The Archive presents an almost continuous record of how life insurance operated and endured over nearly 200 years as new companies entered an uncertain market in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships first prospected for policy applicants with tables of level premiums calculated by age. It conducted the first actuarial valuation of liabilities (1776) and it pioneered the distribution of surplus in the first 'reversionary bonus' (1781) and 'interim bonus' (1801) among its members.
The term 'actuary' was first coined by the Society in its Deed of Settlement of 1762 and the role was later fulfilled in the modern sense with the appointment of a person skilled in probability and financial matters, most notably William Morgan from 1775.
Behind these landmarks in how life assurance has developed, not only to protect against the contingencies of life but also as a vehicle for providential return in later life, there is the work of individual mathematical thinkers and practitioners
James Dodson (ca. 1705-1757) produced for the first time a level premium for each age of applicant for an increasing or varying risk but he died leaving others to see his proposals for an insurance society through to fruition.
Edward Rowe Mores (1731-1778) and others then strove to establish the Society on sound administrative and mathematical principles. The Archive has original manuscript evidence of the mathematical advice of Richard Price (1723-1791) (dissenting minister and commentator at a time of momentous political changes) and principally of William Morgan, who served as Actuary from 1775 to 1830.
William Morgan would be followed by his younger son Arthur and then by other illustrious names, among them Henry Manly (1844-1914) (who developed the theoretical background of staff pension funds, the Society selling pensions from 1913), George Lidstone (1870-1952) and Sir William Elderton (1877-1962) both of whom were awarded gold medals by the Faculty of Actuaries and Institute of Actuaries for contributions to the advance of actuarial science.
The Society’s first years as an early ‘mutual’ office were marked by contest between its first subscribers (seeking return on initial risk capital they had put in to help set up the Society) and the interests of new applicants the business sought to attract
Debates continued about fair allocation of an accumulating surplus among qualifying members, whilst an actuarial perspective looked to ensure prudent levels of funding to meet the Society’s potential responsibilities for the next generations of policyholders.
There were external challenges to the Society’s apparent reliance on specific mortality tables (the experience of Northampton) over the long term and others advocating pooling this experience with wider sources for an improved forecast of life expectancy.
As William Morgan was called upon by government to provide mortality assumptions for viable sales of annuities in the government’s borrowing for state revenue, and the Society leading by example in its practice of regular valuations, it might be said that he fulfilled the roles of professional model and government actuarial adviser in the Society’s first fifty years.
Nearing the end of his fifty years in office, Morgan would have his work challenged by John Finlaison, first Actuary to the government, and others. Although the Society’s actuaries would play little part in the establishment of the Institute of Actuaries the Society’s part in designing the framework for scientific insurance practice and development cannot be denied. John Finlaison became the first president of the Institute of Actuaries.
Equitable Life Assurance Society (ELAS) Archive 1762 - 1975 at Institute of Actuaries Library, London30 September 2007
- 2 April 2007
- 31 December 1962
- 31 December 1964
For any library enquiries please contact:
We try to respond to email queries within one working day. Researcher access to historical resources may require notice in advance of visit in order to retrieve items from storage.
Filter or search events
The IFoA’s Actuarial Review Team has published its first thematic review, which looked at the actuarial advice given by scheme actuaries to UK pension scheme trustees on setting transfer values and commutation rates.
IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual India Town Hall 2021, hosted by John Taylor with IFoA Council Member Mahidhara Davangere and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann.
What are the options for the world economy looking ahead?
In this Thought Leadership Lecture, Economist, Vicky Pryce, will be discussing world economic trends, including the differences in geographical performance and how output is recovering and where.
Trust and Leadership for Actuaries
Led by Dr. Jim Baxter, University of Leeds, this webinar introduces some key ideas in the ethics of trust, with a particular focus on those in, or on the path to, leadership roles. Dr Baxter is joined by a panel of experienced leaders who will give their personal perspectives on how they understand the value of trust and how they seek to promote and inspire trust, drawing on their experiences of leadership. The panel includes:
In this webinar, we have two presentations showing the latest research on the implications for life and health insurers of two key issues: genomics and pandemic risk.
Dr Peter Joshi and Paul Timmers will share their research on how well-established underwriting processes can allow for genomics in predicting expected mortality and morbidity. They will then discuss the potential for stratified screening and personalised medicine to improve health and reduce claim costs.
As the world’s attention begins to turn to COP26 later this year in Glasgow, Sarah Gordon (Chief Executive, Impact Investing Institute) will share her vision for how the financial services industry can deliver for people and the planet, as well as how to encourage more investment with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.
IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual SSA Town Hall 2021, hosted by John Taylor with IFoA Council Members Mukami Njeru, Prosper Matiashe and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann.
IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual MENAP Town Hall 2021, hosted by John Taylor and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann.