The business on...Gill Marcus, Governor, South African Reserve Bank


One of the central banking intelligentsia?


Yes, but Ms Marcus is an unusually forthright member of the club.

While speakers at Jackson Hole yesterday were mostly subtle and cautious, Ms Markus isn't afraid to tell it how it is. Check out her latest speech for a blast at political leaders – blamed for "a lack of strong, unified and credible leadership" – and a dismal prognosis, "at best, the advanced economies appear to be in a stalled state".

How the world has changed.

Indeed. South Africa is now one of the world's up-and-coming economies, often lumped together with the all-powerful Bric nations, and the governor of its central bank is lecturing leaders of supposedly more advanced nations on their shortcomings. The markets agree with her, by the way.

So what do we know about Ms Marcus?

Plenty, especially in this country, where she lived for more than two decades. She is the daughter of prominent anti-apartheid activists and South African Communist Party members. The family sought exile in London in 1969. Ms Marcus then spent 20 years working for the ANC's Department for Information and Publicity in London, as well as doing shifts at her parents' sandwich bar in Knightsbridge, then returned to South Africa in 1990.

For a career in banking?

Not straight away. A confidante of Nelson Mandela, Ms Marcus won election to Parliament in 1994 and then worked closely with the country's finance ministers; she ended up at South Africa's central bank as deputy governor in 1999.

She's quite the veteran, then?

Actually, Ms Marcus left that job after five years after a personality clash with her boss. Her return to the bank in 1999 after a spell in the private sector was widely welcomed.

Is she a tough cookie?

Indeed. She describes herself as "direct", once telling an interviewer: "I wouldn't know how to flirt". But with or without the sugar-coating, the world's finance ministers could do with listening to what she has to say.

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