Purvis is married with three children and ten grandchildren. He has farming and property interests in North East Fife and has extensive knowledge of the international financial services industry, having worked in the sector for several decades and having later contributed his expertise on relevant committees in the European Parliament.
Purvis served as a second lieutenant in the Scots Guards (1956-1958) and graduated MA (Hons) from the University of St Andrews (1962). He worked for First National City Bank in London, New York and Milan (1962-1969) and was Treasurer of merchant bank Noble Grossart Ltd in Edinburgh (1969-1973). He was Managing Director and Chairman of Gilmerton Management Services Ltd St Andrews (1973-1986) and Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (1986-1997). He received the CBE in 1990. During his second term as an MEP, Purvis was Vice Chairman of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (2002-2009) and a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (1999-2009). He also served on EU delegations to the Gulf States and to Middle Eastern countries and served on the EU Committee of Inquiry into the Equitable Life Assurance Society crisis. During his 15 years as an MEP, Purvis produced a number of major reports which helped to shape EU policy – notably on biotechnology, telecommunications and financial regulation. Since standing down in 2009, Purvis has continued to serve in Europe as Chairman of Financial Future which provides a means of dialogue between the financial services industries of Europe and the EU’s legislators. He is also Chairman of Belgrave Capital Management in London, a Director of Kingdom FM Radio Ltd., Fife, and Advisor to the Board of Elmwood College in Cupar (2012).