Arthur Henry Alexander (known as Alex) Dibbs was born on 9 December 1918 in Bombay, India, the son of Scottish parents. He was educated at Dover College and Whitgift Middle School, Croydon.
Dibbs joined Streatham branch of Westminster Bank in 1935, having been described by the bank’s interviewing officer as ‘an excellent candidate in every way.’
In 1939 he transferred to the Metropolitian Control department at the bank’s head office in Lothbury, London. He was only there briefly before the Second World War broke out, and he left to join the Princess Louise Kensington Regiment. He served in the Middle East and Africa, reaching the rank of Captain in the King’s African Rifles. He returned to Westminster Bank’s Metropolitan Control department in 1946.
Between 1954 and 1960 Dibbs was secretary to the chief general manager of Westminster Bank, Arthur Chesterfield. He then returned to branch banking, managing Croydon branch.
In April 1963, after attending an advanced management programme at Harvard Business School, he was appointed assistant general manager in Northern Control. While there, he developed a reputation for getting to know his branch staff and communicating with them personally. In 1966 he was appointed general manager of Metropolitan Control West.
In 1968, Westminster Bank announced plans to merge with National Provincial Bank and its subsidiary District Bank to form National Westminster Bank. Dibbs was appointed general manager of the new bank’s domestic banking division, and was responsible for completely reorganising the business following what was – at that time – the biggest banking merger in British history.
In 1970, the year in which the merger took full effect, Dibbs was appointed deputy chief executive, and joined the bank’s board. He became chief executive in May 1972.
In his years as deputy chief executive and chief executive, Dibbs oversaw the introduction of extensive new arrangements required by decimalisation and new rules for profit disclosure. He broadened the range of NatWest’s activities through Lombard North Central, Orion Banking Group and Access credit cards. He was convinced that the bank’s success would be built on imaginative marketing and quality customer service.
In March 1977 Dibbs became deputy chairman of the bank. He retained his role as group chief executive until the end of that year.
He continued as deputy chairman until 1982.
Other interests and achievements
Dibbs enjoyed sport, playing cricket at school and for the bank, and rugby for his old school. In later years he turned to golf and contributed to the bank’s Golfing Society.
He served on the finance committee of the Marylebone Cricket Club and became club president in 1983.
He was a council member of the Confederation of British Industry and a member of the board of governors of the English Speaking Union. Between 1981 and 1985 he was a deputy chairman of British Airways.
He was awarded a CBE in 1983.
In 1948 Dibbs married Helen Pearl Mathewson, known as Pearl. They had two daughters together.
Dibbs died on 28 November 1985. His funeral service, held at St Margaret's Church, Lothbury, included an address by Robin Leigh-Pemberton, governor of the Bank of England and former chairman of NatWest.