You wouldn't know that the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland still has a "stockpile of cash" leftover from Y2K. In fact, after a tour of the bank, you wouldn't be sure the Fed even deals in currency. Yes, there are people working the machines used for counting greenbacks on the public viewing level, but the vault itself extends deeper beneath Superior Avenue than even the tour guide knows.
"I bet if I did some digging, I could find out exactly how far down we went," says guide Jennifer Ransom -- not speaking literally, of course. The old vault from when the bank opened in 1923 is now unused and open to the tour, and if the 47-ton door is anything to go by, it would take more than just a little digging to get inside.
The unassuming office of the bank president -- who votes as part of "The Fed" that's always doing something with interest rates -- is wide open to smaller groups, however (unless he's using it at the time). "He likes the idea of people being able to come into the bank and see how it runs," Ransom explains.
In a nutshell, the 12 banks in the Federal Reserve system run "like the bankers' bank." It's where our banks conduct their business. "What you think of as normal banking services, we provide those services to banks," says Ransom. Aside from them, the biggest account in the system is the federal government.
But while the boardrooms look fancy -- decorated with framed historic currency and highly polished wooden tables, with executive chairs bigger than a standard bathroom -- they don't exactly look like the places where the fate of billions of dollars in cash is decided.
And before you ask: No, the tour guide is not told how many of those billions are in Cleveland's vault. You'll just have to do some digging and find out for yourself.
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