Policy brief

An analysis of central bank decision-making

Bank of England MPC celebrates 25 years and we use this occasion to compare its decision-making process to that of the ECB

Publishing date
12 July 2022

The process by which central banks take decisions has evolved over the years, with a tendency towards independence and decisions taken by committees rather than individuals. Monetary policy committees can be set up formally in different ways, traditionally falling into one of two categories: individualistic or collegial. Individualistic committees reach decisions by voting and publish the votes of each of their members, while in collegial committees, decisions are typically reached collectively. The European Central Bank is an example of the latter, while the Bank of England follows an individualistic approach.

Focusing on decision-making, a relevant question is whether the formal set-up in practice leads to different ways of deliberating and reaching monetary policy decisions. We look at decisions taken by the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank over more than 20 years to evaluate how different the decision-making process is in these three central banks. The results indicate that, irrespective of the committee type, their approach to consensus building when they take decisions is similar.

The three central banks seem to value reaching decisions by unanimity, both on interest rates – the prime monetary policy instrument by definition – and on asset purchases. Decisions to tighten monetary policy are more often taken unanimously than decisions to ease monetary policy. When maintaining policy unchanged, decisions are usually backed by most committee members. 


Recommended citation 
Demertzis, M., C. Martins and N. Viegi (2022) ‘An analysis of central bank decision-making', Policy Contribution 12/2022, Bruegel


About the authors

  • Maria Demertzis

    Maria Demertzis is a Senior fellow at Bruegel and part-time Professor of Economic Policy at the Florence School of Transnational Governance at the European University Institute. She was Bruegel’s Deputy Director until December 2022. She has previously worked at the European Commission and the research department of the Dutch Central Bank. She has also held academic positions at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the USA and the University of Strathclyde in the UK, from where she holds a PhD in economics. She has published extensively in international academic journals and contributed regular policy inputs to both the European Commission's and the Dutch Central Bank's policy outlets. She contributes regularly to national and international press and has regular column that appears twice a month in various EU newspapers and on Bruegel’s opinion page.

  • Catarina Martins

    Catarina worked at Bruegel as a Research analyst until July 2023. She studied her BSc in Economics at the University of Porto. She then pursued an international quantitative MSc in Economics via the QTEM Network, studying the first semester at the University of Porto, the second at HEC Montréal and the third semester at Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management (SBS-EM).

    Before joining Bruegel, Catarina worked at the European Central Bank in the Directorate General Market Operations, the department responsible for the implementation of Monetary Policy. As part of DG-M, Catarina joined the Money Market and Liquidity division, where she worked very closely with topics related to financial markets, benchmark reforms and liquidity developments. She had previously done a quantitative internship in Banco de Portugal at BPLim Microdata Research Laboratory of the Economics and Research department.

    Catarina is interested in various areas of economics and financial topics and has developed over time a fascination for data-related work. She is fluent in Portuguese and English and has a good command of Spanish and French.

  • Nicola Viegi

    He is the South African Reserve Bank Professor of Monetary Economics - University of Pretoria, SA since 2010. He has served in various universities like University of Strathclyde as Research Fellow, University of Strathclyde as Lecturer in Economics, University of Kwazulu-Natal as Senior Lecturer in Economics and University of Cape Town as Associate Professor in Economics. He has been Visiting Lecturer in ESC Toulouse, Lecturer in Business Economics (1999-2002), University of Malta, Lecturer in International Finance (1999-2002) and De Nederlandesche Bank, Amsterdam (2000-present).

    His research areas are Monetary economics, economic policy theory, monetary fiscal policy interdependence, political economy of monetary institutions, economic policy under uncertainty assets prices and monetary policy, regional integration in Africa, political economy of government debt, the economics of colonisation and decolonisation, macromodelling for emerging countries, economic growth and institutions.

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