William Bird Davidson
William B Davidson (right) with Alex Dibbs, c.1972. © RBS 2015.
William Bird Davidson (1912-90) was chief general manager of National Provincial Bank, 1967-9, and the first chief executive of National Westminster Bank, 1969-72.
Background and early life
William Bird Davidson was born on 18 May 1912, the second son of a Penrith auctioneer, JN Davidson. He attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith.
National Provincial Bank
Davidson went to work for National Provincial Bank as a junior clerk at Darlington branch in 1929. Looking back on his first day later in life, he recalled ‘I would have quit banking and gone straight home, but I could not afford the train fare and fifty miles made it a long walk back to Penrith – even for a Cumbrian.’
In 1935 he was transferred to Bradford District office. He had been there for four years when the Second World War broke out, and his Territorial Army unit was mobilised. He served in the army throughout the war, rising to the rank of captain in the Royal Artillery.
After the war he returned to National Provincial Bank in Bradford. Shortly afterwards, at the end of 1947, he moved to the bank’s head office advances department in London. He was appointed accountant there in 1951, and in 1952 he became an inspector of branches. In 1953 he returned to Bradford District Bank office as assistant manager, and was appointed manager in 1957.
Two years later, in 1959, he returned to head office as the bank’s assistant general manager. In 1961 he was appointed joint general manager. He was then deputy chief general manager from 1965 until 1967. On 1 October 1967 he was appointed chief general manager.
National Westminster Bank
In January 1968, only three months after Davidson had taken the helm at National Provincial, the bank and its existing subsidiary District Bank announced their intention to merge with Westminster Bank to form National Westminster Bank. Preparations progressed quickly, and in 1969 Davidson was appointed joint chief executive of the merged bank, along with Ralph Elliott, his opposite number from Westminster Bank. Later the same year, Elliott retired and Davidson became sole chief executive of National Westminster Bank. As chief executive, Davidson was responsible for devising the new bank’s management strategy; integrating and rationalising three banks' branch networks into one; unifying systems; and at the same time developing the bank’s business.
Davidson retired from his executive role in October 1972, and was succeeded by Alex Dibbs. From 1972 until 1974 Davidson served as deputy chairman of National Westminster Bank.
Family life and death
In 1941 William Bird Davidson married Christina Ireton. They had two sons together.
William Davidson died in 1990.