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Jim O'Neill - currency guru and creator of the BRIC acronym

Jim O'Neill - currency guru and creator of the BRIC acronym

created Forex Club18 March 2023

Sometimes one analysis can make your name very famous. That's how the world found out who he was Jim O'Neill. One acronym he created made him stop being an anonymous bank employee and become a financial celebrity. In today's article, we will present the profile of a former employee Goldman Sachs. We invite you to read!

Jim O'Neill and his beginnings in the industry

jim o'neill

Jim O'Neill. Source:

Terence James O'Neill graduated from Sheffield University in 1978, where he studied economics. Four years later, he earned a PhD in economics from the University of Surrey. In 1982, already as a doctor, he started working at Bank of America. After three years he moved to Marine Midland Bank. The career path may seem strange, but understandable. From a regular at BoA, James became responsible for economic research for the International Treasury Management Division.

It was a real career kick. Thanks to this, he was able to collect, process and analyze data from both developed and developing countries. In 1988, his employer was taken over by HSBC. James decided to look for development elsewhere and was hired by Swiss Bank Corporation. At the beginning, he dealt with research for a team operating on the interest rate and bond markets. Over time, he became the head of the Global Research department for the entire company. As a result, he began to be responsible for the quality of research for the entire financial institution. This increased Jim's knowledge of world economic trends. He saw with his own eyes how the economies of the countries in the eastern part of the former Iron Curtain were transforming.

His work was noticed by one of the largest investment banks in the world - Goldman Sachs. In 1997, he joined the American giant. He was responsible for macroeconomic research, which was supposed to help in better allocation of capital. He was co-leader of the GER (Global Economics Research) team and head of economists responsible for analysis for the currency investment department.

After four years of work, Jim was promoted to the position of head of the department responsible for global research. In addition, under it were analysts preparing research for the department of investing in the commodities market and the department of investment strategies. While at Goldman Sachs as an analyst, he wrote a report that changed his career. It concerned four countries to which the future was to belong. These countries were: Brazil, Russia, India and China. He also coined a catchy acronym – BRIC – which was picked up by the media, politicians and financiers.

What is BRIC?

B for Brazil

According to Jim O'Neill, these countries had good prospects for further economic development. Brazil was a supplier of energy resources and agricultural products. What's more, it had a chance to become cost-competitive. Brazil's economic development was also to be supported by demography and urbanization processes. Brazil was to take advantage of the upcoming bull market raw materials. The capital injection could be used for infrastructural expenses and for increasing the innovativeness of the country. The disadvantage of the country was still high corruption, as well as strong populist groups.

R for Russia

Russia, in turn, was to become a resource base for Europe and Asia. Thanks to its oil and gas pipelines, it was to have a key place in ensuring the energy security of the European Union countries. The raw materials were to be used for the economic transformation of the country and raising the standard of living of citizens. An enriching society would result in an increase in internal consumption and diversification of sources of economic growth. The transformation of the country would reduce corruption, which would be another argument for investing in this country. One of Russia's disadvantages was the demographic situation and the still uncertain political and economic situation after the 1998 Russian crisis.

And like India

India was a sleeping giant. A huge population, good geographical location and a good knowledge of English were factors that could support economic development. Low labor costs were supposed to be an opportunity to transfer production from highly developed countries to India. It is also worth remembering that India was still waiting for a large urbanization. The development of urban centers was an opportunity to create "islands of prosperity", where the middle and upper classes would grow in strength. This, in turn, would allow for an increase in domestic demand. According to the author, India then had the potential to become one of the "factories of the world". This meant that in the perspective of several decades, India would become a key engine of global economic growth.

C for China

China is the last component of the acronym. Even then, the achievements of the Middle Kingdom were extraordinary. From a very poor country like China in 1980, the country has changed beyond recognition in 20 years. The majority of the population still lived in poverty, but the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty decreased drastically. Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai were bustling with life and were “windows to the world”. It was in the coastal belt that factories began to spring up like mushrooms after the rain. They produced literally everything from screws to turbines. There was also a class of millionaires who made their fortune by opening China to the world. Jim O'Neill and his staff of analysts expected economic growth to pick up even more. One of the accelerators was to increase the deregulation of the economy and China's accession to the World Trade Organization. The country was to become the beneficiary of the population moving from the interior to production centers. On the one hand, this will allow to increase the income of the society, on the other hand, it will keep the wage pressure at a low level. This was to make it profitable to invest in China because labor costs were much lower than in other countries. This, combined with the diligence and low cost of sea transport, was to make China the "factory of the world".

Post-BRIC career

BRIC was a report that took on a life of its own. The acronym began to appear in the media, reports of other analysts and politicians. BRIC has become a great marketing ploy in the financial world. For clients, Goldman Sachs had a vision of the great profits that could come with the economic development of these four countries. Capital began flowing into funds investing in these four countries. There was also a boom in raw materials, which meant that countries such as Russia and Brazil became the beneficiaries. India and China, on the other hand, have been the beneficiaries of globalization.

The success of BRIC greatly strengthened the position of James O'Neill, who joined EMC in 2006 (European Management Community), where he assisted in improving the bank's effectiveness on the European market.

Jim became an expert on BRIC and was asked to comment on joining South Africa's BRIC. The merger resulted in an even more familiar acronym: BRICS. He was also quite a frequent guest on television and in the press.

In 2010, he became the head of the Asset Management department at Goldman Sachs. This meant that the creator of BRIC was responsible for $800 billion of assets under the management of the bank and its subsidiaries. Jim continued to publish reports on the world economy. In 2011, James was listed by Bloomberg Markets as one of the 50 most influential people. Two years later, Jim O'Neill left the investment bank. He worked in this bank for 18 years.

Jim's coining of the BRIC acronym changed the perception of developing countries. He included his views on developing markets in his book "The Growth Map". There he described the prospects of EM today and in the future.

Political views

He was a Conservative for many years and supported the work of the Cameron and May governments. However, as a result of different views with the last prime minister, he decided to resign from his positions in the government (he was responsible, among others, for reviving trade with China). He also sat in the House of Lords for several years. As for his economic views, he is not an orthodox follower of any major school of economics. Instead, it focuses on a pragmatic approach to solving economic problems that are most optimal in the long run.

Currency guru

Jim O'Neill was called the "currency guru" by many of his associates. This was due to the fact that as a result of economic analyzes and processes taking place in countries, he had a nose for taking a position on the market. He predicted the strengthening of the Japanese yen in the mid-90s and movements on the pair EUR / USD in 2004. Thanks to his effectiveness, over time he was promoted to higher positions related to research and later asset management. Even after leaving Goldman Sachs, he was still asked for comments on the currency market or the economic prospects of individual countries.

More attempts after BRIC

The huge marketing success associated with the formulation of the BRIC acronym led Jim to also look for other lists of countries with similar development characteristics. This is how other ideas were born, such as:

  • NextEleven,
  • MIKT,
  • MINT.

The Next Eleven is a group of countries that have the potential to become the most important (together with BRIC) economies in the 11st century. N-XNUMX countries include: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, Vietnam. These countries were characterized by a healthy demographic pyramid, favorable geographical location and high potential for further economic growth. Other features taken into account were countries' openness to trade and the quality of education. It is worth mentioning, however, that South Korea was the least suitable for this list. The reason was the high level of economic development and unfavorable demographic situation. In addition, the level of education in South Korea was well above the other 10.


In 2011, he coined another acronym that was about: Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey. Once again, South Korea was included, which was also much more economically developed than the other three. The popularity of the acronym quickly declined due to the emergence of another idea.


Jim O'Neill tried to propagate another acronym. It was formed from the first letters of such countries as: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. In 2014, he also started a documentary series on BBC Radio titled MINT: The Next Economic Giants.

Charity work

While still at Goldman Sachs, Jim O'Neill was involved in many charitable causes. He was a co-founder of the SHINE foundation, the aim of which is to enable education primarily for those who, for economic or health reasons, are unable to use their potential. The reason that guided the founders was that one of the engines of productivity growth in the economy is the improvement of education. By providing appropriate education to those most in need, the SHINE beneficiary has a chance for faster career development. Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the sponsors of this foundation. Yes! Yes! Former Manchester United manager. Interestingly, Jim himself is an avid fan of the club and was briefly employed as a non-executive director. He left the club when it went into private hands.

Jim O'Neill is also a counselor at Chatham House. It is an organization with over 100 years of history. Its purpose is to help governments and organizations create a better world. The organization tries to support initiatives aimed at preventing armed conflicts and ensuring security and justice in countries with less respect for human rights.

He is also a member of a think-tank called Bruegel. Its assumption is to improve the quality of economic policy by providing research based on facts, not political views. Bruegel also deals with the preparation of commissioned analyzes and the organization of debates. The members of the organization are economists, financiers are former politicians. Bruegel is active on social media, provides podcasts and shares his publications.


Jim O'Neill is not a famous speculator or investor. Despite his intuition for the currency market, he is better known for his one report than for predicting the movements of currency pairs. His report on the BRIC countries laid the foundations for a new perspective on the prospects of developing countries. Interestingly, the British economist, thanks to his report, accelerated the cooperation of these countries with the help of BRIC meetings. For political reasons, the BRIC countries joined South Africa. This resulted in the creation of the BRICS, which is intended to be the voice of developing countries on the international stage. A separate issue is that the BRIC countries often have conflicting interests (e.g. India - China).

Jim O'Neill, despite his success with BRIC, was constantly looking for more countries that had a chance to become global economic powers. In the following years, he created or tried to popularize further acronyms: N-11, MINT or MIKT. However, none of the acronyms gained as much popularity as BRIC.

The hero of our article himself has rather conservative views and it is important for him to maintain high economic growth for as long as possible. In his opinion, this can be achieved by carrying out programs that stimulate further growth (education, infrastructure). He also believes that the focus should be on increasing the productivity of a given country and not eating the fruits of growth.

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