(Bloomberg) -- One of Switzerland’s most consequential public appointments in a generation will take place this year with the selection of a central bank chief for one of the world’s key currencies. 

With Thomas Jordan set to leave the Swiss National Bank at the end of September, the government in Bern is likely to choose a current or former policymaker for the next guardian of the franc.

Past practice would suggest a promotion for Vice President Martin Schlegel is probable, though other options are available — including naming the country’s first female central bank chief. 

The winning candidate will get a job with an outsized prominence in Switzerland, whose political system features power sharing and dispersed responsibilities. This contrasts with the concentration of influence and power at the helm of the central bank. 

Most important for the Swiss economy will be how the next president manages the franc, whose significance as a haven currency within world financial markets remains far larger than the size of the country.

“You need someone who really understands what is the business model and the economic model of Switzerland, which is a lot about value-added exports,” Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Allianz SE, told Bloomberg Television. “You need someone quite political, unfortunately. But that’s the time we’re in, it’s a time of war economics, to a certain extent, where currency is a weapon.”

Any selection on a successor is up to the SNB’s supervisory bank council, a panel which oversees the Governing Board. Officials there will make a recommendation to the government, which then takes the final decision.

Speaking at a press conference in Zurich on Friday afternoon, Jordan declined to speculate on who might replace him, beyond saying that he’s confident there will be “enough qualified candidates in Switzerland to complete the board.”

The government said that it will decide on the next SNB chief in due course. In the meantime, here’s a closer look at some of the runners and riders.

Next in Line

Martin Schlegel is the youngest of SNB’s three rate setters and leads the department overseeing finance, risk management, financial stability, cash and security. He joined the top echelon in August 2022 directly as vice president. The move was considered unusual because new members typically don’t join in the top two positions. Schlegel previously was a deputy board member and led the central bank’s Singapore office before that.

Schlegel got his economics degree in 2003 and subsequently joined the SNB’s research division. He’s described his first job at the central bank as being Jordan’s intern. “And somehow I still am,” he told Neue Zuercher Zeitung in 2019 referring to his role as vice president.

Recently Exited

Andrea Maechler, a former International Monetary Fund official — and the only woman to rise to the SNB’s top echelon in 118 years — quit last year after being passed over for vice president in favor of Schlegel. She became deputy general manager of the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements.

The SNB’s Governing Board is now an all-male domain again, and the institution itself hasn’t been noted for its diversity. The last appointment prioritized avoiding too much German-speaking dominance instead.

“After proportional representation of French speakers was taken into account last time, now a woman should be selected,” says Karsten Junius, chief economist of Bank J Safra Sarasin Ltd. “Particularly for the SNB, this would be important right now.”

Fed Veteran

Antoine Martin joined the SNB’s rate-setting board only in January after Maechler’s departure. The native of French-speaking Switzerland spent most of his professional life in the US, where he rose up the ranks in the New York Federal Reserve. 

At the Fed, he developed a reputation as an expert in money markets, repurchase agreements and liquidity in financial markets. He also has a track record in researching bank runs and was involved in designing US measures to stabilize the financial system after the 2008 financial crisis. 

At the SNB, he leads the department which oversees money markets and the foreign exchange reserves that have ballooned the central bank’s balance sheet.

Internal Options

Other insiders who could be eligible include Petra Tschudin, one of the current board deputies. She was previously deputy head of economic affairs in the department led by Jordan, which prepares economic calculations for interest-rate decisions. She joined the central bank two decades ago, though she spent five of those at the BIS and in an academic role in Dublin.

Another would be Attilio Zanetti, a board deputy who has been at the central bank for 30 years — including short stints at the IMF and the San Francisco Fed. He was also a lecturer at the University of Basel and originally hails from Bellinzona in Italian-speaking Switzerland. 

Sebastien Kraenzlin, who will start as a board deputy in April, is a further up-and-coming option. He has led the SNB’s banking-operations division and taken a role in developing the SNB’s digital currency for trading between banks.

Looking Outside

As with Martin and Maechler, Switzerland has been known to tap outside talent for leading SNB roles. Two such examples are Beatrice Weder di Mauro, who is an economics professor at the Geneva Graduate Institute, and Luisa Lambertini, an economist who holds the top job at the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano. 

--With assistance from Francine Lacqua and Thomas Hall.

(Updates with Jordan comment in eighth paraphraph.)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.