Having completed his education at the university of Edinburgh, where he was distinguished in mathematics, Robert was induced to enter a banking-house in order to acquire a practical knowledge of business, but his ambition was really academic. In 1769 he gave up business pursuits and accepted the rectorship of Perth academy.
This, post he held till 1862, when he became chief officer in the banking-house of Glyn, Mills & Co., in whose employ he remained until 1881.
His last years of office were embittered by the discussions on a matter notorious at the time, namely, the affairs of the banking-house of W.
His grandfather, Andreas, originally a Bremen merchant, was one of the founders (1st of January 1766) of the banking-house of Grote, Prescott & Company in Threadneedle Street, London (the name of Grote did not disappear from the firm till 1879).
Transferred in the same year to the commissariat department as a captain, he resigned three years later and went back to California to conduct at San Francisco a branch of an important St Louis banking-house.