Jan Hájek (July 2021)

 Jan Hájek comes from Teplice and studied European Economic Integration and Economic Policy at the IES. He also managed to pass an exchange study stay within the Erasmus programme at the Swedish business school in Jonkoping.  After completing his master’s studies, he continued his studies at the IES as a PhD student, teaching seminars of Monetary Economics and Quantitative Methods, successfully finished his studies in 2019 with his dissertation Essays on Macro Imbalances, Monetary Policy and Exchange Rates. He has participated in a number of training courses and presentations in institutions around the world such as the IMF, Bank of International Settlements, Bank of England, Banque de France or the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey.

He started his work experience first as an assistant to the Crisis in the euro area group at the National Economic Council of the Government (NERV) and then joined the CNB, where he worked in the Financial Stability Department for more than three years. In April 2018, Jan then joined the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, where he worked as a Financial Stability Expert in the Directorate General Macroprudential Policy & Financial Stability. In September 2020, he took up a position of a Supervisor in the direct banking supervision section of the ECB, where he remains to date and leads the capital adequacy assessment and the credit risk assessment in one of the Joint Supervisory Teams. In addition, he served as a Chair of Assessment Team on the countercyclical capital buffer (European Systemic Risk Board) for almost 3 years, as a Secretary of one of the two workstreams on macroprudential capital buffers (Basel Committee for Banking Supervision) and volunteered as a committee member in the ECB's Women in Economics Scholarship.

Jan is married and enjoys cooking, travelling, signing and cycling in his spare time.

After your studies, you went directly to CNB. Since when have you feel the central banking is the right career path for you? Was there some special subject/teacher at the IES who influenced you in this area? What would you recommend?

My desire to pursue a career in the central bank goes back to my high school studies, as I perceived the central bank’s role in the modern market economy as fascinating and unique. This desire was one of the key factors in applying to the IES in fact, given some of the courses are on central banking and some lecturers are also employees of central banks providing another channel of insights into the field.

Early on, I was keen on exploring one of the core functions of the central bank – monetary policy. In this context, I would mention Tomas Holub’s course Monetary Economics, where I used to teach some of the seminars for several years too. However, it was also during the time when I studied at the IES that the global financial crisis broke out and central banks (or other relevant authorities) were tasked with macroprudential powers. Since macroprudential policy was a new domain, there was no dedicated course taught at the IES in that time. I am happy to see that with the course Systemic Risk and Macroprudential Policy taught by Adam Gersl, the gap doesn’t exist anymore. I had the pleasure to attend Adam’s lectures in the past and would recommend interested students in attending the course. Beyond this, I received invaluable guidance in the field of research from my PhD Supervisor Roman Horváth.

As a recommendation to those interested in the field of central banking, I would suggest getting involved in various traineeships/scholarships that central banks offer (e.g. ECB’s Women in Economics Scholarship) and/or reaching out to the IES lecturers and teaching assistants working in central banks to gain insights about the work. The latter has always been regarded as a key strength of the IES community.

Which field did you focus on? You worked in the Financial Stability Department, what is behind, what exactly did you do?

Although my PhD focused predominantly on monetary policy, I have decided to join the Financial Stability Department in the CNB. This Department identifies systemic risks and vulnerabilities in the financial system and applies a set of dedicated instruments to mitigate these risks, commonly known as macroprudential policy. By doing so, it preserves the stability of the financial system, a key pre-condition for ensuring that financial services continue to be provided to the real economy effectively.

My tasks involved calibration of macroprudential capital buffers, namely the countercyclical capital buffer. In practical terms, this would mean to identify the position of the Czech economy in the financial cycle and through set of various tools (from simple statistical ones to those involving stress testing framework) evaluate the appropriate level of this capital requirement to be applied by the financial institutions. Beyond this, I also assessed the credit risk on non-financial corporate portfolios in the Czech banking sector gaining useful insights into the overall risk appetite in the economy.

You currently work in the direct banking supervision section of the ECB. Was it difficult to switch from macroprudential to microprudential supervision?

In the recent years, the ECB has intensified its support for fluctuation of the internal staff through horizontal mobility. These are essentially internal campaigns for people on the same position level with slightly less iterations between the interested applicants and the hiring teams (compared to the external campaigns). From this perspective, one could say these campaigns are a bit easier, but it surely doesn’t lower the quality of the competition :)

However, if you wish to make a transition to a new area when applying to the ECB through the external campaign, this becomes much more difficult, as you need to pass through more campaign rounds (as in any other external campaign) as well as to win among the pool of candidates that have a stronger background in the given area, naturally.

CNB and now ECB, it seems as the nice result of your effort… Have you always thought of international career, and CNB was a “base camp” on this way? Is it the good starting point for international career?

Although the international environment seems exciting to me, I have always deeply valued the Czech environment and the opportunities therein. That’s why during my studies I assisted to the National Economic Council of the Government (NERV), specifically to a group monitoring the euro area crisis. Similarly, after my graduate studies, I have decided to join the Financial Stability Department in the CNB. This was a great work experience in a dynamic team which I enjoyed a lot. Beyond improving in identifying risks and vulnerabilities, I also learnt a lot about prudential policymaking, thanks to an excellent guidance of Jan Frait. Indeed, the CNB has an excellent name in this particular area within the central banking community, so having such experience was definitely a great starting point for working in the ECB.

As my career developed, I simply became more involved internationally without being specifically fixed on it. Considering how international the financial system actually is, I do not perceive it as a surprise now. However, I wouldn’t say that I had this specific vision at the beginning. In sum, I honestly think what you enjoy the most and where you can contribute the most should be the ultimate guiding principles when making career decisions.

How do you enjoy the life in Germany, is it similar to the Czech Republic as it is quite close to the boarders, or is it completely different world? Do you have a long-term plan to live here?

Living outside the domestic environment has obviously its pros and cons, as some things are simply different. That said, I tend to think Germany is not so far in terms of both geographical as well as cultural distance if compared to some other regions in the world. Frankfurt in general has a sizeable international community and the ECB supports its staff in integrating their families in living in Germany also, so it seemed relatively easy to fit in.

What I do appreciate a lot in Germany is a well-developed cycling infrastructure and drivers’ awareness of cyclists. This enables easy (and safe :) commuting which usually isn’t the case in the Czech cities, unfortunately.

As for long-term plans, these are quite hard to predict. As of now, we’re satisfied here. That said, we also have close ties with people back home, so let’s see what the future holds.

Which are your hobbies?

I’ve always enjoyed doing all sorts of sports, most recently cycling, and I also enjoy cooking a lot. Besides this, Frankfurt is an excellent base for any type of travelling – be it regional or distance-oriented. I can honestly say I have found a joy in both :)

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