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Bank of England’s Biggest Inflation Hawk Will Step Down

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Lucy Meakin and Jill Ward
·3-min read
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(Bloomberg) --

The Bank of England’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane will step down in June, removing the the Monetary Policy Committee’s most outspoken contrarian and inflation hawk.

Haldane, 53, will leave after career spanning more than three decades at the central bank to become chief executive officer at the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce starting in September. He will remain in place through the bank’s rate decision on June 24.

He’s departing as the U.K. emerges from its worst recession in three centuries, which pushed the central bank to unleash unprecedented stimulus including 150 billion pounds ($206 billion) of bond purchases this year. Haldane alone on the nine-member policy panel voiced concerns about inflation accelerating with a rapid bounce-back in growth as Prime Minister Boris Johnson winds back restrictions to contain the Covid-19.

“The most interesting element to me is that he is probably the arch-hawk on the MPC, and his removal will certainly see a more dovish tone seep into meetings,” said Stuart Cole, chief macro strategist at Equiti Capital and a former BOE economist.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey will appoint a successor after the bank advertises the position. While the chief economist traditionally also sits on the MPC, it’s the Treasury’s decision to name members to that panel.

In recent months, Haldane has warned about the risk of excessive pessimism about the economic outlook as the pandemic winds down, terming it “Chicken Licken” economics that could undermine the recovery.

While many of his colleagues point out concerns about rising unemployment and signs of sluggishness in the economy, he said he expects a “rip-roaring recovery” and on inflation said a “tiger has been stirred” that may “prove difficult to tame.”

Several economists said the improving outlook for the U.K. economy has already shifted debate on the MPC away from extra stimulus and toward whether the pace of bond purchases need to slow -- or even an eventual tightening in policy.

“In 2022 the BOE is likely to set out an exit strategy from its ultra-easy policy stance before hiking the bank rate in 2023,” said Kallum Pickering, senior economist at Berenberg.

Haldane joined the BOE in 1989 after gaining a masters in economics from Warwick University.

He logged experience at the central bank in international finance, market infrastructure and financial stability during the financial crisis before clinching his current role under previous Governor Mark Carney in 2014. That year, “Time” magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Haldane is known for his occasionally quirky speeches. He once used Dr. Seuss to bemoan the reading age needed to understand the central bank’s communications.

His words sometimes raised eyebrows, notably when he compared pre-crisis economic projections to a famously inaccurate forecast by BBC weatherman Michael Fish before a 1987 storm that killed 18 people.

In 2012, he drew the ire of his future boss with a speech -- titled “The Dog and the Frisbee” -- which called for simplicity in banking regulation. Carney, who was then the Bank of Canada governor and head of the global Financial Stability Board, said the speech was “uneven” and the conclusion “not supported by the proper understanding of the facts.”

Haldane has also led the government’s Industrial Strategy Council until it was dissolved a few weeks ago and is the co-founder of charity Pro-Bono Economics.

“If your business is trying to predict rates and quantitative easing, it will be a bit easier without Andy’s speeches somewhat clouding the issue,” said Tony Yates, a former BOE official who worked with Haldane. “If you’re trying to get up to speed on the latest things in monetary economics and finance, then it’s less good because there won’t be Andy picking up new things and explaining them.”

(Updates with context and comment from the first paragraph.)

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