OBITUARY: Sir Michael Herries

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The Independent Online
Michael Herries was a versatile businessman whose career included directorships of banks in Hong Kong and Scotland, chairmanship of The Scottish Mortgage and Investment Trust and Scottish Widows Fund and Life Assurance Society, among many others, and several public appointments including the Lord-Lieutenancy of the Dumfries and Galloway Region.

After Eton, Herries's studies at Cambridge were interrupted by service in the Second World War. He joined the King's Own Scottish Borderers, his local regiment, and served in the Middle East and Europe, attaining the rank of Captain and being awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in action. Although he returned to Trinity College, Cambridge, after the war, he retained a lifelong devotion to his regiment, and played an enthusiastic role in fighting for its reprieve from amalgamation with the Royal Scots two years ago.

After Cambridge, Herries was taken on as a junior accountant by the London Office of Jardine Matheson. Before long, they asked him to go out to the Far East where he started work in 1949, having first married Elizabeth Smith, who was his devoted companion and support for the rest of his life, and of whom, along with his three children, he was very proud.

Over the next 30 years he rose rapidly to become, from 1963 to 1970, the Taipan (chief executive) of Jardine Matheson, and a leading figure in the life of Hong Kong. He held many public appointments including, for eight and a half years, the chairmanship of the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee. In 1968 he was appointed OBE, and was given honorary degrees by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1973) and the University of Hong Kong (1974).

On returning to the UK as Chairman of Jardine Matheson & Co in London, Herries embarked on an equally distinguished, and even more varied, business career in Britain. He joined the Board of the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1972, Williams & Glyn Bank in 1975, and the National Commercial Banking Group Ltd in 1976.

He became Chairman of the group on 1 October 1978, a post which he held with distinction until 1991. During this period he put together the many disparate parts to make the whole into the Royal Bank of Scotland Group which we know today. He fought a take-over bid by his old friends in the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank in the early Eighties, and at the end of the decade he added Charterhouse Bank and Citizens Bank of Rhode Island to the group.

It was also during this period that Direct Line Insurance was created by Peter Wood under the Royal Bank group umbrella. In 1975 he was awarded a Knighthood for services to the community and commerce in Hong Kong.

Herries also managed to give much to his local community in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright (now part of Dumfries and Galloway), where he became a hard-working and very popular Lord-Lieutenant. He also took on, with his customary energy and enthusiasm, the daunting task of forming the Local Enterprise Company as its first chairman.

When he was at home at Spottes, in Kirkcudbright, he took an active interest in farming, and much enjoyed his recreations of shooting and walking in the Galloway Hills.

Michael Herries had high standards and expected things to be done properly. If anything fell below his standards everyone very soon knew about it. Second rate was not good enough. Alongside this, he inspired great loyalty among many of those who worked with him, and for him.

Younger of Prestwick

Michael Alexander Robert Younger Herries, businessman: born 28 February 1923; Director, Jardine Matheson, 1959-62, Managing Director 1962-63, Chairman and Managing Director 1963-70; Chairman, Hong Kong University and Polytechnics Grant Committee 1965-73; OBE 1968; Chairman, Jardine Japan Investment Trust, 1972-76; Director, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (formerly National and Commercial Banking Group) 1976-92, Chairman 1978-91; Vice-Chairman, The Royal Bank of Scotland 1974-75, Deputy Chairman 1975-76, Chairman 1976-92, Director, 1976-92; Director, Scottish Mortgage and Trust, 1975-93, Chairman 1984-93; Kt 1975; Lord-Lieutenant, Dumfries and Galloway Region 1989-95; married 1949 Elizabeth Smith (two sons, one daughter); died Dumfries 6 May 1995.