Obituary: Sir Raymond Potter

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The Independent Online
Joseph Raymond Lynden Potter, businessman: born Derby 21 April 1916; served Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, England and Middle East 1939-46; Secretary, Royal Institute of International Affairs 1947-51; General Manager, Halifax Building Society 1956-60, Chief General Manager 1960-74, Director 1968-83, Chairman 1974-83; Kt 1978; Vice-President, Building Societies Association 1981-93; married 1939 Marguerite Douglas-Jones (three sons, one daughter); died Winchester 17 November 1993.

RAYMOND POTTER was chairman of the Halifax Building Society from 1974 to 1983, and a leading figure in the world of building societies and their dealings with the Government.

Potter was born in Derby in 1916. On leaving Haileybury as Head of School he read classics and modern languages at Clare College, Cambridge, and immediately after joined the British Council. In the spring of 1940, he was commissioned into the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment and served in England and the Middle East, leaving the army with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. After four years as Secretary of the Institute for International Affairs he joined the Halifax Building Society in 1951.

Potter served briefly as an inspector, as District Manager at Coventry and as an Assistant General Manager. In 1956 he became General Manager, jointly with Edwin Beresford, and became Chief General Manager in 1960. He was Chief General Manager until December 1974 when he became non-Executive Chairman. Potter held the office of Chairman until the Annual General Meeting in May 1983 when he retired.

In 1956, just before Potter became joint General Manager, the Halifax had left the Building Societies Association following differences of opinion about interest rates. Fred Bentley, the then General Manager, had just been elected Chairman of the Building Societies Association, and resigned from the Halifax as a result. Bentley continued in office as Chairman of the association and secured a seat on the Halifax Board against the opposition of the Board but with the support of many of the staff. With his joint General Manager, Beresford, and the other senior executives, Potter had the more than slightly delicate task of leading the management and staff through a difficult period, restoring morale and then building the society's business.

Following a change in the chairmanship the Halifax rejoined the Building Societies Association in 1964 under Potter's leadership. From then on he was a leading figure in building societies and in their dealings with Government. Although at the time building society interest rates were recommended by the Building Societies Association and adopted by societies, there were successive periods of economic difficulty, pressure on savings, and mortgage rationing. Potter was a member of the Council of the Association from 1965 to 1981 and Chairman from 1975 to 1977.

He was knighted in 1978 and became a Freeman of the City of London in 1981 as well as being a member of Warrington New Town Development Corporation from 1969 to 1986.

Raymond Potter joined the Halifax at a time when its assets amounted to about pounds 165m, there were about 100 branches and just over 500,000 members and about 1,200 members of staff. At his retirement the assets were about pounds 14bn, there were nearly 600 offices, nearly 7.5 million members and over 9,500 staff. During that time not only had the society grown hugely in size and importance but its share of the building society market had also grown.

In the Halifax, Potter will be remembered with affection and respect for his intellect and wisdom and for his concern for people, his wit and his humanity. He was also one of the very few people in the society whose writing was a pleasure to read.

In his younger days Raymond Potter was a keen sportsman, captaining Cambridge at rugby fives and playing lawn tennis and squash to a high standard. He loved music, especially baroque and classical, and on retiring from the Halifax became choirmaster of his local church at Chilbolton, in Hampshire. The son of a vicar, he remained a staunch Anglican and was for several years Vice-Chairman of the Wakefield Diocesan Board of Finance. In the tradition of both the Church and the Building Society he was very much a family man and devoted to his wife, Marguerite, his four children and his grand-children.

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