Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill: BRICS ‘Have Exceeded all Expectations’ – by Erich Follath (Spiegel Online – March 21, 2013)

Jim O’Neill, who coined the acronymn BRIC for emerging nations, plans to leave his post at Goldman Sachs this year. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he discusses the banking industry and why he still sees a bright future for China and Russia.

As chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Jim O’Neill is responsible for some $800 billion in assets. At the beginning of February, he made the surprise announcement that he would leave the bank by the end of this year.

O’Neill, 55, became well-known in 2001 for a paper in which he was the first to coin the acronomyn BRIC, for the developing nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China, which he predicted would be the great economic powers of the future. More recently, South Africa has also been frequently named as belonging to this circle.

The quintet, now called BRICS, accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s population and has long seen itself as a counterweight to established powers, such as the United States or the European Union. At the end of March, BRICS leaders are scheduled to meet in Durban, South Africa, as part of their search for a new world order and their role in it.

SPIEGEL: Mr. O’Neill, managing more than $800 billion in assets seems to be a challenging job. Why don’t you like it anymore?

O’Neill: That’s not the point. I very much like what I do. But after more than 17 years as a partner at Goldman Sachs, I have decided to take stock. And I have come to the conclusion that it is time to move on and try out a new life out there.

SPIEGEL: What do you mean? Are you going to retire and travel around the world? Or are you going you join the board of directors of another bank, say Deutsche Bank?

O’Neill: Nice try to provoke me, but no, I cannot be any more specific. For sure, I will not withdraw from the business entirely.

SPIEGEL: Does your resignation possibly have something to do with the poor image Goldman Sachs has been suffering from? Only recently, Greenpeace awarded the firm the mock “Public Eye Award” for “worst company of the year” because Goldman Sachs helped Greece hide its public debt, and thus bears a large share of responsibility for the financial crisis. And now it is working in non-transparent ways again.

O’Neill: This has nothing to do with my personal decision. It may come as a surprise to you what I am saying now: I believe that the critics are right in some respects. Some of us did not behave responsibly enough in some points. Some of us failed to understand that our dealings affect the whole of mankind. They behave as if one could decouple from the real world. We are rightly being criticized for that.

SPIEGEL: You could start a second career as secretary general of the BRICS countries.

O’Neill: I have indeed received a few offers during the last several days, and this proposal is certainly one of the more interesting ones! However, I don’t know whether the heads of the BRICS countries want to create such a post and, if so, whether they would like to give it to me. On the other hand, this club of countries owes its very existence to me — if I may say so in all modesty. So I will be waiting for a call to come in.

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