The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has named Kumar Iyer as its new chief economist in a move that also marks its first board-level appointment for someone who is from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.
Iyer has held a number of senior civil service and diplomatic service posts – including being British deputy high commissioner in Mumbai. Prior to that he was head of financial sector interventions and deputy director for strategy, planning and budget at HM Treasury. He was also deputy director of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit under Gordon Brown during the global financial crisis.
Most recently, Iyer has been a visiting academic at Oxford University’s Hertford College and a partner at management consulting firm Olvier Wyman.
Iyer will take up his new role next month. It will see him lead the FCO’s Economics Unit, which provides in-house economic analysis input into foreign policy formulation and also develops economics capability within the FCO through the Economics and Prosperity Faculty of the Diplomatic Academy.
FCO permanent undersecretary Sir Simon McDonald said Iyer would bring a wealth of insight on global economics and international finance, and experience of working on economic diplomacy and prosperity.
“Kumar will also become our first BAME FCO board member, marking a significant step in ensuring diversity across the FCO, particularly within the FCO’s leadership,” he said.
A 2018 study by the Institute for Government found the FCO to be one of a handful of departments where fewer than 5% senior civil service grade staff were from BAME backgrounds. The figure compared with 20% at the Department of Health and Social Care.
Iyer was born in London but grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. He is 42.