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Key Takeaways

  • Women are increasingly holding positions of enormous power around the world.
  • Here are five women who hold such power, and who are in a position to influence financial markets and currencies in 2020.
  • #1 Angela Merkel, #2 Christine Lagarde, #3 Nancy Pelosi, #4 Ursula von der Leyen, #5 Kristalina Geogieva.

Women are increasingly holding positions of enormous power around the world. They are using this power to create change, and oftentimes, lift other women up with them. Here are five women who hold such power, and who are in a position to influence financial markets, including the currency markets:

#1 Angela Merkel is the first female Chancellor of Germany. She assumed office in 2005 and is serving her fourth term.

Highlights:
  • This German physicist is Germany’s second-longest serving chancellor (behind Helmut Kohl).
  • Forbes ranked her #1 on their list of The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World and #4 of The World’s Most Powerful People (behind President Xi, Putin, and Trump).
  • She has been widely described as the de facto leader of Europe, leading the world’s fourth largest economy.
  • Her leadership is marked by a steely reserve. She has stood up to Donald Trump and allowed more than a million Syrian refugees into Germany. (Forbes,12.5.2019)
Challenges:
  • Brexit
  • Growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe
  • A coalition government disliked by German voters
Impact on FX market: 
  • The value of the euro will depend to a great extent on her success in implementing reforms that will satisfy her CDU party and German voters, and stimulate economic growth in Germany. Merkel’s successful management of this change will be vital to Germany, the EU and the euro.
#2 Christine Lagarde is the first woman to be President of the European Central Bank (ECB), one of the world’s three most systemically vital central banks (the Fed and Bank of England being the other two). She assumed office on November 1, 2019.

Highlights:
  • Lagarde is the first non-economist to hold the post of ECB president. She was also the first-ever female head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Forbes ranked her #2 on their list of The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World and #22 on their 2018 list of The World’s Most Powerful People.
Challenges:
  • Lagarde is already challenging the status quo by starting a full review of the ECB’s monetary policy framework, despite market’s expectations for her to maintain the accommodative monetary policy of her predecessor, Mario Draghi.
Impact on FX market:
  • To maintain a strong and stable euro, Lagarde will need to successfully manage a weakening regional economy, a less stable political landscape, and a tricky global trade environment – “an almost impossible job, but she has a history of achieving success with difficult tasks,” said Mohamed El-Erian, Bloomberg Opinion Columnist.

#3 Nancy Pelosi is the first woman to become Speaker of the US House of Representatives, an office she assumed on January 3, 2019. She is the highest-ranking female elected official in US history.

Highlights:
  • Pelosi is in her 17th term as a congresswoman, representing California’s 12th congressional district (much of San Francisco).
  • As Speaker of the House, she is #2 in the presidential line of succession, immediately after the Vice President.
  • She was instrumental in the passage of many landmark bills, including the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Reform Act, and the 2010 Tax Relief Act.
Challenges:
  • The impeachment proceedings. Pelosi has withheld referring articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate for a trial. How well that plays to her constituency is debatable.
Impact on the FX market:
  • The US dollar has been strong during Trump’s presidency. Now, with Former National Security Advisor John Bolton saying he would be willing to testify before the Senate if subpoenaed, a curveball could be thrown to the currency markets, if and when articles of impeachment move to the Senate.

#4 Ursula von der Leyen is the first women to be the President of the European Commission (EC), the executive branch of the 28-member European Union, responsible for trade, energy and climate policy. She assumed office on December 1, 2019, and will hold the position for five years.

Highlights:
  • A multi-lingual native of Belgium, she raised seven children and earned a medical degree on the side before ascending to the top of German politics.
  • In her opening speech as EC President, she championed gender equality, “We represent half of our population. We want our fair share.”
  • A loyal member of the Christian Democrat party, she is known as a conservative Europhile (one who admires Europe or favors participation in the EU).
Challenges:
  • She will set the tone for Europe’s relations with the rest of the world, especially the US. Unlike her predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker, she supports a close relationship between western Europe and the US and is a strong supporter of NATO.
  • She promises to lead as a “geopolitical” executive, unafraid to pursue EU interests in a manner as hard-nosed as China, Russia and the US. (Financial Times,1.2.2020)
  • She has set the global climate emergency as a top priority.
Impact on FX market:
  • As a consensus-building force in the EU, von der Leyen should help contribute to a strong and stable euro.

#5 Kristalina Georgieva is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Her five-year term began on October 1, 2019.

Highlights:
  • Georgieva has been called “the most powerful woman in Washington not named Nancy.” (Politico 10.18.2019)
  • She is a PhD economist with a 30-year track record working for global and regional institutions like the World Bank, the United Nations and the EU.
  • Her holistic view on how to stimulate global economic growth includes investing in: 1) women; 2) the green economy; and, 3) the digital revolution.
Challenges:
  • The biggest point of tension with the US could be climate policy. Her past playbook shows she will frame climate problems almost purely in economic terms, where the cause of climate change matters less than the response.
  • She must persuade the tight-fisted German government to invest in the green transition and in defense.
  • “The new IMF chief calls for raising taxes on the rich to tackle inequality, which will require international organizations, academics, country authorities, civil society and the private sector working together…” (The Guardian, 1.7.2020)
Impact on FX market:
  • The IMF's overall lending capacity is about US$1 trillion, with Argentina, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Pakistan and the Ukraine among the largest borrowers. The value of their respective currencies will depend to a great extent on the success of Georgieva’s IMF leadership.
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