This Wall Street stalwart has been a Goldman Sachs employee for almost 20 years, and is responsible for coining the acronym ‘BRIC’ to refer to the emerging markets – Brazil, Russia, India and China – back in 2001.
His resignation was revealed by GS chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and president Gary Cohn. In a statement, the two figures described O’Neill’s time at the bank as ‘nearly 20 years of outstanding service,’ and said that his naming of the BRIC nations was the start of a ‘revolutionary economic trend’.
They said: ‘Jim’s BRIC thesis has challenged conventional thinking about emerging markets and, as a result, has had a significant economic and social impact.’ Interestingly, his retirement has come as a surprise to the industry, and little is known about what he plans to do next. According to the FT however, some are suggesting that he may have been frustrated about the status that GSAM actually had in the bank.
When he was given the post - which was created specially for him - he was charged with revitalising its struggling reputation on Wall Street. He wanted to expand the equities offering and change pay structures so that quality of client service and advisers' pay were more closely aligned. Apparently, these two innovations failed to materialise.
So, for a little background on O’Neill. He grew up in Manchester, and then went to Sheffield University to read geography and economics. He worked for a short time at the Bank of America and Swiss Bank, before joining Goldman Sachs as a partner in the middle of the ‘90s. He gradually climbed his way to the top, taking a post as chief economist, and then finally being appointed chairman of the firm’s asset management operation (GSAM) in 2010.
As a point of interest, O’Neill is a passionate fan of Manchester United, and during his time in banking he attempted to rally some fellow supporters to try and take over the football club in 2010. His £1bn bid fell apart in the end, but not before it had made him a bit of a household name.
We doubt his career is finished however, as just last year, he was being touted as a possible choice for the new governor of the Bank of England. We’ll keep you posted on what’s next for this financial mover and shaker…