Frank Tiarks

Frank in Uniform 1917On 1 January 1902, Frank Tiarks, the 27-year-old son of Henry Tiarks, was admitted to the Schroder partnership. He was born on 9 July 1874 in Bacham, Surrey, the fifth child and second son of Henry and Agnes Tiarks. He was groomed for a career in the Royal Navy, and in 1887, at the age of thirteen, he joined the naval training college, first at Greenwich, and then at HMS Britannia and upon being commissioned, served as a lieutenant on HMS Warspite. The picture on the right is of Frank as a Lieutenant Commander during the First World War.

His father had wanted his eldest son to follow him in the Schroder partnership, so when his elder brother Henry died in November 1893, Frank obtained a discharge from the navy and joined Schroders. For the next 6 years Frank was to spend time in London, Hamburg and New York, before returning to London as an associate partner in 1900.

It was during this time that he married Emmy Broderman, whose family was of German origin but resident in Mexico at the time of their marriage. They had five children, all born in Chislehurst, Henry, Edward, Ramona, and the twins Myra and Peter. Henry took many photographs of his family, some of which are shown here. It is clear from his letters to her that Frank was devoted to Emmy, despite her many illnesses. She died in 1943 and it is from letters that she retained that we have found out so much about Frank's life. A picture of her is shown below.

Frank became a significant figure, not only at Schroders, but in the City of London and beyond, over the next three decades. He was described somewhat later by one of his colleagues as the “happy extrovert and the practical man” of the partnership. “Frank Tiarks had a strong personality and no doubt those who did not regularly come into contact with him may have thought he was rather frightening. He was extraordinarily quick and also extraordinarily adroit when it came to solving a practical difficulty or getting out of an awkward situation. He was endowed with unusual physical vitality which expressed itself in a ready and characteristic laugh that infected others with a sense of enjoyment of work. His laugh had a gay ring and you could watch the images and ideas forming themselves on his face and his thoughts always led to a conclusion. He was gifted with an unusual facility with words and was an exceptionally good business closer.” He was also very much a City insider, and so much respected that he was invited a number of times to become a Director of the Bank of England, which he eventually did in 1912. He remained a Director until the Bank was nationalised in 1947.

The outbreak of war in 1914 hit the City of London hard, and the business of Schroders suffered badly. In 1914 Frank was active in obtaining the British naturalisation of Baron Schroder, without which the assets and business of Schroders might well have been seized by the British Government. Eventually this was granted personally by King George V, but still there was little business to be done during the war years. Frank spent much of this time on the affairs of the Bank of England. In 1917, however, he rejoined the Navy, and was seconded to Naval Intelligence, in the renowned Room 44, in charge of the Direction Finding Section. This had responsibility for identifying the location and movements of German submarines by monitoring their radio signals, and contributed enormously to the war effort. Frank was also asked to act as official interpreter for his brother in law Michael Hodges, who was Commodore of HMS Revenge, and, he explained in a letter to his wife, "as Chief of the Staff of Admiral Madden, who is the 2nd in command next to Admiral Beatty has sole charge of the whole business of taking over the German Fleet". Frank waspresent at the handing over of the German Fleet to the British Navy, and witnessed the dramatic events as the German Fleet was escorted first into Rosyth, and then onto Scapa Flow.

Emmy TiarksAt the end of the war Frank was appointed financial adviser to the British Army of Occupation in Germany, with the title Civil Commissioner. Despite the “considerable personal inconvenience”, he took up the post in Cologne in January 1919. He was appalled by the desperate plight of the civilian population and in early March went to Paris, where the Peace Conference was being held, to secure emergency food supplies. “I completed everything that I wanted by going direct to Lloyd George – Austen Chamberlain – Winston Churchill – Robert Cecil,” he wrote to his wife, adding “everyone seems to want me and my advice on all and every subject”. His actions earned him the gratitude and lifelong friendship of the mayor of Cologne, Dr Konrad Adenauer, who later became West German Chancellor. He was awarded the OBE in 1920.

During the war years Frank had found his position as a partner in firm with a German name extremely difficult, and seriously considered closing the firm. The Governor of the Bank of England, however, advised against this, saying such an action would be contrary to the national interest. Frank returned to Schroders in 1919, and was by now a well known and highly-regarded figure in the international banking community. In the crisis years of the 1920s he was active in attempts to resume the international gold standard, and worked with Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England during this period. Norman was a friend, and a familiar face as a weekend house-guest at Foxbury.

Financially these were among the most profitable years for Frank. During the 1920s, Frank’s average share of Schroders’ profit was around £100,000 per annum. He was personally involved in the establishment of the New York based bank, J Henry Schroder Banking Corporation. Frank had a personal shareholding in the company, which he retained until his death.

The international financial crisis of 1931 was a catastrophe. Schroders was exposed more than most to the German suspension of debt repayments, and suffered heavy losses. Following the London Conference of world leaders in 1931, Frank was appointed Chairman of a committee formed by London banks to negotiate with Germany debtors. He led negotiations leading to the Standstill Agreement, agreed in August 1931, a significant international achievement, for which he received much praise: “its authors deserve to be congratulated on having solved successfully one of the most difficult tasks bankers have ever faced”, said one newspaper. Effectively it maintained annual interest payments, but suspended repayment of any capital. Frank continued to be involved with the arrangements through to the 1940s.

While Frank was actively involved in, and internationally recognised for, his work in helping to deal with the financial crisis, he was having a financial crisis of his own. Under the 1919 partnership agreement, he was entitled to one-third of the profits, and responsible for one-third of the losses. Total losses in 1931 were £1.5million, a staggering sum in those days, and Frank’s share of the losses wiped out his capital in the firm. There was a new agreement, which recognised the value of Frank's contribution to the earlier success of the firm, effectively giving him value, as yet unspecified, in the goodwill of the partnership, and from now on he was awarded an annual salary, rather than a share of profits. Henceforth he had to curtail his expenditure, and this was one of the reasons why Foxbury was sold in 1935.

Herman Tiarks wrote of his brother:

"My brother Frank was the best fellow in the world to me. He was, and is, most popular with everybody, and deservedly so. Always cheery, always a word for everyone, always the life and soul of every party, always an eye for a girl or a horse - and the two go together - he made hunting the happiest thing in the world for all of us. I think he is responsible for the saying, "Choose a girl as you would a horse - good legs and feet and a kind eye." I know he is a very good judge of both, and perhaps best at the former. At the age of 61 he is still hunting and playing polo, and still has a twinkle in his eye for the opposite number."

From Hunting Reminiscences, Herman Tiarks 1935

Throughout his life Frank had an intense interest in hunting, and maintained horses and hounds both at Chislehurst and Loxton. He was joint master of the Weston Harriers with his brother Herman, and later was involved with the Mendip Hunt. The costs of maintaining horses and hounds was high - £6,000 a year in 1927 - and had to be curtailed as financial pressures grew, but Frank was locally very popular.

Frank reduced his participation in the business of Schroders at the start of the Second World War, though he continued his involvement with the Bank of England, and as a director of a number of companies. He spent most of his time at Loxton in Somerset, travelling up to London when necessary. As an indication of his renown in the City, despite his financial difficulties, Frank remained a Director of the Bank of England for 34 years until 1946, when he finally retired from all public life.

Frank continued to be active in Somerset until his final illness. He died on 7 April 1952, aged 77. His funeral service at Loxton Church was held on 10 April. 60 wreaths arrived, many from old friends and colleagues in the City of London, which he had served for almost 60 years.