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50th anniversary
  • Celebrations begin to commemorate 50 years of the University of Dundee

    2017
  • The University of Dundee becomes a fully independent institution under the terms of the Royal Charter.

    1967
  • Ordinances issued in 1897 made University College form part of St Andrews. and establish a Faculty of Medicine.

    1897
  • The Deed formally creating University College Dundee was signed by founders Miss Mary Ann Baxter and her cousin Dr John Boyd Baxter.

    1881

Robert Fleming

  • date

    Fri, 17 Mar 2017

  • Running Time

    00:05:32

From the clerk’s office of a Dundee textile firm to the wide open prairies of a youthful United States of America, Robert Fleming’s financial acumen led to the formation of an investment firm with branches across the globe.

Episode Transcript

I’m Fahad Asif and welcome to the University of Dundee and our weekly look at the moments in history – both of the institution and the city – that have created the vibrant, dynamic place that we’re now part of. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University becoming independent, we examine the people, discoveries and decisions that have brought us to 2017 as Scotland’s University of the Year and one of the world’s Top 200 universities, delivering teaching and research that is helping to transform lives across society. In the years to come we have ambitions to be the top University in Scotland in everything we do.

From the clerk’s office of a Dundee textile firm to the wide open prairies of a youthful United States of America, Robert Fleming’s financial acumen led to the formation of an investment firm with branches across the globe.

Born in Dundee as the son of a bookkeeper, the young Fleming was a teenage clerk but by his early 20s was in charge of his employer’s American investments.

He went on to become one of the founders of the Scottish American Investment Company, which invested in bonds attached to the rapidly developing American railroads. These were high risk but also high return and Fleming did well enough to be able to form the merchant bank of Robert Fleming and Company (or Flemings) at the age of 32.

In 1909, Fleming moved the bank to London, and his family from their palatial villa in Newport on Tay, where throughout the 20th century Flemings had global reach throughout Asia and Africa. In the 1970s, Fleming entered into an investment banking joint venture with Hong Kong-based Jardine Matheson, forming Jardine Fleming.

Robert Fleming Holdings, in 1997, reported having more than 8000 employees and operations in 44 countries. In 2000, it was sold to Chase Manhattan for $7.7 billion.

Fleming was not the only Dundee businessman to look towards the wide open possibilities of the United States.

In 1882, an American banker called AM Britton made his way to the thriving city of Dundee to seek investment in the Matador Land and Cattle Company. A group of businessmen agreed to buy and the price agreed was $1.25m. By the end of the nineteenth-century, more than $5m had left Dundee to be invested in US projects.

Ownership shifted over the decades and by the second half of the 20th century the Matador company had been broken up for sale.

The Alliance Trust, formed in 1888 in Dundee, also invested money in the US on behalf of wealthy clients in the city. In one example, farmers in the Pacific North-west were loaned money to invest in their properties in Oregon and Washington.

It had been formed by the merger of three Dundee-basedmortgage and land companies including the Dundee Mortgage and Trust Company, one of the investors in Matador.

It was entrusted with investments by merchants, ship owners, textile manufacturers and businessman such as SirJohn Leng.

The Trust moved with the times, to service the changing financial needs of the 20th century. A Second Alliance Trust was formed in 1923 and as their activities began to run in parallel, the formal merger happened in 2006.

Three years later, it left the building it had occupied for more than 90 years in Reform Street to move into purpose-built premises on 8 West Marketgait. It still operates the largest investment trust in the UK.

Its charitable organisation The Alliance Trust Foundation follows the great tradition of philanthropy, but in a modern way, building relationships with communities and funding projects that will have a positive effect in the long term.

Robert Fleming also made many donations to the city. The Fleming Gymnasium, which opened in 1905 as a place for fitness and recreation, is now the home of Forensic Medicine and the University’s world-famous Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification. He also made a donation of £155,000 to build workers’ housing. This became known as the Fleming Gardens Estate and still stands today.

Residents today, sitting enjoying a James Bond film may be unaware of the close link between their own four walls and 007. Robert Fleming’s grandson was Ian Fleming, creator of Commander Bond – another, more accidental legacy.

Fahad Asif

Fahd Asif works as a Senior International Officer at the University, responsible for leading the student recruitment and global engagement activities within Africa and Middle East. As part of his role, he frequently travels overseas to promote the University to prospective students and works closely with our partners and stakeholders abroad.

Growing up in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Fahd came to Dundee as an international student and graduated with an MA (Hons) in Business Economics with Marketing and Politics in 2011.

During his student life, he was involved with the International Society, DUSA Radio and Enterprise Gym in addition to representing the voice of fellow international students through the Student Representative Council. Along with his role within the International Office, Fahd is also undertaking a part-time MSc in Leadership and Innovation at the School of Education and Social Work here at Dundee.

When he’s not travelling or studying, Fahd enjoys eastern classical singing, photography and exploring the beautiful Scottish countryside.

All podcasts

  • Celebrations begin to commemorate 50 years of the University of Dundee

    2017
  • The University of Dundee becomes a fully independent institution under the terms of the Royal Charter.

    1967
  • Ordinances issued in 1897 made University College form part of St Andrews. and establish a Faculty of Medicine.

    1897
  • The Deed formally creating University College Dundee was signed by founders Miss Mary Ann Baxter and her cousin Dr John Boyd Baxter.

    1881
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