Rishi Sunak is a former investment banker and hedge fund manager turned politician. In October 2022, after several years of working in finance and then as a Conservative Party member of Parliament and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sunak was appointed prime minister of the United Kingdom by his peers, becoming the first non-White person to lead the country and, at age 42, the youngest to take on the role in more than a century.
Like most politicians, Sunak is revered by some and heavily criticized by others. Supporters believe his experience in finance makes him an ideal candidate to steer Britain through one of its most difficult moments economically. On the other hand, critics say he is too rich and out of touch with the electorate and, based on some documented past actions, argue that he is a poster child of inequality.
- Rishi Sunak is the prime minister of the United Kingdom.
- He Is the first non-White person to lead the country and the youngest to take on the role in more than a century.
- Sunak was born in Southampton, England, to Indian parents in 1980 and studied at Winchester College, Oxford University, and Stanford University in the United States.
- After a successful career in finance and becoming very rich, Sunak turned to politics.
- Within just seven years, Sunak went from being a member of Parliament to leading the government.
Early Life and Education
Sunak was born in Southampton, England, in 1980 to parents of Indian descent. His mother and father moved to the U.K. from East Africa in the 1960s and met and married in southern England. Three children then followed, starting with Rishi.
Sunak’s father was a doctor, while his mother ran her own pharmacy. Rishi, who later helped his mother with accounting, said it was his parents’ jobs that gave him the desire to serve the public and their sacrifices that enabled him to get a top education.
After finishing at the prestigious Winchester College, an expensive private school, Sunak studied philosophy, politics, and economics—a popular choice among future prime ministers—at Lincoln College, Oxford. While at Oxford University, Sunak interned at the headquarters of the Conservative Party and was president of the Oxford Trading & Investment Society, which teaches students about financial markets and trading.
His passion for investing led to a job as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, where he worked for three years after graduating from Oxford in 2021. Sunak then won a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a master of business administration (MBA) at Stanford University. While in the United States, he met his future wife, Akshata Murthy (also spelled Murty), who is the daughter of Narayana Murthy, an Indian billionaire and co-founder of technology giant Infosys.
Sunak and Murthy got married in 2009. At that point, he was back in the U.K. and working in the hedge fund industry, first for The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI) and then for Theleme Partners.
Before his rapid rise up the political ladder, Sunak worked in finance for a number of prestigious companies. These experiences gave him a solid understanding of investing, innovation, and money management, which could come in handy in his role as prime minister, and helped boost his bank balance.
Amassed a Fortune
Sunak’s career in finance, and his wife’s stake in Infosys, have made him extremely wealthy. According to The Sunday Times, the couple’s combined fortune is £730 million ($892 million).
This wealth has been a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it shone a light on Sunak’s credentials as highly qualified to handle a nation’s finances. On the other hand, it led to accusations that he is unable to relate to the brutal cost-of-living crisis and financial struggles engulfing many people living in the country he is in charge of running.
Sunak’s super-rich status has earned him a reputation as being good at managing money. It has also led to accusations that he’s out of touch and incapable of relating to the financial difficulties facing a large portion of the British population.
Quick Rise in Politics
Sunak began working for the Conservative Party in 2010 and moved quickly up the ranks. In 2015, he was elected to represent Richmond, a town in Yorkshire, England, in Parliament, a seat he has held since. He also served in various other posts within the government before landing the big job of Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020.
As the U.K.’s chief finance minister, Sunak was tasked with steering Britain’s economy through a challenging period of COVID-19-related shutdowns. He responded by doling out billions of pounds of aid in the form of salary subsidies for workers, business loans, and so on. Those measures came at a huge cost but were generally well-received.
Not long after, and following a previous failed attempt, he was selected by his peers to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. It took just seven years for Sunak to rise from being a member of Parliament to leading the government. He also won plaudits for becoming the first person of color and the first Hindu to lead Britain, and for achieving all these accomplishments at a relatively young age.
Sunak’s reputation has been tarnished somewhat by his past actions. Among other things, he has been accused of being a traitor, greedy, unpatriotic, a tax evader, and flouting the law. Carrying such associations around is far from ideal, especially in the world of politics. The following provides further detail on these labels for Sunak.
One of the most damaging revelations was that Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, was using a loophole to avoid paying U.K. taxes on her global income. Murty, it was confirmed, got out of paying taxes on her international earnings by registering as a non-domiciled U.K. resident. That move reportedly saved her millions in tax liabilities and led to a public outcry.
Sunak is extremely rich and known to flaunt his wealth by wearing expensive clothes. These observations have led some to question if he is too out of touch with the average electorate.
Some past comments he made haven’t helped. In 2007, Sunak was filmed claiming he does not have working-class friends. He was also caught on camera talking about taking money destined for deprived urban areas and funneling it into wealthier towns instead.
People who lead countries generally are supposed to present themselves as patriotic and happy to live there. Sunak made the public question that when it was revealed he had held onto a Green Card for U.S. residency.
Ignoring Lockdown Laws
In April 2022, Sunak was fined by the police for attending a party when the country was in a COVID-19-imposed lockdown.
When Boris Johnson, the former prime minister who gave Sunak his big break as chancellor, came under fire for his role in the 2020 “Partygate” scandal and other gaffes, Sunak was one of the politicians who turned against him. Then, to add salt to the wound, as soon as Johnson resigned, Sunak put his name forward to replace him.
Where did Rishi Sunak come from?
Rishi Sunak was born in Southampton, England. His grandparents emigrated from Punjab, India, to East Africa, and his mother and father moved to England in the 1960s.
What is the role of Rishi Sunak?
Rishi Sunak is currently the prime minister of the United Kingdom.
How old is Rishi Sunak?
Rishi Sunak was born on May 12, 1980. That means, as of December 2022, he is 42 years old.
The Bottom Line
Rishi Sunak has made the headlines a lot in the past few years. His speedy rise to the top of British politics at such a young age has earned him plaudits, as has his experience in the finance world. Sunak also helped break down barriers by becoming the first non-White leader of one the world’s biggest economies.
The news flow hasn’t all been good, though. Sunak happens to have a few skeletons in his closet that opposition politicians will use as ammunition. He also finds himself in the hot seat in a difficult period. The party he leads has been in power for more than a decade and, after several enforced leadership changes, is no longer popular. And the country he is responsible for running is in the midst of a deepening economic crisis.