Christopher Prior-Willeard — An Appreciation
A one-time junior naval officer, Chris Prior-Willeard has died after suffering from ALS in recent months following a significant period of ill health. That said, Chris remained indefatigable, still working passionately on plans for a new issuer-based CSD amongst other projects and eagerly enthusing about the exciting world of opportunities in the parish of exchanges and related market structure. We exchanged emails most days — Chris was a devoted EI reader. He was top of my list of people to invite to IPO-VID but there followed an anguished email where he apologised that, due to a stroke, he hadn’t been able to speak for some months…
The stroke seemed to barely slow Chris, although it robbed us of the chance to do investor briefings together although he still appeared on Zoom calls, excitedly typing in answers on occasion while listening thoughtfully throughout. Likewise, he was an active audience participant via keyboard on IPO-VID, even if he could not be the principal guest.
He was delighted when I called him a “market maven” in the first Exchange Invest 1000 and styled himself thus for the rest of his career. That was only appropriate as — like Brian Taylor, who left us just weeks ago, Chris represented the passionate pro-market enthusiasts who got things done.
It would be impossible to discuss every project which CPW had been involved with but they ranged from introducing ECU/USD futures with NYCE soon after an abortive attempt to create the London Meat Futures Exchange which ran via the Baltic Exchange where he became overall director of futures markets. Chris had been an early participant in stock dematerialisation and in CCP he was involved with CapClear which had a fascinating model for a guarantee based clearing house, sadly curtailed by the financing drought post dotcom bubble. He was a leading participant in the internationalisation (through ADRs et al) of the London Stock Exchange, launching SEAQ International. After Big Bang, he was transferred to The Market Department where he acted as UK Equities Market Manager and Secretary of The Markets Committee of the Stock Exchange Council.
We shared a passion for new markets and particularly microexchanges, regional stock markets et al. Chris had been involved with several attempts to revive UK regionals right up to his death and was part of the Birmingham InvestBX exchange which launched briefly in the early years of this century.
Ultimately Chris had a passion for markets which was undimmed by his conditions and he maintained a passionate belief in the power of exchanges to improve the world. His focus on regional and smaller exchanges — and frustration at the lack of funding for such endeavours — was an ongoing bugbear for both of us. In commodities, Chris saw huge opportunities everywhere — even in the redevelopment / repurposing of the LME floor outside ring dealing hours, while he was actively improving the clunky models of settlement from so many angles, including spells with Computershare, running a BNY project to create a new CSD and many others…
Chris summed himself up better than I can in one exquisitely mot juste sentence: “Insatiable curiosity around market development and the application of new technology to improve the use of formal markets by all stakeholders.”
I was already missing our regular chats as his health declined, Chris will be missed throughout the parish.
This Tribute was published in Exchange Invest Issue 2340 on May 3rd and is reproduced free of charge here to ensure Chris’s incredible legacy is remembered clearly.