Sir Peter Middleton (b 1934), was the first ‘external’ chair of the Barclays board who had not spent his entire career with the company. Educated at Sheffield City Grammar School and Sheffield and Bristol Universities, he completed national service with the Royal Army Pay Corps and joined the civil service in 1962, his career culminating at HM Treasury where he was Permanent Secretary (1983-1991). He joined the Barclays board in 1991 as group deputy chairman and as chairman of BZW which was reorganized as Barclays Capital in 1997.
In May 1998 he relinquished his executive responsibilities but remained a non-executive director of Barclays. However in November 1998 he was asked to act as caretaker Group Chief Executive following the sudden resignation of Martin Taylor. During his brief time as Chief Executive he made some important organizational changes (for example bringing together all risk management functions), before stepping down following the appointment of Matthew Barrett with effect from 1 October 1999. Interviewed at the time, he said that one of his main goals had been to ensure that Barclays didn't stall.
He succeeded Andrew Buxton as Chairman at the annual general meeting in 1999, and thereafter made a major contribution both in policy formation and execution to Matt Barrett’s strategy for restoring Barclays’ fortunes following the difficulties of the 1990s. Sir Peter was a very active Chairman and ambassador for the Barclays Group and brand. One of his first initiatives as Chairman was to visit Barclays’ operations in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana. This emphasised Barclays’ international standing, with Retail Financial Services alone at that time employing 57,000 people in 45 countries and servicing over one million customers. Whilst in Africa Sir Peter presented a cheque for one million Zimbabwe dollars to the University of Zimbabwe's Graduate Business School and 50,000 Pulas for the junior achievers awards in Botswana.
In 2003 Sir Peter highlighted Barclays’ achievements in community support, citing as examples the ISO 14001 standard for environmental good practice, offering employees in Botswana and Zambia free HIV/AIDs testing, and supporting the Titian After Dark Exhibition at the National Gallery.
External appointments included deputy chairman of United Utilities PLC and Chancellor of Sheffield University. He was knighted in 1984.