Sir Jeremy Morse
Lloyds Bank chairman who inspired the eponymous fictional detective
Chess Problems: Tasks and Records.
Sir Jeremy Morse, the former chairman of Lloyds Bank who has died aged 87, possessed one of the finest minds of his generation in the City of London. Morse was a chess expert, and a lover of poetry and brain-teaser puzzles. Inspector Morse, the donnish detective invented by Colin Dexter, was said to have been named after him, and partially modelled on him in personality. Journalists and fellow bankers could be disconcerted by Morse’s unworldly manner. “I’m somebody who’s never borrowed in my life,” he remarked in a television interview, at the height of the 1980s credit boom. “I think rather like the prime minister [Margaret Thatcher], whom I believe thinks that it’s wrong for individuals to borrow.” But he did not see eye-to-eye with Mrs Thatcher in any other respect – he was suspected of Keynesian sympathies. She neither offered him the governorship of the Bank of England in 1983, nor backed him as a candidate for the directorship of the International Monetary Fund in 1989 – although he was overwhelmingly qualified for both jobs. Instead Morse remained for 15 years at Lloyds, steering a steady course. He oversaw the gradual wiping-off of the bank’s exposure to Latin American countries, and eschewed expansion into the treacherous waters of international corporate finance and trading, so fashionable in the mid-1980s. He preferred to concentrate on more mundane domestic banking and insurance business, and he brought Lloyds to the top of the clearing banks’ profits league. The son of a solicitor, Christopher Jeremy Morse was born on December 10 1928. His forebears, for five generations, were Norfolk brewers. He became a management trainee, at Glyn, Mills & Co, a small bank (now part of Royal Bank of Scotland) with a reputation for grooming City highflyers. He worked for the IMF before in 1975 he became deputy chairman of Lloyds, and successor designate to the chairman Sir Eric Faulkner, who had earlier been his boss at Glyn, Mills. He succeeded Faulkner in 1977. Morse was an international chess judge, and in retirement published His other passion was poetry, particularly TS Eliot. He also loved cryptic crossword puzzles and was a respected composer of them. He was appointed KCMG in 1975. He married, in 1955, Belinda Mills, who survives him, with their three sons and a daughter; another daughter died in childhood.