Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, was named the secretariat's first Prefect and "asked to start work as soon as possible". Pell said he would begin work at the Vatican "by the end of March." The Pope also announced the formation of a Council for the Economy to set policy guidelines for the secretariat and analyze its work. The council comprises eight cardinals or bishops and seven lay persons "with strong professional financial experience," chosen so that the body represents the global church. These members were named on 8 March. The council was headed by a Cardinal Reinhard Marx as coordinator. On 5 June 2015, Pope Francis appointed Libero Milone as Auditor General.
A meeting of the Council for the Economy was held in September 2014 to discuss the statutes of the new secretariat. The Council also discussed the transfer of responsibilities from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See to the Secretariat for the Economy and the criteria for establishing a budgeting system.
On 3 March 2014, Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Alfred Xuereb as the first General Secretary of the Secretariat. Xuereb later left this post in February 2018. On 22 March, Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Brian Ferme, an Australian-born jurist and head of the St. Pius X Faculty of Canon Law in Venice, as the first Prelate Secretary of the Council that oversees the Secretariat.
In a motu proprio issued on 9 July 2014 the responsibilities of the Secretariat for the Economy were extended considerably, since it decreed that the Ordinary Section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) is to be transferred to the Secretariat, giving the latter control over purchasing and human resources.
Both the Secretariat and Council were given formal status in February 2015.