David-Pitt Watson


Visiting Fellow 
Cambridge Judge Business School

GOOD Fellows AWARD Recipient, 2024
GOOD Fellows #2024

Lakshmi Narayanan,
Chairman, Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute

David was born and brought up in Scotland. His father was a minister, who went on to be a professor of theology at Aberdeen and Fuller Seminary in California. His mother was a teacher of music and a homemaker. He has two sisters.

Educated at local schools in Bearsden and Aberdeen, he went on to study at the Queen’s College, Oxford and won a scholarship from the North of Scotland Rotary Club to take an MBA at Stanford University.

He is married to Ursula Barnes and has three grown-up children.

David’s interest in Responsible Investment and Corporate Governance dates back to 1990 when he joined the board of PIRC as a non-executive. PIRC was then alone and radical voice in the field. In 1992, PIRC became the chief advocate for the Cadbury Report, now recognized as a milestone in corporate accountability.

By the mid-1990s David was an advisor to Hermes Fund Managers which was pioneering new approaches to shareholder stewardship. In 1999 he joined them as director of their Focus Funds and went on to be CEO of the funds. These were Europe’s first ethical activist funds, explicitly seeking to use shareholder powers to improve company performance. 

David wrote the Hermes Principles, the first statement by any fund manager of the management disciplines they expected from companies, promising to support a company that fulfilled these principles in a hostile takeover.

He went on the found Hermes Equity Ownership Service, to provide an engagement service for a consortium of global pension funds. It now has $400 billion under advice and is the largest stewardship resource of any fund manager in the world.

Throughout the period, and to date David has been closely involved in efforts to promote responsible investment. He was closely involved in the establishment of the Principles for Responsible Investment and chaired the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative in the run-up to the Paris Climate Conference. He was on the board of the International Corporate Governance Network.