After earning his Ph.D. in 1982 from the University of Surrey with a thesis titled An empirical investigation into the OPEC surplus and its disposal under the supervision of David Hawdon, Jim O'Neill began his career in finance working at Bank of America in 1982. From 1988 to 1991, he was in charge of the fixed income research group at Swiss Bank Corporation, and he served as SBC's chief of global research. He joined Goldman Sachs in 1997 and he was appointed as the head of global economics research in 2001, which is also when he published the seminal BRIC paper. No candidate has ever been named to replace him as Chief Economist.
In 2010, he was named Chairman of Goldman Sachs's Division of Asset Management, a newly created position in which O'Neill manages over $800 billion in assets by "leverag[ing]" his "global perspective on world markets". He continues to publish research regarding the global economy, in addition to coming up with innovative investment strategies for clients. His new appointment was regarded as a symbol of Goldman's "efforts to reposition itself for Wall Street's post-crisis era", one in which Goldman Sachs is "bullish" about the fact that emerging markets are "the future". In 2011, he was included in the 50 Most Influential ranking of Bloomberg Markets magazine.