Born: August 3, 1955;

Died: May 25, 2021.

SIR Roger Gifford, a prominent banker who became the 685th Lord Mayor of London, was once described in these pages as being robust, with a direct manner.

Interviewed seven years ago, when there was much criticism of banks, and increased regulation, in the wake of the financial crisis, he made it plain that he had little time for bankers’ reputation for greed, poor ethics, and irresponsible behaviour.

“It is irritating,” he acknowledged. “It does bother me. It is so untrue for the vast majority of bankers.” His own pride in the profession was illustrated by a card on his bookshelf that read: “Keep calm, I am a banker”.

Scottish-born Sir Roger, who has died, from myeloma, aged 65, knew what he was talking about. He had a distinguished City career with the Swedish bank, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), and was in the forefront of encouraging investors to follow a more ecologically aware investment policy. He inspired large City institutions and fund managers to concentrate their investments in companies that upheld sound ecological principals.

He served with much distinction as Lord Mayor of London in 2012-2013 and in his Mansion House speech announced that he wanted to focus throughout his year on supporting the financial sector: “Service is, and must be, at the heart of the financial services industry throughout the United Kingdom.” He resolutely affirmed that “the City must serve society – and be seen to do so.”

Every Christmas he held a series of Swedish Christmas lunches with traditional food and drink. The proceedings invariably concluded after a few hours of carols and community singing.

Michael Roger Gifford was born in St Andrews to Douglas and Hazel Gifford. He attended Sedbergh School, in Cumbria (where in later years he would serve as a governor) and then read chemistry at Trinity College, Oxford, of which he became an honorary fellow.

His first City appointment was with the merchant bank, SG Warburg, where he was a specialist in international banking and capital markets. In 1982 he left to join a new merchant bank Enskilda Securities, which was connected with SEB. From 1994 to 2000, he headed the bank’s expanding Tokyo office but returned to the UK in 2017 when he took the title of senior banker and focused on primary debt and equity capital for most of his career.

But it was his concentration on green finance issues for which he gained immense respect in the financial community. With his charismatic manner and persuasive personality, he greatly furthered the cause and the understanding of ecology. He also enhanced the international reputation of SEB and it became widely recognised as the leading Nordic bank in London.

Gifford led, with great commitment, the City of London’s Green Finance Initiative and the UK Government’s Green Finance Taskforce. His enthusiasm for the latter was particularly effective; it championed the UK as the focal point for green economic affairs and campaigned strenuously for the financial sector to have a high and effective profile at the COP26 summit to be held later this year in Glasgow.

One event stood out when he was Lord Mayor of London; Gifford, in full ceremonial dress, carried the Mourning Sword at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher in 2013. It had last been used at the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, in 1965. Gifford greeted the Queen and Prince Philip on the steps outside St Paul’s Cathedral, then turned smartly on his heel to lead the couple indoors. As he did so, the large black steel sword swung dramatically towards the Queen. It was her quick instincts that saw her evade the sword.

Gifford was knighted in the 2014 for services to international business, culture, and the City of London. Also, that year he was awarded an Hon LLD by St Andrews University.

Gifford’s love of music dated back to his days as a boy in St Andrews, when he became a member of the St Andrews Renaissance Choir, which was run by his father, the Professor of Spanish, Douglas Gifford.

In later years he sang with the Holst Choir and devoted much of his time to helping musical institutions, notably as chairman of the English Chamber Orchestra, a trustee of St Paul’s Cathedral Foundation, the Tenebrae Choir and as a co-founder, with his second wife, Clare, of the City Music Foundation. He served as a Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. At Livery dinners he often joined students to give recitals after dinner.

Gifford was patron of MyBnk, a charity that helped young people to understand the intricacies in managing money. Its trustees said:“Sir Roger strongly believed that all young people have the right to a quality financial education. His other passion and legacy, green finance, has greatly advanced the area of climate-linked financial services, using the power of the city to help the future world. His genial personality was complemented by an incisive mind.”

He maintained a strong contact with Scotland and had a second home in Perth, while retaining his membership of the Royal Perth Club. Apart from music – singing and chamber music especially – he enjoyed walking the Perthshire hills. His first marriage to Jane Lunzer was dissolved in 1983. In 2008 he married Clare Taylor. She, and three sons and a daughter of his first marriage, survive him.