Life Since High School



Jeff Siegel

Jeff in 1968After high school it was off to college. I had no idea what I wanted to do but I had a love for history and obtained a liberal arts degree with a major in history. The things that stick out in my mind about my college days are: 1) the semester I received all A's; 2) watching from a roof top (not participating in) the local police running after the students who set cars on fire to protest the Vietnam War; 3) April 1970 in Washington D.C.

This last item, April 1970 in Washington D.C., is something I will never forget. Chuck Shulruff & I, plus a friend of Chuck's named "Peanuts," drove out to D.C. to "put our 2 cents in" to the political process. We arrived in D.C. about midnight after driving straight through from Champaign, Illinois. As we pulled up in front of the White House Jimmy Hendrix came on the radio singing "The Star Spangled Banner" the way only Jimmy Hendrix could sing it. That night the three of us almost ended up sleeping in West Potomac Park, but we met a guy in his forties (that seemed old then but not now!) from New York who had reserved a hotel suite for his family who was joining him the next day. He asked us if we wanted to crash with him. There being three of us and only one of him, we agreed. The next night we ended up in West Potomac Park with the rest of the rabble-rousers.

That weekend we saw congressional testimony concerning the bombing of Laos held by George McGovern, visited Arlington National Cemetery (after all, that's what the protest was all about) and peacefully marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a time to remember.

After college, I got into banking. I really don't think being treasurer of the junior class had anything to do with this. At the time jobs for people with history degrees weren't plentiful and I took what was available. I think the starting "salary" was $400 per month. After a few promotions and moving around a little, I found myself managing retail branch offices of various financial institutions in the Chicago Loop and suburbs. I also went to night school to obtain a master's degree in finance. About 1988, while managing a credit card portfolio, the institution I worked for was bought out and I was told, "We have someone in California that does what you do." Consolidation of the banking industry led me to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

I originally joined the Reserve Bank as a bank examiner. Remember the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart? Remember the bank examiner that shows up the day before Christmas? Well, that's what I did - I was a federal bank examiner- a "road examiner" dropping in on banks in the field. After being in the field, I got a desk job reviewing applications from financial institutions that were expanding and/or merging with other institutions. When you see a headline indicating that so-and-so bank is acquiring so-and-so bank, the transaction isn't consummated until the federal regulator approves it. In some cases, approval or denial of an application must come from Washington D.C. Since protesting in DC in the early 70's I've often been back there and have even had an opportunity to address Allan Greenspan and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. I still hold a commission as a bank examiner, but I'm now responsible for consumer education for the Federal Reserve Bank Chicago. Nowadays, the hot consumer issue is Y2K and therefore you can usually find me conducting consumer presentations or participating on panels regarding Y2K. Once we get beyond the new millennium, I expect the next hot issue to be electronic commerce - you know, PC banking, smart cards, etc.

On a personal note, I'm very happily married to one of the cutest woman I know and I'm very fortunate because she loves me and has always had faith in me. Our song is "Stand by Me" from the movie with the same name. Kathy has stood by me through thick and thin including losing my job in the aforementioned bank consolidation and going through a kidney transplant about 10 years ago. She's wonderful - but don't tell her I said that because it'll just go to her head! Finally, if some of you knew me well enough, you may recall that I was a big Civil War buff. I still am and when I'm in DC and have a free weekend, you can probably find me on one of the battlefields dreaming about how Lincoln must have felt when he looked out of the White House and saw Confederate flags all around him.

One last item. We regularly have interns here at the Reserve Bank and some of them are graduates from New Trier in Winnetka. I am intensely proud of telling them that I am an alumnus of the first graduating class of New Trier West - Class of 1968.