Scotsman Obituaries: Sir John Shaw CBE, Scottish businessman and accountant

Sir John (Jack) Shaw CBE FRSE, businessman. Born 10 July, 1932, Perth. Died 5 April, 2021, Edinburgh, aged 88

Sir Jack Shaw dressed to receive an honorary law degree at the University of Glasgow (Picture: Alan Milligan)

In a long career as an accountant and businessman, Sir John Shaw held a range of distinguished roles, including being the first executive director of Scottish Financial Enterprise, and the governor of the Bank of Scotland at the time of the organisation’s merger with Halifax bank. As the Johnstone Smith Professor of Accountancy at Glasgow University, he was passionate about passing on his knowledge and expertise to others.

He played a key role in the formation of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) which brought the funding of universities directly under the auspices of the government. A lover of the arts, he was deputy chairman of the Edinburgh International Festival Society from 1990-2000.

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John Calman Shaw, known as Jack, was born in Perth and educated at Perth Academy and Strathallan School. On leaving Strathallan, he took up an apprenticeship with well-known Edinburgh accountancy firm Graham, Smart & Annan while concurrently studying law at Edinburgh University. He graduated in 1953 and qualified as a chartered accountant the following year. From 1954-56, he completed his National Service with the Royal Air Force as a pilot officer in fighter control based in Germany.

Advised by his employer to gain experience working in London, he took a post with Thomson McLintock & Company in 1958. This enabled him to complete the practical experience component required to qualify as a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, whose exams he had passed prior to his National Service.

It was also during this time that he met his wife Shirley while on a sailing holiday at Burnham-on-Crouch. They married in January 1960, settling in Edinburgh, and went on to have three daughters, Jane, Gillian and Catherine.

Sir John became a junior partner in Graham, Smart & Annan in 1960 and worked on several high-profile audits including the acquisition of Crawfords by McVitie & Price to become United Biscuits. He also began to form connections with higher education, working on a project inspired by Professor Browning at the University of Glasgow to explore the creation of a centre for education and research in the application of computers to financial management.

In 1973, Graham, Smart and Annan merged with London-based Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths & Co (Deloittes). Deloittes also merged with other firms, creating a nationwide organisation with over 200 partners, 13 of them in Edinburgh. Sir John was appointed a local senior partner in Deloittes’ Edinburgh office in 1980. In 1983 he was appointed president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland for a year’s term.

While working with Deloittes, Sir John lectured part-time at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh before accepting the part-time position of Johnstone Smith Professor of Accountancy at the University of Glasgow from 1977–1983. He was a passionate and committed teacher, responsible for several new initiatives, including helping to found the Masters Degree in International Accounting and Financial Management. He authored or co-authored three books on accountancy and many former students credit him as a valuable influence on their careers.

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In 1986, he retired from Deloittes to become the first executive director of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), an organisation set up to represent the interests of Scotland’s financial services industry. He was made a CBE in recognition of this work in 1989, and returned to SFE as chairman from 1995 until 1999. He was instrumental in the formation of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC), which was established by the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act of 1992. The Act made universities and colleges independent from local authorities, funded directly by the Government. His knighthood in 1995 was in recognition of this work, and he subsequently received honorary degrees from Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Napier and Abertay Universities.

He became a non-executive director of Bank of Scotland in 1990 and deputy governor the following year, becoming governor in 1999. He oversaw an unsuccessful takeover bid for the National Westminster Bank, then the successful £30 billion merger with Halifax bank in May 2001, creating the new holding company HBOS. He stood down later that year.

At various times, he held a number of other positions, including with the Scottish American Investment Company (1991-2001); Scottish Mortgage and Trust PLC (1982-2001); and the David Hume Institute (1995–2002). He was a member of the board of Scottish Enterprise (1990-1998), of the Financial Reporting Council (1990–1996), the Scottish Economic Council (1996 to 1998), the University Court of the University of Edinburgh (1998–2003) and was Receiver General of the Priory of Scotland Order of St John of Jerusalem (1992–2002).

As a lover of classical music, he was delighted when his teaching days at Glasgow University coincided with performances by Scottish Opera. Holidays were often arranged to coincide with music festivals in Austria or France, and he was deputy chairman of the Edinburgh International Festival Society (1990–2000). He was also on the board of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

On retirement, the Shaws moved to Dunkeld where they lived for 25 years, appreciating the more rural environment, the connections to the natural world, walking and wildlife. When Sir John’s health began to deteriorate, they made the decision to return to Edinburgh.

Sir John is survived by Shirley, brother and sister Derek and Valerie, daughters Jane, Gillian and Catherine, and grandson Adam.


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