Becoming a Central Banker: Exploring Three Hundred Biographies in a Century of the Banco de la República's History.

Central banks have become crucial state institutions over the past two centuries, wielding significant economic power within their countries and globally.1 Despite decisions being discussed and fulfilled by individuals with their own beliefs, ideas, and agendas, studies of central banks centered on the institutions.2 Existing research has found barriers to the entrance and impacts of lifelong experiences on policy decisions. However due to data constraints, these studies have primarily focused on governors of central banks in large economies post-1960s.3

This paper aims to challenge this emphasis by providing a closer examination of the individuals who have directed monetary, exchange, and credit policies in the Banco de la República, Colombia’s central bank, since 1923. Moreover, governors are key players in central bank decision-making, but they are not almighty figures within them. As most of the policy decisions are now usually made by committees, this study examines the traits of all board members.4

The study employs a proprietary biographical dataset of 296 individuals that combines archival research with bibliographical, online, and press sources to trace the educational and career trajectories of individuals appointed to the board of Colombia's central bank over a hundred-year period. Data collection involved gathering and merging information from archival research, bibliographical, online and press sources, and resolving ambiguities caused by individuals sharing the same names. The data analysis comprises three steps: [1] elaborating descriptive statistics for key traits place of birth, age, and educational attainment for all the board members across different periods of the bank's history, [2] estimating common career pathways using social sequence analysis and contrasting it among board members since 1963, and [3] measuring the proximity to certain institutions, such as the Coffee Federation or the IMF, using simple network metrics for the board members since 1991.

This study uses historical biographies to explain the evolution of central banks, using the Banco de la República as a case Study. By tracing the educational and career trajectories of board members, these historical biographies can offer valuable insights into the factors that shape central bank policies and actions, enhancing the understanding of their evolution and functioning.

1 Ugolini, S. (2017). The evolution of central banking: theory and history. London: Palgrave Macmillan; Johnson, J. (2016). Priests of prosperity. Cornell University Press; Tucker, P. (2018). Unelected power. Princeton University Press.

2 Adolph, C. (2013). Bankers, bureaucrats, and central bank politics: The myth of neutrality. Cambridge University Press. Conti-Brown, P. (2016). The power and independence of the Federal Reserve. Princeton University Press.

3 Charléty, P., Romelli, D., & Santacreu-Vasut, E. (2017). Appointments to central bank boards: Does gender matter? Economics Letters, 155, 59-61. Malmendier, U., Nagel, S., & Yan, Z. (2021). The making of hawks and doves. Journal of Monetary Economics, 117, 19-42. Bordo, M., & Istrefi, K. (2018). Perceived FOMC: The making of hawks, doves, and swingers (No. w24650). NBER.

4 Blinder, A. S. (2007). Monetary policy by committee: Why and how? European Journal of Political Economy, 23(1), 106-123

Ricardo José Salas-Díaz is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He also serves as an ISSR Quantitative Methods Consultant. 

His research interests revolve around central banking, economic history, higher education, and diversity. 


Ricardo's research examines how various physical characteristics, educational pathways, and professional choices impact people's opportunities and decision-making. 

He is currently engaged in three main lines of investigation:

  1. He studies the relationship between educational and professional traits with the appointments to central bank boards of directors in Colombia and the US and the evolution of diversity within presidential cabinets and central bank boards in Latin America.
  2. Ricardo investigates how the traits of individuals at the Banco de la República influence the institution's language, non-economic decisions, and policies, such as investments in culture, scholarship programs, and hiring practices.
  3. He researches how skin color affects access to public goods and influences the perceptions of technical expertise and trust in public office.