Lawyer and banker;
Born: September 13, 1922; Died: June 27, 2012.
Sir Thomas Risk, who has died aged 89, was a major figure in Scottish life for half a century as a highly-respected lawyer, banker and patron of the arts.
Glasgow-born, he played a significant role in the commercial world of his native city, and across the wider country, as a partner in Maclay Murray & Spens solicitors for more than 30 years and governor of the Bank of Scotland and the British Linen Bank.
An immensely likeable individual and a man not given to self-promotion, he also worked unobtrusively to foster the arts in Scotland, using his business expertise and commitment to support Glasgow's Citizens Theatre, the Edinburgh Festival and the Hamilton Bequest, a fund financing the purchase of paintings for Glasgow art galleries.
He was educated at Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow where, in addition to being captain of school and dux, he also proved his prowess on the sports field in the 1st XV rugby and 1st XI cricket teams and winning the mile and half-mile runs.
After leaving school, during the Second World War, he served in the RAF Catalina and Sunderland flying boats as a Flight Lieutenant with RAF Coastal Command. From 1942 he was based mainly in India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Australia and met his future wife, Suzanne Eiloart, in India in 1945.
They first became friends whilst she was serving in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and kept in touch after the war. Sir Thomas was demobbed in 1946, though he remained in the RAF Volunteer Reserve until 1953.
The son and grandson of lawyers, he followed family tradition and entered the legal profession. As was the necessity post-war, he studied for his law degree at Glasgow University while simultaneously serving his apprenticeship at Maclay Murray & Spens. His father, Ralph Risk, who served as president of the Law Society of Scotland, was a senior partner in the firm.
Sir Thomas also became a partner there, in 1950, the year after he and Suzanne married. Over the next three decades he was heavily involved in shipping, commercial and family law. He went on to work for a wide range of companies and undertook significant legal work for clients including Standard Life and the energy firms Chevron and Shell UK.
He became deputy governor of the Bank of Scotland in 1977, after having been a director for several years, and, in 1981, was appointed governor. He insisted on being the first full-time governor, a role which had previously been a part-time appointment, and held the office for 10 years. The Bank of Scotland had also recently acquired the British Linen Bank which it relaunched as its merchant banking subsidiary under Sir Thomas who was appointed its governor, a role which he held until 1986.
During that time the bank enjoyed seven consecutive years of record profits, between 1984 and 1990, and launched the UK's first electronic home banking service, its revolutionary HOBS (Home and Office Banking Service) system.
He also introduced some major organisational changes, including the formation of a wholly executive management board. He was a strong advocate of the need for corporate governance and the independent role of the chairman and non-executive directors. He also visited branches of the bank throughout the country on a regular basis, to show support and see for himself how the bank was run and regarded.
In 1986, after one of the City's most controversial takeover battles, he had been due to take on the chairmanship of the combined Guinness and Distillers group. However the promised post failed to materialise as Guinness's now-disgraced chief executive, Ernest Saunders, apparently reneged on the deal, claiming the job himself in an incident that became known as the Thomas Risk Affair. Saunders was later imprisoned for conspiracy to drive up the Guinness share price, theft and false accounting.
That same year, Sir Thomas became chairman of Scottish Financial Enterprise, a body he had played a leading role in establishing to promote the qualities, value and independence of Scotland's financial services sector.
His distinguished career also included terms of office as chairman of Standard Life and the University of Glasgow Trust and directorships with Shell UK, The Merchants Trust, the Bank of Wales, the Howden Group and Barclays Bank.
In addition he chaired the Edinburgh International Festival Endowment Fund from 1989 until 1997. Festival director Jonathan Mills described him as a great friend and loyal supporter of the festival, saying his tireless work and his own charitable contributions to the work of the festival stand as a lasting legacy.
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Sir Thomas, who served Kelvinside Academy as a governor, was a staunch supporter of the Citizens Theatre of which he was honorary president from 1995 to 2002. Not only was he influential in that role, he was also a great supporter and friend of Giles Havergal and his fellow artistic directors and a committed audience member.
In the art world, his interest in paintings was particularly focused on Scottish artists, including John Bellany and Peter Howson whose work he much admired, and he actively supported the late David Donaldson, his wife Marysia and John Byrne.
In his private life he was wise, generous and always interested in, and supportive of, all of his extended family, their lives and activities. He and Suzanne had four sons but lost one son, Michael, who died in 1989. The couple remained devoted to each other with Sir Thomas helping to nurse his wife, who died last year, in her final months.
He is survived by their sons Keith, Timothy and Colin, six grandchildren, his sister Shirley and brother Ralph.
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