Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill is taking charge of the UK's 'Northern Powerhouse'

Jim O'NeillREUTERS/Benjamin BeavanGoldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman Jim O’Neill speaks during the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit in London December 6, 2011.

Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill is to lead the new Conservative governments push to devolve more power to cities as commercial secretary to the Treasury.

The man who famously coined the acronym BRICs to describe the emerging market powerhouse economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, will now turn his attention to delivering Chancellor George Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” initiative.

O’Neill has long been been a well known figure in the financial industry and he will no doubt be called on to bring those skills to bear as he takes charge of boosting funding into British infrastructure. One of his primary roles will be to try to get “private sector investment into UK infrastructure”, a challenge that the previous government struggled with.

A plan to issue infrastructure bonds in the last parliament met with a tepid response from financial markets, raising far less than had been expected.

The hope will be that bringing in a figure with O’Neill’s experience of financial markets could turn that around and provide the foundations of a sustained and sustainable economic boost.

O’Neill joined Goldman in 1995 and rose to chairman of its asset management business in 2010 before stepping down two years ago. He is to be given a peerage when he takes on the new role and will be known as Lord O’Neill.

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