Pranav Govindaraju: Policy Pitch Competition

September 17, 2019 0:04:17
Kaltura Video

Pranav Govindaraju (BA '20) talks about fear, excitement, and the ability to learn and grow while tackling large tasks during his internship at the Federal Reserve Board. 


Good evening, my name is Pranav Govindaraju and I'm a senior here at the BA program at Ford.
I came to Michigan from San Jose, California where I grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley in a family of computer scientists and engineers.
So as you can probably guess, I grew up with a passion for anything but computer science and engineering.
Instead in high school I focused my time on activities like debate where I argue about things like the Dodd Frank Act and the transpacific partnership and I was fascinated.
You see, I wanted to learn how governments design regulations to account for things that are as unpredictable and as multivariate as the free market.
It was a desire to answer questions like this that took me here to the Ford School and eventually led to me applying for an internship at the Federal Reserve.
Now just for some background on the Federal Reserve Board or The Fed: The Fed is basically the central bank of the United States.
It operates under a dual mandate from Congress to ensure long term price stability and low levels of unemployment.
Now the Fed also has to maintain independence and this just basically means that they don't check their Twitter.
Now I was hired to be a policy analytics intern in the division of supervision and regulation.
And as the name suggests, this was the body that was responsible for supervising and regulating financial institutions.
So basically if any of the nation's banks were breaking the rules, it was our job to find out.
Now when I got to the Fed, I was tasked the project to investigate atypical fluctuations in the derivative notional balances of systemically important financial institutions and to assess their purported effect on capital surcharge requirements.
When I got there I had no idea what those words meant.
But essentially I was being asked to assess whether or not some of the largest banks in the world were making their numbers look better than they actually were, and I when I found out the gravity of this project, I was terrified.
You see not only was I being asked to assess the efficacy of a federal regulation, I didn't know how to use any of the statistical programming software they gave me, and I didn't really know what a financial derivative was.
So I was scared.
But my apprehension soon gave way to excitement.
You see I was being asked to investigate some of the largest banks in the world I felt like Steve Carell from The Big Short.
And as an intern, this felt like an incredible opportunity.
And now by the end of my internship ,I was asked to present to division supervisors and managers my findings.
And so I gave an hour long presentation with graphs, some numbers, and some more graphs to basically answer the question "Is anything going wrong with the banks?" My answer was "I don't really know." There's not enough information.
And that was okay because in the process of investigating I learned more skills than I ever could have hoped for.
I learned more about financial policy and about words that I previously didn't know the definitions of than I ever could have imagined.
And I was even able to make recommendations on how the Federal Reserve Board can make changes to its existing capital surcharge criterion - again more words that I learned the definition of - and I felt like I was making a difference.
And while I may not ever be able to see that impact materialize in the real world, while I can't tell you definitively that I made a positive impact this past summer, I can tell you that I learned.
While I wasn't out there in the community, I was at a cubicle in front of a computer learning.
I learned more than I ever could have imagined, and I like to believe that in the realm of public policy, that's the 1st step.
Now I don't know what my 2nd step is going to be.
I know I want to continue working with economic policy, but I don't know whether that's going to be in the government or in the private sector.
But what I do know is that was my experiences at the Fed, I'm ready to learn more.
I'm ready to face the greater challenges, and that's exciting to me.
Thank you, appreciate it.