Former head of Bank of Scotland and ITV

Born: March 6, 1944;

Died: November 28, 2017

SIR Peter Burt, who has died aged 73, was head of the Bank of Scotland from 1996 until 2001, when he oversaw the £30bn merger with Halifax and became both Governor of the Bank of Scotland and deputy chairman of the newly-created entity HBOS until 2003.

Sir Peter had left both posts by the time HBOS collapsed and was taken over by Lloyds Bank in 2009; he then went on to serve as chairman of ITV from 2004-2007. A year later he founded and ran, along with his sons Michael and Hamish, the private investment company Promethean Investments, based in London and Edinburgh.

Away from banking, Sir Peter was a member of the High Constables and Guard of Honour of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, a small corps of ceremonial guards at the Sovereign's official Scottish residence, a body dating back 500 years. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) and of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (FCIBS), chairman of Dyslexia Scotland (two of his three sons are dyslexic) and on the boards of numerous charities.

Out of the office, he was a golf fanatic, playing off a handicap of three, and an active member of the Royal & Ancient, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh golfers at Muirfield, East Lothian, and the neighbouring Gullane Golf Club.

Late in his life, when he was approaching 70, he was recruited by the UK's Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government, specifically by Business Secretary Vince Cable, to be chairman of an advisory board tasked with setting up the state-owned £1bn British Business Bank. The aim of the Sheffield-based bank is to increase credit to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and provide business advice. A public limited company (plc), it is owned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Peter Alexander Burt was born in 1944 in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi (at the time part of British East Africa) to Robert Burt and his wife May (née Rodger). His father was based there as manager of a shipping, trading and tea plantation company owned by the Earl of Inchcape, of Glenapp Castle (now a luxury hotel) near Ballantrae, Ayrshire. (The company later became part of the worldwide car distributing company Inchcape plc).

The young Peter grew up speaking fluent Swahili before he was sent to Scotland for his education. His career and life were spent mostly in the land he came to love, 28 years of it in the Bank of Scotland's historic headquarters on The Mound, Edinburgh, and latterly in the boss's panoramic office looking across Princes Street and beyond to the Firth of Forth.

He went to Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh before graduating M.A. in political economy and modern history from the University of St. Andrews, later adding an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. (Much later, in 2001, St. Andrews awarded him an honorary law degree, LLD). He stayed on in the U.S. to start his career with Hewlett Packard in California in 1968, returning to Edinburgh in 1970 to work first for Conversational Software Ltd, later for the shipping company Edward Bates & Sons.

He joined the Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh on January 6, 1975, when it was still very much a Scottish bank with UK interests but was on the threshold of expansion overseas, opening its first international branch in Houston, Texas, that same year, 1975. At the Bank of Scotland, he worked initially in the international and oil and energy departments, becoming head of the international division in 1985, and then treasurer and chief general manager in 1988. In 1996, he was appointed chief executive, the post he held until the merger.

It was in 1999 that he led a Bank of Scotland bid for NatWest, a deal that would have propelled the Edinburgh-based bank into the banking superleague, but he lost out to his arch-rival Mr Goodwin at RBS. Instead, he led the ill-fated merger with Halifax to create HBOS. Although he was then given the somewhat ceremonial role of Governor of the Bank of Scotland, he was named only Number Two - deputy chairman - at HBOS.

Having stood down from both jobs in 2003, several years later, at the height of the financial crisis, he launched an unsuccessful come-back by offering to run HBOS instead of it being sold to Lloyds TSB. He once confessed to the late Herald columnist Anne Simpson: "if I look back over my career, there seems to be a list of heroic failures." There were notable successes too, including the ITV chairman's £200,000-a-year job from 2004-2007. He was also a past director of Royal Dutch Shell and chairman of the Gleacher Shacklock finance advisory company.

Asked by The Herald about risk-taking in banking, he said: "Well, getting out of bed in the morning is a risk, but I think the old adage is true: 'the man who never makes a mistake never makes anything.' ''

One mistake he did make was his business flirtation, while he headed the Bank of Scotland, with Pat Robertson, the right-wing American Christian fundamentalist evangelist. Mr Burt had hoped the Bank of Scotland could crack the US direct-banking market through a joint venture with Mr Robertson to sell savings and loans products to the evangelist's tens of millions of US TV viewers. When Mr Robertson inexplicably launched a homophobic rant against Scotland, saying it was "a dark land" because of its tolerance of homosexuality, outcry throughout Scotland scuppered the deal.

Sir Peter was also an outspoken advocate of a new Central Scotland airport. "It would be very sad if the attitude was: 'well, it's not going to do anything for us in the next five years," he told The Herald. "Of course it isn't. It will take 10 years to build, but in 15 or 20 years' time we will need it."

Along with banking and his family, golf was Sir Peter's great love and golf analogies peppered his conversations, even on banking matters. "Golf is the only game I can think of where you spend time talking to your opponent." And on other occasion, he said: "you can't succeed unless you're willing to take the risk of failure. Even Tiger Woods fails more often than he succeeds, and so do I.

"Banking is a fantastic pastime for anybody. It has to be a pastime because you spend so much of your day working that if you don't enjoy it, life is pretty depressing.''

Among other roles, he chaired the implements (golf clubs) and ball committee at the R & A in St Andrews - which regulates golf balls and equipment within the R & A's jurisdiction - and often travelled to the US and the Far East to meet officials of their national golf associations. He once held the course record for an amateur at Muirfield. "He's so good at golf, he could have had a proper job if he hadn't got involved with banking," the then BBC TV business editor Jeff Randall once said. Sir Peter also enjoyed skiing, gardening and reading.

His wife Alison Mackintosh Turner (now Lady Burt), whom he married in 1971, is a painter and sketch artist as well as director, artist-in-residence and Chair of Patrons of the Leith School of Art, based in a former Norwegian seamen's Lutheran church in Edinburgh. On her paintings and sketches, she uses the name Alison Burt.

Most recently, in semi-retirement, Sir Peter was outspoken on what he saw as failures within the current British banking system. In January 2015, he expressed anger at the way the big banks treat clients who have been victims of fraudsters, describing the banks' responses as a disgrace. The big banks, he said, should automatically refund money taken by fraudsters from clients' accounts, notably when fraudsters phone victims, pretending to be from their bank, and tell them they must transfer their money urgently to a new account to protect their savings from cybercriminals. He advised such victims to sue their banks for allowing conmen to open accounts.

In February 2015, The Herald reported that Sir Peter was urging greater support for UK manufacturing companies in the absence of adequate funding from the banks. "The banks are not keen to lend money," he said. "More investors should be looking to help (fill) the funding gap left by banks."

Sir Peter Burt is survived by his wife Alison (Lady Burt) and their three sons.