Adrian Evans

Banker fascinated by the unusual
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Laurence Adrian Waring Evans, banker: born Dawlish, Kent 29 June 1941; chief executive, Lazard London 2000-2002, chief operating officer, Lazard Worldwide 2001-2002; married 1962 Caroline Ireland (two daughters, and one son deceased; marriage dissolved 1981), 1983 Ingela Byng (née Berghund; two stepsons); died London 14 April 2002.

Adrian Evans began his banking career at Citibank and ended it as chief operating officer of Lazards. That would suggest an orthodox progression, and would give a wholly misleading picture of a man who, while the best of counsellors and the most imperturbable of trouble-shooters, had a fascination for the unorthodox and the unusual that set him apart from the more homogeneous ranks of his City contemporaries.

His childhood was unsettled. His father, the distinguished theatrical agent Lawrence Evans (who survives him), left Adrian's mother not long after his birth in 1941. His mother, the actress Barbara Waring, a friend of Duke Ellington, Noël Coward and Ivor Novello, later married the Hon Geoffrey Cunliffe, the chairman of British Aluminium, for whom Adrian developed a strong, enduring and reciprocated affection. It was much later, and not without considerable determination on Adrian's part, that he established a relationship with his own father.

Adrian Evans was educated at Stowe, where he was Head Boy; he owed a debt to Stowe that later in life he was able to repay many times over, both as a governor and through his involvement in setting up the Stowe House Preservation Trust. He was a founding trustee; his vision ensured guaranteed public access, Lottery funding, and a sound basis for the preservation of the house and grounds for the nation and the school.

He married Caroline Ireland whilst up at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read History, and they went on to have three children; the tragic death in 1988 of his son Dominic was a blow from which Evans, the most resilient of men, and his family, could never fully recover. His second marriage, in 1983, to Ingela Byng brought them both great happiness, and added two stepsons to his family. Perhaps as a result of his own chequered childhood, he was an involved and stimulating father, grandfather and stepfather.

After graduation in 1963, he joined Citibank, working in their New York and Dublin offices, and remained with them until 1971 when he joined FNFC (First National Financial Corporation). In the Seventies and early Eighties his banking career changed direction and level, first at FNFC and then, following a stint with Grindlays in India, as chief executive of the secondary bank Benchmark. Both decisions reflected Evans's appetite for personal risk, and the appeal of working with flamboyant, unorthodox, larger-than-life characters. At FNFC Evans was encouraged by the Bank of England's raised eyebrow to stay and sort out the secondary banking market in which FNFC was an important player – and that FNFC survived was largely due to Evans's skill, determination and nerve.

His final move to Lazards in 1991 was successful, although he joined only after seriously considering the job of chief executive of the moribund BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International), dissuaded by a friend who pointed out strongly that he was now entitled to greater security and more certain reward. He was a confidant of Michel David Weil during the reorganisation of Lazards in 2001, and became chief operating officer of the Lazard Group.

He began the process of withdrawal from the bank at the beginning of this year. He refused to use the word retirement and declared that he would reinvent himself. Few doubted that he would succeed; his plans for travel, writing and a new house in France were all well advanced.

His outside interests attracted the full weight of his considerable energy and enthusiasm, in particular London House, Stowe and Gap, a programme specialising in voluntary work overseas for school-leavers in a transition year before going on to further education. He had become interested in Gap when with Grindlays in India. Trusting teenage children for several months to any organisation is an act of considerable optimism on both sides. Evans's leadership as chairman over two decades ensured that parents' confidence in Gap was fully justified.

He was a wonderful raconteur, a skill perhaps developed by his years in Ireland and India, to both of which countries he was passionately attached. His story of his mother's funeral is a minor classic; conducted by an eccentric whiskey priest, the service culminated in the wrong tape's being played as the coffin left the church. Instead of "The Party's Over", the congregation heard "There's Life in the Old Girl Yet".

Evans will be remembered not as a banker, not for his voluntary work, important though that was, but as a friend, a husband, a father. He was a source of resilient advice, of unselfish and affectionate support, always buttressed by an unpredictable sense of humour, for a wide circle of friends. He was the confidant of many, as a father, stepfather, godfather, executor, trustee or as the provider of a strong shoulder to cry on or lean against. Few men are irreplaceable, even in the minds and lives of their closest friends. For Adrian Evans no other adjective will do.

Christopher Bland and Jennie Bland