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Richard Devis

Richard Davies

speaker location icon U.K.

Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors at HM Treasury, and Economics Advisor to George Osborne

Economics Editor, The Economist (2014-2016)

Author ‘Extreme Economies’, long listed for the FT Business Book of the Year 2019.

“We learn most about ourselves at times of extreme stress and challenge. Using nine compelling country case studies, Richard Davies brilliantly demonstrates that the same is true of our economic systems. In its approach and insights, Extreme Economies is a revelation – and a must-read.” -Andy Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England

Richard Davies is the author of Extreme Economies– Lessons from the World’s Limits, (Penguin, 2019). This important new book tells the personal stories of people living in extreme situations—from America’s largest high-security prison, to the aftermath of the world’s most devastating natural disaster, to the oldest, most technologically advanced and unequal cities he set out on a 100,000-mile journey, interviewing over 500 people as he went.

The stories, captured by on-the-ground reporting from places no other economist has visited cover both the developed and developing world, and set out the striking economic innovation and financial sophistication seen in these hidden places. Far from being interesting side-notes or outliers, Richard argues that we should learn from these places in answering today’s biggest economic questions.

In his career, Richard has worked at the forefront of economic policy, and has had a first-hand view of some of the UK’s most extreme and volatile episodes of recent time. At the Bank of England between 2006 and 2012 he managed teams covering international macroeconomics and the financial sector, writing speeches and working as a lead author of the bank’s Financial Stability Report.  More recently, as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors at HM Treasury he was economics advisor to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.   He is now a fellow at the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance, maintaining close links with UK policymakers through his ongoing research.

Richard has also published widely as a journalist and author. Leaving the Bank of England for The Economist he became the paper’s Economics Editor in 2014 responsible for global economic coverage, and also edited the The Economist’s most recent Guide to Economics (Profile, 2015). He articles on economics have also features in The TimesThe Guardian and 1843 magazine.

Richard is also involved in attempts to reform economics. He is a founding trustee and director of CORE Economics Education, and gives talks about economics and journalism in state schools for Speakers for Schools. He has previously worked with Pro Bono Economics to help charities estimate the impact of their work.  In February 2020, he won the Lonely Planet Debut Travel Writer of the Year, awarded by Stanfords.

While Richard has an in depth understanding of the global economy he relates with audiences through a narrative and examples that combine knowledge, unrivalled first-hand experiences compassion and humour.

Speaking topics include:

  • The future of money. Travelling across the world to some of the most barren and pressurised economies known to mankind Richard came across examples of informal and underground currencies. He links these stories of currency innovation to the debate inside G7 Central Banks on the future of money, cryptocurrencies and social currencies, setting out the opportunities and unseen risks.
  • Demographics – risk and reward in the aging world. Demographic change is now widely recognised as a force influencing both society and economies over coming decades. Unique among economists, Richard reports back about life in Akita, the little-known city at the very forefront of Japan’s aging epidemic.
  • What refugee camps tell us about capitalism. As a result of Syria’s civil war Jordan saw an unprecedented rise in refugee numbers. What happened next was a unique and unexpected experiment in capitalism: two camps formed, one free wheeling and entrepreneurial, the other safe, planned and technocratic. Life on the ground of these twin camps—polar opposites in terms of economic freedom—reveals much about our own approach to economics, regulation and risk.

Extreme Economies: Survival, Failure, Future – Lessons from the World’s Limits


This book proposes a new way of thinking about economic and social challenges—the careful study of the world’s most extreme economic environments. It is based on 100,000 miles of travel, and over 500 interviews with people living in the most difficult, pressurised and volatile circumstances on earth. From war zones, natural disasters and failed states, to the extremes of aging and the challenges of technological advance the people in this book live on the edge. Their lives tell stories of human resilience—economic, social and personal—how it works and how it can fail.


A highly original approach to understanding what really makes economies tick. Both insightful and accessible to non-economists.
Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England

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