Voices of the Market: Stewart Murray

Shelly Ford

By Shelly Ford
Alchemist Editor and Digital Content Manager, LBMA

The Voices of the London Bullion Market project captures and contextualises the changes and development of the bullion market through the eyes of those who worked in it. In this semi-regular feature, the voices of 14 people from the market have been featured so far. In this latest offering, we posthumously reflect on Stewart Murray’s career in the bullion market, taken from a recorded conversation with Michele Blagg in 2014.

Stewart Murray was born in 1947 in Glasgow to parents Beatrice and Andrew. From the ages of 5 to 10, Stewart attended Hillington Primary School before being admitted to Allan Glen’s School, which styled itself as the high school of science and technology.

Stewart was hard-working from an early age and a self-proclaimed swot, able to concentrate and motivate himself to study more. By the age of 12 he was in the top class, and in the prize-giving at the end of his first year he won in English, Maths and French, a performance which continued into his second year.

After sitting his Scottish Highers, in which he received four A’s, one B and one C in English, French, Geography, Maths, Physics and Chemistry, Stewart decided to study metallurgy, which he thought sounded exotic and interesting.

As an apprentice, he worked for a large engineering company called Babcock & Wilcox, at that time the country’s premier constructor of power stations. It was while working there that Stewart was persuaded to apply to study metallurgy at Paisley Technical College, instead of opting for his initial top choice of Strathclyde University, which was a first-class institution for metallurgical study. A decision, he
admitted, which was a big mistake.

But he made the best of it. Working hard throughout his three years of study and gaining exposure to different sectors of Babcock & Wilcox on his summer holidays, Stewart finally took his exams in London and passed. After his Bachelor of Science, Stewart then went to Imperial College to do a PhD, during which he learned skills such as welding, silver soldering, machining, and computing.

Stewart Murray

After completion of his studies, Stewart struggled to find a job in metallurgy, and ultimately accepted a research post at Imperial College, where he did a post-doctoral project on the fracture of steel. During this time, Stewart learnt to build a hi-fi amplifier for his home using college equipment, materials and time – although, he stated, no one seemed bothered by this. His friend and senior lecturer, Biku Unvala, introduced him to Bach, sparking a love of classical music that lasted a lifetime.

Some two years later, Stewart saw an advert for a trade association in Bayswater called the International Wrought Copper Council (IWCC), which was looking for someone who was knowledgeable in metallurgy. He got the job and, for the next five or so years, was headed up the Technical Committee and arranged annual safety conferences until, at the age of 30, he was promoted to Secretary General of IWCC.

He was quite happy in his work at the IWCC. In particular, he remembered fondly a very interesting study on substitution and miniaturisation. The technical committee met in far more exotic locations than London, such as Europe and Japan, and Stewart made a lot of friends in all sorts of interesting places.

During his time at IWCC Stewart said he learnt a lot, in particular from Secretary General Romer-Lee (who was also Managing Director of the British Non-ferrous Metal Federation).

One such skill was the fine art of writing minutes, memorialised by the following poem Stewart recalled, slightly adapted from the original by Arthur Bryant:

“When all the great men have gone
to dinner, the secretary sits, growing
thinner and thinner, trying to recall
as he nibbles dry bread, what he
thought, things they’ll think they
ought to have said.”

Stewart and company at the Russian Bullion Awards 2010.

Stewart drew parallels between what he did at IWCC and, later, at LBMA: arranging conferences, committees, and technical work – so he described his work at IWCC as a very good basis for his future.

After five years as Secretary General and ten years overall at IWCC, Stewart began looking for other work and, through a friend who was retiring, managed to bluff his way – in his own words – into the role of Copper Expert/ Analyst at Consolidated Gold Fields in 1984. Here he was in charge of base metals commodities research with a small team. Only a couple of years later, he was promoted to Group Executive.

Then in 1988 came one of the formative experiences of his life. After a huge takeover battle, the company was eventually sold to Lord Hanson.

Celebrations took place at the somewhat incongruous London Zoo, and Stewart fondly recalled drinking warm champagne in the rhinoceros house, with a baby rhinoceros wandering around.

The sale, however, resulted in widespread redundancies, which had an unexpected bonus for Stewart, earning him, as it did, a substantial windfall owing to his executive share options.

Stewart at the lectern during the Global Precious Metals Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, 2003.

For his next move, Stewart’s ever-growing network meant he heard of a role working on the Gold Survey at what was to become Gold Fields Mineral Services (GFMS). A successful interview with ‘silver fox’ Bernard Van Rooyen at a hotel in St James sealed the deal.

Stewart set about recruiting, and building on the quality of the research that had come before. Philip Klapwick was Stewart’s number two, alongside other analysts including Kevin Crisp. Being Chief Executive of GFMS was, according to Stewart, a really great job, with lots of travel, particularly to the Middle East and India.

There was a lot of secrecy in the gold market at that time, but thanks to the history of the Gold Survey and Tim Green, who had a trusted,
established database of contacts around the world, some fantastic information was collated.

Five years after setting up the GFMS, it obtained the Silver Survey from the Silver Institute in Washington – one of Stewart’s triumphs – which was the first step in GFMS’s expansion, which continued after Stewart left.

In the summer of 1999, Stewart had a conversation with retiring LBMA Chief Executive Chris Elston, who suggested he might be suitable for the job. A sentiment which was echoed by Stewart’s good friend James Dobell – who at the time was working for Sumitomo and was also Chair of the Public Affairs Committee of LBMA – who told him “Stewart, that job’s just right for you.”

Stewart and the LBMA team at the 2011 Montreal conference with one of the six 100 kg Maple Leaf coins.

While not knowing much about LBMA at the time, Stewart agreed to an interview, and delivered a presentation on how to expand the company from its current London presence into a truly international organisation. Needless to say, Stewart got the job.

Stewart had a three-month overlap with Chris Elston, in a tiny office with a primitive computer system and just two other colleagues – secretary Stella Thomson and Suzanne Capanno who was in charge of PR. Stewart immediately set about enhancing LBMA, introducing a database that was more than just a Word document with names and addresses.

He made fundamental changes to LBMA, widening membership by introducing the International Associate scheme, which allowed organisations that did not need to become full members to enjoy some of the benefits. He invited many of his GFMS contacts to sign up to the scheme, later allowing international companies to join as full members.

Other changes included introducing proactive monitoring for all Refiners on the Good Delivery List, as well as expanding the Referees Panel and bringing a lot of the work the vaults were doing under LBMA’s purview. Not least on Stewart’s list of responsibilities was to organise LBMA’s first Conference in Dubai in 2000 with the help of Maggie Nash. Maggie was an ex-JP Morgan event organiser, and employing her to assist him was, Stewart said, possibly one of the best decisions he ever made.

Stewart steered LBMA as Chief Executive for 14 years – from September 1999 to December 2013 – navigating the choppy waters of changing financial regulation and making numerous changes and developments which ultimately have benefited the entire market.

After Stewart’s retirement on 31 December 2013, he continued his dedication to the precious metals industry by retaining a role at LBMA as a Good Delivery Consultant until he sadly passed away in March 2024.

Rest in Peace, Stewart.

All of our CEOs together, left to right, the first CEO, Chris Elston, Stella Thompson, LBMA secretary (under Chris and subsequently Stewart), the current CEO, Ruth Crowell and the second CEO, Stewart Murray.

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.