Lael Brainard was nominated on Monday by US President Joe Biden to serve as vice chair of the Federal Reserve, a move welcomed by progressives who hope she will address climate change and economic inequality during her tenure.
Ms Brainard, a Democrat, is seen as a skilled negotiator and a specialist in international trade, and was a favourite of the party's progressive wing to take over as head of the central bank from Jerome Powell.
She was appointed to the Federal Board of Governors in 2014 by former president Barack Obama and has been the sole Democrat on the body for the past three years.
Before joining the Fed, Ms Brainard worked in the Treasury Department as undersecretary for international affairs.
Observers have taken notice of her work on sensitive issues like banking sector deregulation, where she has pushed back against efforts to ease up on oversight in the sector.
While working for Mr Obama, Ms Brainard was criticised for not doing enough to tackle environmental issues.
She has apparently taken the criticism to heart: in November 2020, she gave a speech on “important risks” to financial stability caused by climate change, and at her urging, the Fed began assessing those risks in its biannual report on the subject.
“She has been a consistent voice on the regulatory side, worried about financial stability issues and pushing back to some extent against the deregulatory bent of” former president Donald Trump's appointees, former Fed governor Don Kohn said.
“Another point she has made in her speeches is how beneficial it is to have a strong economy that can bring people in who have been left behind or at the bottom of the pay scale or who have dropped out of the labour force.”
Ms Brainard was initially viewed as a potential pick for Mr Biden's treasury secretary, but was ultimately passed over in favour of Janet Yellen, a former Fed chair and the first woman to serve in that role.
Push for the digital dollar
Ms Brainard is seen as a leading voice in the push for cryptocurrency and has previously made the case for the digital dollar.
In May, she said a digital currency could provide a variety of benefits, including providing financial services to “underbanked” Americans and ensuring the safety of a system backed by the Fed while improving transactions between people in different countries.
The Covid-19 pandemic heightened the need for the general public to have access to a well-regulated digital dollar.
“The Federal Reserve remains committed to ensuring that the public has access to safe, reliable and secure means of payment, including cash,” she said at a conference presented by Coindesk.
“As part of this commitment, we must explore — and try to anticipate — the extent to which households’ and businesses’ needs and preferences may migrate further to digital payments over time.”
AFP contributed to this report