What We Do
The part of the Federal Reserve’s work most visible to the American public is our role in circulating cash throughout the economy, both currency and coinage. We ensure that financial institutions have enough physical currency on hand to satisfy the public’s demand, even if that demand spikes.
While we don’t “print money”—that’s the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the US Mint—we do distribute currency and monitor its physical state. Every bill is sent out first from a Reserve Bank, then eventually comes back from its rounds. We look at each bill to decide whether it’s physically fit to make another trip. If not, we destroy it and send a new bill out in its place.
When you look at a dollar bill, you’ll see a stamp on one side with a letter within a “starburst” pattern. That letter tells you which Reserve Bank released the bill into the economy the first time. If you see a “D,” that means we at the Cleveland Fed sent it out when it was new.
Managing payment transactions for the US Treasury
The US Treasury needs a bank, just like individuals, to manage the flow of money in and out of its coffers. The Federal Reserve, simply put, serves as the nation’s bank, and one part of that service is managing payments for the Treasury.
- Hundreds of billions per year: Our computer systems channel digital payments of more than 299 million transactions valued at over $770 billion. You may encounter these systems directly through our website, pay.gov, if you make payments to the Veteran’s Administration, for example, or pay for something in a park run by the National Parks Service.
- Join our ranks of technologists: Designing and building these critical systems requires deep technology skills, so in addition to its many other roles, the Cleveland Fed is a sophisticated technology company, on par with any in Silicon Valley.
Keeping banks and other financial institutions safe and sound
Less apparent to the public at large is our role in working with banks and other financial institutions to make sure that they comply with banking law, that they’re creditworthy to borrow money (just like people), that they file all the forms they’re required to file, and that the financial system is safe from digital attacks.
Supervision and regulation: Ensuring that financial institutions follow legal requirements
The Cleveland Fed supervises approximately 270 financial institutions headquartered in our district to ensure they operate in a safe and sound manner, provide fair access to credit, and comply with laws, regulations, and mandates. Supervised financial institutions include state member banks, savings and loan companies, and bank holding companies.
There are other federal agencies, such as the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Company) and the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency), that watch over other institutions that the Fed doesn’t.
Banks and other financial institutions within our district may always choose to join the Cleveland Fed—that is, they become “member banks”—and as such they buy an ownership stake in our private, non-profit organization.
Ensuring that financial institutions can borrow money
Just like individuals, organizations must borrow money. In the case of financial institutions, they may need to borrow money overnight from the Fed to maintain the reserves they must have on hand by law. Through its “Discount Window,” the Cleveland Fed ensures that the financial institutions we regulate are creditworthy when they need to borrow money.
Filing the paperwork
Financial institutions must file certain reports regularly by law. The Cleveland Fed works with financial institutions within our district to file their required reports. We maintain this data, so that we can better monitor the overall health of the financial system.
Watching for threats to the financial system
We have a special unit dedicated to monitoring threats to the financial system. If we recognize one, we inform banks of it, so that they can protect themselves.
Educating the public about money, economics, and financial literacy
Field trips to learn about money. Traveling exhibits about history. Classroom activities on economics, personal finance, and college and career readiness.
These are just a few of the free resources that the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland offers to educators, students, libraries, and community organizations.
- Visit the museum: We invite you and your friends and family to visit our fun and engaging Money Museum. Through regular and traveling exhibits, which are as meaningful to adults as to young people, we teach both the basics of financial literacy and the importance of money throughout history and around the world. You can also take a virtual tour of the museum until you can visit in person.
- Bring your class: We host field trips to the Learning Center and Money Museum, during which we offer educational programs relating to economics and the financial system.
- Play educational games: We create interactive games that can be played either in the museum or online, some in Spanish, as well as in English.
- Find teaching materials for the classroom: We produce materials to support teachers in the classroom, in a variety of formats and a broad range of topics.
- Preparing for the future: We sponsor programs to prepare young people for college, career, and beyond.
- And it’s free: We offer these resources completely free of charge as part of our service to the nation.
Studying the national and regional economy
The Federal Reserve boasts an extensive staff of academic economists and researchers whose role is to understand the general health of the US economy, both nationally and regionally. In part, their research informs the Board of Governors’ and Federal Open Market Committee’s decisions about interest rates. In addition, their work contributes to the understanding of economics in both theory and practice.
We also maintain a variety of economic indicators through which can be seen the movements of the economy, both present and future, as well as the general health of and risk to financial markets.
The Cleveland Fed has a particular expertise in the study of inflation, how it can be measured and forecast and how it affects the economic and financial systems in which we live.
Studying issues that affect our communities
Our researchers don’t just study heady subjects like inflation measurement. We also study the practical social issues that affect our society, such as racial equity, income inequality, fair housing, employability, transportation systems, and public health crises, to name only a few.
The Cleveland Fed not only produces research but also sponsors public forums in which people can benefit from our studies and conversation with one another. Our regular “FedTalk” events and biennial Policy Summit bring researchers and practitioners together in wide-ranging conversation on the critical issues that affect people’s daily lives.
Safeguarding the operations of the Federal Reserve
We recruit, train, and maintain our own, independent police force, who guard our buildings and those who work in them. When you visit the Cleveland Fed, you will be greeted warmly by our officers, and while you are within our walls, you can be assured of your physical safety. In times of public emergency, the Federal Reserve police cooperate fully with the city to ensure that the Fed continues to operate uninterrupted.
We also have extensive information and technology security professionals, who protect the Fed from digital danger. They ensure that the smooth workings of the Federal Reserve cannot be disrupted or damaged by cyberattack from outside the Fed.