Today I attended the Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Alastair Ross Goobey at St Mary’s Church in Islington. The entire church was packed out with friends, family and colleagues who wanted be present to mark the untimely passing of such a great and good man.
In keeping with his ability to connect to just about anyone he met, the audience ranged from the most senior City financiers (evidenced by the queue of limousines outside), including two former Chancellors of the Exchequer, to junior clerical staff from companies he had managed.
In my previous blog posting I mentioned how he had made a point of getting to know everyone within Hermes and regularly ate in the staff restaurant. What I learnt today was his ability to completely separate his work responsibilities as the CEO of Hermes, and his incredibly rich personal life. As well as devoting time to his wife, two children and close friends, he held many roles within the arts world. For instance he was on the Management Board of the National Opera Studio, was Governor of the Royal Academy of Music and a Director of the Almeida Theatre, to name but a few. He was also a regular panellist on the BBC Radio 4 Board Game quiz show.
Many of the speakers at the service recognised Alastair’s significance in the financial world as being the person who did the most to raise awareness of corporate governance in Europe. But the words that seemed to capture he uniqueness were wit, kindness and modesty. These are not terms often associated with those who achieve great success in the worlds of business and finance. As an illustration of his modesty, Sarah his widow told me that for many years his family thought his job was something akin to a bank manager in the City, and her father had a vision of him handing out money to customers from behind a wire grill. The reality she eventually discovered was his role as head of a £50bn pension fund management firm with significant influence over the investment and corporate worlds, as well as government.
I will leave the final word with his successor at Hermes, Tony Watson, ‘Anyone who ever encountered Alastair Ross Goobey will recall his wisdom and experience. But the quality for which he will be most remembered by former colleagues is his humanity. He was a kind man, able to make everyone feel good about themselves.’