t write well or do enough writing. He spent one-on-one time with me, working to improve my writing skills. I remember he said, ‘You’re going to take another semester with me to keep working on this.’

“As a trustee and a parent of a Whitman graduate, I see that this kind of interaction continues to this day, and it’s one of Whitman’s strengths. I see the passion of the professors and staff, and I actually equate that to Baker Boyer Bank. We have a true camaraderie, a true interest in helping others be better. The level of support provided to Whitman students reflects success and creates an institution based on genuine caring.”

As a Whitman student, Clubb also spent some time as a “ski bum.” But she realized that as much as she loves the sport, “it got boring and I realized I wanted to be productive, do big things, contribute.”

Upon graduation, her father, then president of Baker Boyer Bank, had a next step planned for her – a job at a bank in Alaska – but she knew it wasn’t quite what she wanted to be doing then. “I wanted to make these choices on my own,” she recalled saying.

In that choice-making process, she made a connection with Jay Gilmour ’49, who interviewed her for an entry-level job “doing grunt work.” He ran a banking industry consulting firm in Seattle. Clubb said she “found the consulting business fascinating, even though all I did was computer entry and data analysis. I had no exposure to clients, just supporting Jay. But I really liked what I saw him doing, and it became clear that my next step was more education.”

That realization came in 1980, and Clubb enrolled at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning her master’s in management in 1982. It’s also where she met her husband, Marty Clubb.

Armed with her advanced degree, combined with her liberal arts background and intense ambition, Clubb was ready for the many job opportunities that came her way. She opted for a position as an analyst with a finance group in San Francisco and stayed with the firm for almost eight years.

With their two small children, the Clubbs returned to Walla Walla in spring 1989, and Megan stayed home with the babies until the fall, when she joined Baker Boyer Bank as the director of marketing. From that position, she advanced to chief operating officer. She then became president on Jan. 1, 2000. That was an auspicious date – “Y2K” – for the banking industry, and she recalls telling another Baker Boyer executive, “I’ll take the job if the bank is still here.” It was. And she was later named CEO, as well.

In addition to her expertise in economics and banking, Clubb’s tenure as an executive in the same community bank for so many years has proven to be another asset in meeting her responsibilities as a member of the fed board. She draws from a vast, trusted and valuable client base and local business network to respond to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s primary assignment to board members. Clubb met the chairman in 2010 in Washington, D.C., where he stressed the importance of gathering “real-time, on-the-ground” information.

Clubb “gathers” in two ways: roundtable forums and surveys. She holds the forums – five sessions every six months – at the bank with groups of 10 to 20 business leaders to talk about what’s happening locally, globally and nationally in specific areas, such as manufacturing or housing. The surveys go to a mix of more than 100 businesses and non-profit organizations throughout the region, and they ask two questions that deal with the fed’s priorities that month. She uses this information to write her reports.

During this process, Clubb participates in the same kind of intellectual process that helps characterize a liberal arts education – applying research, critical thinking and analysis to a complex topic then communicating effectively.

“I really am just a normal, everyday business person with a great education, and I get to add value to this powerful organization,” she said. “It’s been humbling, but I love the work and the learning opportunity.”

— by Ruth S. Wardwell

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