Stuart Humby – Memories of a True Procurement Leader and Pioneer

Sad news that Stuart Humby died recently at the age of 73. He was a past president of CIPS and one of the best-known, most respected and influential figures over the past 30 years of the UK procurement profession.

During his CIPS presidency of 1989 / 90, he established the Stuart Humby Prize for achievement in the CIPS examinations by African students, and during his CIPS service he chaired and contributed to many of the CIPS initiatives, committees and Boards. He also did a lot to link CIPS to the academic world and developed the whole idea of procurement as an academic discipline.

His long, successful career began as a chartered mechanical engineer, and he became supply and contracts director of British Coal. He was then group purchasing director of NatWest in the early 1990s - more about that below - and procurement director at HM Treasury and Powergen. He then moved into academia, becoming visiting professor of management specialising in supply economics at the University of Southampton.

I still remember the ground-breaking advert in the Sunday Times for the NatWest role. It was notable for a number of reasons. It was I believe the first time a six-figure salary for a procurement director had been advertised in the UK. And it was the first time a financial services institution gave notice that it was taking procurement seriously - a significant sign of procurement moving out of its manufacturing heartland into the wider world of services, government and other non-traditional sectors.

Les Mosco (himself a CIPS Past President and distinguished CPO), knew Stuart well and indeed worked for him at one stage. We asked him about his memories.

"Stuart was my career mentor and inspiration over many years. He was a creative innovator and brilliant mind: I remember him saying, "what do you think about creating some academic chairs in purchasing"? Largely from that thought came Professor Richard Lamming and the entire professional academic development of the 1980s/90s. Another time, he taught me via a very simple but real example - milk supplies to colliery canteens - that quality and on time delivery trump price and savings. I could list many more examples of his wisdom and vision."

When I first met Stuart, in his time at NatWest, he was not what I expected for a man who was commanding this huge salary I'd seen advertised! He certainly had personal presence, but there was no hint of arrogance - indeed, his style was self-depreciating and always touched with a sense of humour. His move into academia seemed a natural one - there was always something slightly professorial about him, in the best possible sense. Behind that of course lay a very sharp mind and a great understanding of what procurement could do for any organisation; 73 seems too young and he will be missed.

Our best wishes and condolences go to his family and friends; a memorial service will be held at the Folk Hall, New Earswick, York, YO32 4AQ,  12 noon, on 27 September.

Voices (2)

  1. Richard Lamming:

    Stuart was the most wonderful man with an incisive, imaginative mind and deep sense of humour. He changed the landscape of purchasing, and not just in the UK.

    I owe him a massive debt, partly on behalf of the academic world that he brought into focus with that of practice.

    A very great number of people would say that he was a lovely man. Few are able to combine intellect,acumen, and personal warmth in the way Stuart did. The business and academic worlds are the poorer for his passing.

  2. Barry Henniker:

    Hi Peter

    Really sad to hear this news. I too knew Stuart in CIPS circles and would echo the kind sentiments you have expressed above. He was a very personable low key change manager who brought considerable change for the better to everything that he touched.

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