Reserve Bank of Australia appoints Sarah Hunter as chief economist

07 December 2023 3 min. read
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The Reserve Bank of Australia continues to look outwards to increase its diversity of opinion, with Sarah Hunter named as its next chief economist.

Former KPMG partner and regional Oxford Economics lead Sarah Hunter has been appointed as the Reserve Bank of Australia’s next Chief Economist, following incoming deputy governor Andrew Hauser through the door in an ongoing shake-up of the central bank’s leadership.

Set to commence her role at the end of January, Hunter fills the vacancy left by Luci Ellis’s departure to Westpac as the first female chief economist of a Big Four bank.

Reserve Bank of Australia appoints Sarah Hunter as chief economist

Describing it as a “terrific appointment”, federal treasurer Jim Chalmers said he values Hunter’s judgement and insights and expects she will do an exceptional job after having recently worked closely together, while newly-installed RBA governor Michele Bullock, who is reported to have made the final selection, stated, “I am delighted that Sarah will be joining us. She will bring a unique and diverse perspective to the Bank and the leadership team.”

Crossing from her current position with Treasury, where she has served as head of its macroeconomic conditions division since early in the year, Hunter spent the previous twelve months as a partner in KPMG’s Sydney office, before which she built her career at Oxford Economics.

Hunter first joined the economics consultancy in her native UK, before moving to Australia in 2016 to head up the firm’s macro consulting practice for the Asia Pacific.

Since joining in 2010 upon completion of her doctorate at the University of Oxford (complementing an earlier bachelor’s from Cambridge), Hunter has also been credited with helping to establish Oxford Economics' Americas division as head of macro consulting out of New York. Meanwhile, her present role with Treasury has seen her advise the government on economic and policy issues as leader of the department’s analysis and forecasting activities.

Now, as RBA chief economist and one of five assistant governors, Hunter will be tasked with leading the central bank’s Economic Group out of Sydney, which provides key advice and recommendations to the board through its analysis and research units. As a brief summary of some her recently publicly stated positions, Hunter has dismissed concerns that corporate profiteering is driving inflation while acknowledging that interest rate rises aren’t worn equally.

Hunter’s appointment comes as the RBA attempts to increase its diversity of opinion in response to an independent review which found that the bank was at risk of succumbing to ‘groupthink’ due to an internalised culture and small concentration of decision-makers. Notably, Bank of England stalwart Andrew Hauser is being brought in to replace Guy Debelle as deputy governor, while Hunter’s predecessor Luci Ellis is another of the recent long-serving exits.

“I’m very excited and humbled to be joining the RBA, and can’t wait to get started in January,” Hunter said of her appointment. “I am very much looking forward to working with the governor, the leadership team, and the bank’s highly skilled and expert staff to serve all Australians. I will miss my colleagues at Treasury but I know we’ll stay in touch and continue to work together – I thank everyone for making my time so enjoyable.”