Obituary: Sir Andrew Crockett; giant of international finance once viewed as potential Governor of the Bank of England

Born: 23 March, 1943, in Glasgow. Died: 3 September, 2012, in California, aged 69.

SIR Andrew Crockett was the only Briton to have held the prestigious post of general manager of the Bank for International ­Settlements (BIS) in Basel. He developed BIS into a world-wide financial institution which developed close co-operation between the world’s central banks. It was Crockett’s shrewd knowledge of banking and financial markets that allowed him to expand BIS’s activities in such vital emerging markets as South America, Russia and China. Crockett was a banker of international renown, an inspiring figure of great intellectual distinction and blessed with a wonderful sense of humour.

Crockett’s career in banking started at the Bank of England where he rose to important positions (he was dubbed by some financial journalists as “the best banker never to be Governor”) and then the International Monetary Fund. After he retired from BIS he held a senior post with JP Morgan.

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Andrew Duncan Crockett was the son of a Glasgow doctor who moved to Surrey when Crockett was young. Crockett attended Woking Grammar School from 1954-6 and then read economics at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and at Yale before joining the Bank of England in 1966. His sharp mind ensured that he was soon promoted at Threadneedle Street and in 1971 he worked in the Bank’s economic intelligence department writing an influential paper recommending a relaxation in controls in the banking sector. The paper formed the basis of revised laws on lending brought in by Ted Heath’s Conservative government.

Three years later the measures led to a free-for-all in the property market and sparked off a secondary banking crisis. Financial observers maintained that the fault was not so much with the Bank as with politicians. After a time in the Bank’s supervision department Crockett wrote an economics textbook, Money: Theory, Policy, Institutions.

Crockett was widely canvassed twice for the post of Governor of the Bank. Some thought that his advocacy for the UK joining the euro did him no favours in Whitehall. The post on the second occasion went to Mervyn King, who this week described Crockett as “a deeply loved and widely admired international public servant”.

In 1973 Crocket embarked on a two-year secondment to the IMF in Washington where he was involved in the realignment of fixed exchange rates. At the end of the posting, Crockett (whose wife is American) stayed at the IMF and rose to senior posts in the research department.

In 1989 he returned to Threadneedle Street as an executive director responsible for international affairs and was much involved in creating a workable financial structure in Hong Kong after the handing over to China.

The post at the BIS was offered to Crockett in 1994 and he saw it as his brief to refocus the bank and give it a more international outlook: especially as the EU was expanding its own financial institutions. He concentrated successfully on the emerging economies in South America, the Middle East and the former Soviet bloc countries. He was instrumental in modernising the internal bureaucracy of the BIS and promoted its expertise on a global basis which ensured it became a reasoned voice of forward-looking regulation throughout the financial industry.

Crockett’s far-reaching influence on banking was evidenced by the annual meeting which he hosted in the early summer of central bankers in Basel. The discussions were far-ranging but there was much informed discussion on the global financial system. That so many attended owes much to Crockett’s high reputation in the banking community.

The trust Crockett built up with colleagues was a reflection not only of his financial and economic expertise but also his relaxed and good-humoured personality. His courteous manners and ability to speak to colleagues at all levels earned him much respect.

After two five-year terms at the BIS Crockett was mentioned in the press for various posts in international banking: the governorship of the Bank, the chairmanship of the FSA and director of the IMF. When no approach was made Crockett joined the US giant JPMorgan Chase as an ambassadorial president of the bank’s international division. This allowed him to stay in contact with contemporary economic issues and be available to advise governments and central banks.

Crockett retired to San Francisco to be with his family where he devoted much time to improving his golf. Despite the diagnosis of cancer he continued to attend banking conferences. In 2003 Crockett was knighted and in 2000 he was named European Banker of the Year. He also wrote several books on economic and financial subjects.

He married, in 1966, Marjorie Hlavacek, who survives him with their two sons and a daughter.

Alasdair Steven