In Remembrance: Ernie Watkins

Shelly Ford

By Shelly Ford
Alchemist Editor and Digital Content Manager, LBMA

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Ernie Watkins, a key player in the precious metals industry who had an immeasurable impact on all who met him.

Ernie had a sprawling career indeed, with his first job after high school being at the docks. Following this, he got a job at Midland Bank in the city, before joining Sharps Pixley in the 1970s – one of the five bullion refining companies at the time – becoming a gold coin dealer.

After some time, Ernie became a silver trader at Sharps Pixley, a position in which he was very successful, having gained a great depth of knowledge in all precious metals. He then moved to Sumitomo Corp., eventually retiring around the turn of the century.

Throughout his career, Ernie was a valued colleague and mentor, working closely with people in Tokyo and New York to run the platinum and palladium books for Sumitomo Corp., actively engaging in LPPM activities, and even taking colleagues under his wing to teach them about the precious metals market in London.

More than anything, though, Ernie was a friend, who formed many long-lasting relationships. Whether that was on the golf course, at the football (as a dedicated West Ham United season ticket holder), on cruises, on group holidays to Florida and visits to Japan, Ernie’s friendship was held in high esteem by all who knew him.

Ernie Watkins was many things: a sports fan, a mentor, an optimist, a friend. But many agree that his character can be summed up by the words that appear on his plaque on the memorial bench at his golf club: he was “a true gentleman”.

Rest in Peace, Ernie.

(l-r) Bob Takai, Ernie, and Ernie's wife Pat


Nigel Munt:

“Ernie was a very successful trader, always maintaining a calm composure no matter how volatile the markets might be.

“By the time he left Sharps Pixley, he had garnered a great depth of knowledge in all precious metals. Above all else, Ernie was one of the nicest men that you could ever wish to meet – an absolute gentleman, a loyal colleague and friend, I’m sure that these sentiments will be echoed by the many people that knew him, both domestically and internationally.”

Alan Morris:

“It was my privilege to have known Ernie for the past forty years, initially due to our respective roles in the bullion market and then through our friendship on the golf course – consolidated by us taking holidays with a group of mutual friends and partners.

“Ernie was indeed somebody that everybody looked up to and he set a standard both from a business perspective but also life in general, which people could not fail to admire. I think Ernie’s character and the way he conducted himself can be summed up by the three words that appear on his plaque which is in on the ‘Happy Days‘ memorial bench at our golf club: “A true gentleman”. Rest in Peace, Ernie.”

David Spraggs:

“I first met Ernie in the early 80s when he was a metals trader at Sharps Pixley. After many years with Sharps he joined Sumitomo, trading platinum group metals. Ernie was partly instrumental in my joining Sumitomo after he had retired.

“While I knew and met Ernie from the bullion market, I remember him more as a true friend for whom I had the greatest respect. He was held in the highest regard by many, and it was always a joy when he recalled experiences from his younger days.

“As a young man he was a gifted footballer and he excelled in most sports, notably golf (shooting a score of 79 at the age of 79) and snooker. 

“We regularly played golf together with other retired friends from the bullion market, in a golf society known as the ‘Happy Days Society’. Time with his friends on the golf course was when he seemed at his happiest. 

“We all regarded Ernie as our elder statesman and a true gentleman. Rest in peace, Ernie, you’ll be truly missed.”

Bob Takai, Former Executive Officer, Sumitomo Corporation:

“I first met Ernie back in 1983 when he was with Sharps Pixley, the bullion trading arm of Kleinwort Benson, on my 2-month-long business trip to London to learn about the metals market in London.

“When I returned to London five years later to set up a metals trading desk in Sumitomo's UK entity, I was searching for my "lieutenant" to guide me in the bullion market in London, Phillip Crews-garner, then N .M. Rothschild, connected me with Ernie who had just left Sharps.

“As soon as we met in a pub in Bow Lane, I was instantly convinced that he was the man that I had been looking for. That's how our long-lasting relationship started since around 1990.

“He helped me develop an Islamic Finance business with the Saudis, and was actively involved in LPPM activities while Phillip was the chairman.

“In addition to my work relationship with Ernie, he had been so kind to my family too. He and Sheila, his wife, invited my wife Aoi and my 3 young boys, Leo, Tom and Masaru to his house many times. All of my boys have fond memories of playing with his grandchildren in the bouncy castle in his backyard.

“I returned the hospitality to Ernie and Sheila when they traveled to Japan after he retired. We went together to Hakone, famous for its hot spring and view of Mt. Fuji, in the early 2000s. That was a lovely memory we shared back then.

“He was so kind to invite Masaru, my youngest son, to dinner when he visited London to study English during his university years. He was just a baby when he met Ernie in the 90s. It's amazing that they met again 20 years later in London!

“I met Ernie and Pat, his partner after Sheila passed, last Summer when I visited London on business. I didn't have a chance to meet him for a long time as I was stationed in Washington DC in recent years. I have always been wanting to visit London to meet with him but didn't have a chance while I was in the U.S.

“I believe my reunion with Ernie last year was God's will. I promised to him that I would come back again with Aoi on his 87th birthday, which never came.

“I miss him so much.”

Shelly Ford

By Shelly Ford
Alchemist Editor and Digital Content Manager, LBMA

Shelly supports the Head of Communications to create and develop content across digital channels that engages the LBMA’s key stakeholders and supports the organisation’s vision and objectives. She brings a wealth of content creation, strategy, and campaign experience from previous roles in the professional and financial service industries, as well as Lloyd’s of London insurance market and publishing houses.