Obituary: DR John Cumming, 78

Dr John Cumming
Dr John Cumming
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DR John Cumming, a well-respected insurance and business leader, has died in Edinburgh at the age of 78.

Mr Cumming retired in April 1993 after a very successful career in the insurance and financial services industries.

Born in Edinburgh in September 1934, he left Boroughmuir School to serve in the Royal Air Force.

He began his career in 1955, when he joined the Royal Insurance Group as a resident inspector.

Mr Cumming was said to have acknowledged himself that at the time, he was not sure why he decided to pursue a job in the insurance sector, a move which would lead to an exciting and varied career in which he would come to be known as an innovator and leader.

In 1960, he joined Bupa, which was then a fledgling private health insurance company, and became deputy general manager.

It was during this period that his interest in information technology (IT) and management training, both relatively new areas at the time, developed.

His expertise in IT combined with his planning capacity and organisational vision to create a leader able to turn around businesses and he built a reputation as an expert in corporate restructuring and rescue.

During the 1970s recession, he was headhunted by the Guinness Peat Group to resolve problems, before moving on to the Medical Insurance Agency as managing director.

He then became chairman and chief executive at the Tozer Philips Group at Lloyds of London and then managing director of NRG (UK) Holdings.

During this period, he and his wife, Ann, shared the freedom of the City of London.

Finally, in 1990, Mr Cumming had what was perhaps his finest hour when he masterminded the recovery of the ailing Anglo American Insurance Group, effectively setting up a full insurance organisation from scratch in just 90 days.

During his career, he also held many other appointments, including director of Saltire Trust, Conister Trust, non-executive chairman of the Isle of Man Assurance Group, governor of Thames Valley University, associate fellow of Templeton College (now Green Templeton), Oxford University, and an ambassador for Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

His academic achievements included the completion of the advanced management programme at Cambridge University, as well as management studies programmes at Glasgow and St Andrews and at the European Management Centre in Brussels.

He was also a fellow of the Institute of Administrative Management.

In June 2010, he was conferred an honorary degree of doctor of business administration by Napier University.