Edward spent his career, both before and after the war, in the emerging field of international banking.
Edward Futcher Davies was born in London in 1881, the son of a hatter and his wife. In his late teens he went to work for Deutsche Bank in its London office.
In the early 20th century, German banks were much more advanced than their British counterparts in handling foreign exchange business. Although London was the world’s pre-eminent trading city, a great deal of the banking business to support such transactions was undertaken by London offices of German and other foreign banks. Even the banks that had foreign exchange departments tended to staff them with foreign clerks, because there were not enough British-born clerks with sufficient language skills to do the work. Davies was thus unusual in being a British banker who, from the start of his career, specialised in international banking. This expertise was to put him in an important position during the First World War.
After a period working for Banco Espanol de Rio de la Plata, in 1911 Davies joined our constituent London County & Westminster Bank as assistant manager of its Foreign branch. London County & Westminster was one of the biggest British banks, and was seriously interested in expanding overseas. It was no doubt Davies’ international experience – and his foreign language skills – that secured him the job. In 1913 the bank opened its first overseas branch, in Paris. The following year, Davies became manager of the London-based Foreign branch.
Soon afterwards war broke out, and Davies’ international expertise became more important than ever. At the very beginning of the war Davies organised, and was appointed chairman of, a committee of English and foreign bankers in London. This committee brought together the heads of nine banks’ London foreign exchange departments, and was instrumental in stabilising and re-establishing international payments in the wake of the financial crisis at the outbreak of war. Pre-war systems for handling these transactions had collapsed at the end of July 1914 but, thanks to the committee’s coordination and communication, foreign exchange activities were resumed in London by mid-August, in circumstances that could very easily have caused long-term economic paralysis.
Davies remained actively involved in advising the treasury on technical matters, alongside his duties at London County & Westminster Bank. He also published pamphlets comparing the financial systems of Britain and Germany, particularly in relation to their approaches to raising war finance, their wartime economic measures, and their post-war prospects. For his national work in the First World War, Davies was awarded an OBE.
After the war, Davies moved to Portugal to take up a new post as managing director of Banco Nacional Ultramarino. His health was poor, however, and within a few years he was forced to retire, still in his early forties. He and his wife moved to Versailles, near Paris.
Before long, however, Davies was bored. In 1926 he took a new job, created specially for him, as foreign delegate of the Royal Bank of Scotland. With his formidable foreign language skills and wide network of contacts in banks all over the world, he was ideally placed to publicise the bank internationally and put it in touch with banks abroad, helping it to develop all aspects of its foreign interests. He held the post for ten years, before his sudden death in 1936, at the age of 55.