obituaries Henry Tiarks

Henry Tiarks was the third, and last, generation of one of the City of London's merchant banking dynasties. His grandfather, after whom he was named, became a partner of Schroders in 1871 and his father, Frank, in 1902. Both were prominent City figures, the latter a director of the Bank of England from 1912. In the Edwardian era, under the thrusting leadership of Frank Tiarks and Baron Bruno Schroder, their firm became London's leading merchant bank.

Henry's birth in 1900 was soon followed by that of Helmut Schroder, Baron Bruno's son, and they travelled through life together. After Eton they were groomed for the partnership, working overseas with a series of friendly firms. Thereby they acquired a fluent command of French, German and Spanish and a good grasp of the workings of Wall Street. On 1 January 1926 they joined their fathers in Schroders' private room.

The subsequent half-dozen years were happy and hectic period of Henry Tiarks's life. Working on both the banking and corporate finance sides of the business, he was regarded as one of the brightest young merchant bankers in the City of London and was invited to become a director of the Midland Bank. Rising early, he rode every morning and then motored up to the office in the Bentley with his father from the family's country house at Chislehurst, in Kent. Business permitting, he returned home in the late afternoon to play polo and then it was back to town for dinner in Mayfair or Belgravia. Strikingly handsome and immaculately mannered, he was a catch for any hostess's table.

His pattern of life changed abruptly in the early 1930s. The German financial crisis of the summer of 1931 destroyed much of Schroders' business and impoverished the partners. For Tiarks there was also the personal misfortune of a disastrous first marriage. But in 1936 he married Joan Barry, a popular West End actress and the voice of the leading lady in the first British talking-picture, who brought him great happiness and to whom he was devoted. Their daughter, Henrietta, married the heir to the Duke of Bedford, a match of which Tiarks was very proud.

Having joined the Auxiliary Air Reserve in 1937, Tiarks was immediately called up on the outbreak of the Second World War. He was given the rank of Wing Commander and put in charge of flying barrage balloons. A keen amateur scientist, he devised several significant improvements in flying techniques, which he regarded as some of his most creative achievements.

Returning to Schroders towards the end of the war, he applied himself to rebuilding the business and was Helmut Schroder's principal partner in the late 1940s. The firm's post-war revival was constrained by post- war controls and the outstanding German debts, which were not recovered until 1952-54. New York offered much more exciting opportunities and in these years Tiarks often visited Schroders' Wall Street firm. But on both sides of the Atlantic merchant banking was rapidly becoming professionalised, leaving less and less of a role for the gentleman amateur, however intelligent and capable.

From the early 1950s his role in the firm was non-executive - entertaining clients, serving as a director on the boards of companies with which Schroders had close ties, for instance Pressed Steel and Joseph Lucas, and representing it on public bodies such as the Dollar Export Council. His enthusiasm, good nature, extensive social connections and numerous interests and pastimes - golf and astronomy merit special mention - made him an excellent ambassador for the firm. In 1965, with Schroders once again at the forefront of the merchant banks, he and Helmut Schroder retired simultaneously.

Tiarks was fiercely proud of the parts played by his grandfather and father in building up Schroders, but was self-effacing about his own contribution. He readily acknowledged that he was temperamentally unsuited to routine office work and given to neglecting everyday managerial responsibilities, his energies being channelled into developing new projects or stimulating pursuits. He understood the complaints this provoked from some colleagues, but was consoled by the knowledge that they were not party to the many behind-the-scenes services he rendered the firm through the personal contacts arising from his wide-ranging activities.

In retirement he lived abroad, mostly in Marbella in a charming villa designed by himself and his wife. He was ever vital - he cheated both tuberculosis and cancer decades ago - and his warmth, inquisitive mind and mischievous wit made him a charming and stimulating companion whose company was much sought after.

Richard Roberts

Henry Frederic Tiarks, financier: born 8 September 1900; partner, J. Henry Schroder & Co 1926-57, director, J. Henry Schroder & Co Ltd 1957- 62, J. Henry Schroder Wagg & Co Ltd 1962, Schroders Ltd 1962-65; director, Pressed Steel Co 1936-66; director, Securicor Ltd 1939-68; director, Joseph Lucas Ltd 1946-68; married 1930 Lady Millicent Taylour (one son deceased; marriage dissolved 1936), 1936 Joan Marshman-Bell (Joan Barry; died 1989; one daughter, and one son deceased); died Marbella 2 July 1995.

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