Image: photograph of Jeff Benson, early 1980s. © RBS 2018
Sir Jeff Benson (1922-94) worked for National Provincial Bank and National Westminster Bank, including serving as NatWest group chief executive, 1978-82.
William Jeffrey Benson (known as Jeff Benson) was born on 15 July 1922, the son of Herbert Benson and his wife Lilian. He was educated at West Leeds High School in Yorkshire.
National Provincial Bank
In 1939 Benson, aged about 17, went to work at Rotherham branch of National Provincial Bank.
Shortly after joining the bank he volunteered for active service. He served in the Royal Air Force, mainly in North Africa and Italy, for the rest of the Second World War.
In 1946 he returned to National Provincial Bank, and to its Rotherham branch.
In July 1947 he moved to London, Piccadilly branch. He enjoyed London life, and working in the busy Piccadilly branch gave him a greater awareness of the range of career opportunities on offer in the bank as a whole. He remained there for seven years, gaining experience in most departments, including working in the securities department and as a manager’s clerk.
His next move was to the head office advances department. He spent four years there before spells at the Park Lane and Chancery Lane branches. In 1960 he became an inspector of branches, returning to the advances department the following year where he was appointed controller, and then chief controller. In 1965 he became assistant general manager of the department.
National Westminster Bank
In 1968 National Provincial Bank announced plans to merge with Westminster Bank to create National Westminster Bank. The new bank was to have a wholly new corporate structure, based on a decentralised model of regional management. The first of the new regions to go live, as a pilot for the new structure, was the south west, based in Bristol, and Jeff Benson was appointed a regional executive director there. He later served as regional executive director for north region.
In 1973 Jeff Benson became general manager of management services division, the area of the bank that had responsibility for developing the bank’s computer system and planning the application of new technologies. Despite the technical focus of his role, he insisted that ‘people are really what banking is all about’.
In 1975 he became a director of NatWest and deputy chief executive of the Group. Three years later, he became Group chief executive. Under his leadership the bank expanded its branch network in key locations and pressed ahead with the installation of ATM Servicetills. NatWest acquired Global Bank AG in Germany and opened its World Money Centre on Threadneedle Street, London, offering its customers 24-hour access to foreign currency for the first time.
In 1982 Jeff Benson retired from the role of Group chief executive, but became the Group’s deputy chairman. He finally retired from NatWest in 1987, after 48 years’ service.
He served as president of the Institute of Bankers, 1983-5.
Other interests and awards
Jeff Benson was a keen rugby supporter and – in his younger years – player. He ended his 25-year playing career at the age of 39, as captain of National Provincial Bank B team. He also enjoyed playing golf.
He received a knighthood in 1987.
Family life and death
In 1947 Jeff Benson married Audrey Winifred Parsons, whom he had met during the war, when he was in the RAF and she was serving in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. They had two sons together.
Sir Jeff Benson died on 13 November 1994, aged 72.