NEWS27 April 2021

Obituary: Alan Walters

News People UK

Alan Walters, co-founder of Pegram Walters Associates and SubstanceQI, died on Sunday 4th April 2021. He was 69.

Alan was born in London and went to Westminster City School and then on to UCL. He joined Research Bureau Limited (RBL) as a graduate trainee in 1973 and was assigned to what was known as ‘the beer group’ – one of the first to deliver research to non-Unilever clients. 

At the time we were located in Lever House, New Fetter Lane. Before long, we were sharing an office, working with a young, bright, talented team with an expanding client list in a variety of markets. Alan was a significant member of this group headed by Bill Pegram.

We were unusual at the time, in that we all trained in both qualitative and quantitative research and, with the back-up of the in-house statisticians and qualitative gurus, we became known for multi-stage projects involving both types of research. Alan was particularly at home with both genres.

When we heard our office was being moved to Wapping (long before it became fashionable to be in that part of town) there was some trepidation, but we actually became a tighter working group that spawned lasting friendships.

Alan, together with Bill, was instrumental in setting the ethos and tone of the group working relationship – essentially work hard, play hard. We all pitched in when needed to meet deadlines, sort out issues, and review the data. Our support team was stunning. Laughter, fun and dedication to our clients’ needs were the norm and many of those have also remained friends. Alan was known for his ‘lightbulb’ moments, his intuitive understanding of the issues leading to meaningful conclusions and recommendations. We all learned a lot from him.

When Alan and Bill set up Pegram Walters Associates (PWA) in 1982, joined shortly after by Sue Chambers and myself, the plan was to create a working environment for all that we ourselves would wish to work for, with the same ethos. 

To this day, I hear from some of those who joined us at PWA who say it was the best research agency they ever worked for. Alan, perhaps more than anyone, was key to that accolade. His gin and tonic trolley when presentations were being completed for clients long after all involved should have gone home, was legendary!

Alan was a member of the MRS Council and director of MRS from 1st April 1997 until 31st March 2001. In 1999 he became honorary secretary/treasurer for two years until the end of March 2001. David Barr recalls that Alan brought common sense, intelligence, and humour to MRS at a time when the MRS finances were recovering from a fragile period and still required close attention.

He brought sound experience-based financial articulacy to the role, acutely aware of constraints but at the same time trying to help with identifying opportunities, looking beyond the cold numbers to the bigger picture. Alan was just what MRS needed at the time, and his outstanding contribution was greatly valued.

Alan left PWA in 2005, it by then being part of Synovate, and set up SubstanceQI with Kevin Stanfield.

He was devoted to Sue and his care for her during her illness was amazing. His passing was unexpected and leaves us bereft, having lost someone who it was an absolute privilege to have worked with and who enriched our lives. Our thoughts are with his and Sue’s family, especially Tom, Alice and their partners and baby Otis.

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