Lives of the fellows

Derek (Sir) Wanless

b.29 September 1947 d.22 May 2012
Kt(2005) BA Cantab(1970) Hon DSc City(1995) Hon DCL Durh(2005) Hon DBA Coventry(2007) Hon DBA Sunderland(2007) Hon FRCP(2007)

Sir Derek Wanless was chief executive of NatWest bank, an adviser on health policy to governments and an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of Norman Hall Wanless, a store man, and Edna Mary Wanless née Charlton, a housewife. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne and then studied mathematics at King’s College, Cambridge, graduating with first class honours in 1970.

He decided on a career in banking, qualified as a statistician and attended the management development program at Harvard. He was a member of the Institute of Statisticians and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, of which he was president from 1999 to 2000.

He joined the Westminster Bank (part of the present NatWest bank) in 1967, at first as a Saturday assistant, and rose to become NatWest’s director of personal banking, general manager for the UK branch business and UK financial services, and then chief executive (from 1992 to 1999). As the executive responsible for NatWest’s card business, he led the team that invented Switch, the UK’s debit card scheme.

After leaving NatWest, he was a non-executive director of Northern Rock (from 2000 to 2007), where he was chairman of the audit and risk committees, and chairman of Northumbrian Water.

In 2002 he published a review of the future funding of the NHS for the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown (Securing our future health: taking a long-term view: final report London, HM Treasury, 2002), arguing for a substantial increase in investment. He then wrote two influential reports for the King’s Fund – Securing good care for older people: taking a long-term view (London, King’s Fund, 2006) and Our future health secured?: a review of NHS funding and performance (London, King’s Fund, c.2007).

He was a freeman of the City of London, was knighted in 2005 and received honorary doctorates from Durham, Sunderland and Coventry universities. He was made an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 2007.

In 1971 he married Vera West, a civil servant. He died from pancreatic cancer. She survived him, together with their son and four daughters.

RCP editor

[The Guardian 28 May 2012 – accessed 30 April 2015; The Telegraph 29 May 2012 – accessed 30 April 2015; The Independent 1 June 2012 – accessed 30 April 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List