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The actuary who is only an actuary... is not an actuary

Frank RedingtonThe IFoA believes Frank Redington's remarkable achievements make him a worthy nominee to feature on the UK's new £50 note.

Voted the greatest ever actuary in 2003 by members of the actuarial profession, Frank Redington (1906-1984) is perhaps best known as the author of Immunisation Theory. Published in 1952, the theory demonstrated how a financial institution’s balance sheet could be ‘immunised’ against changes in the level of interest rates. This influential paper has had a major influence on fixed income portfolio management. It is also considered to have ushered in the modern era of actuarial thought.

Yet this seminal work was not the culmination of Frank’s career. His far-sightedness was demonstrated again in 1958 when, as President of the Institute of Actuaries, he spoke out on Britain’s national pensions policy, exposing the ease with which politicians could mortgage future generations by making excessive pension promises to the current generation. His thoughts on this subject were published in the booklet National Pensions: An Appeal to Statesmanship and displayed his foresight and prescience on the subject.

After leaving Cambridge University in 1928 Frank Redington joined the Prudential where he stayed throughout his career, rising to the position of Chief Actuary. With typical modesty he believed himself unsuited to the position of Chief Executive, even though his remarkable talents would seem to suggest he would have been more than ably qualified.

During his long career Frank Redington received the highest honours it was possible to attain as an actuary, including President of the Institute of Actuaries. The importance of his work to the Institute and the actuarial profession was recognised by the award of an Institute Gold Medal in 1968.

Yet Frank was about more than just numbers. He also had a hinterland of wide-ranging and varied interests that included mysticism, poetry and nature. In his words:

The actuary’s danger may lie in too close preoccupation with his particular techniques … It is not the tools he uses which make a great craftsman. It is the way he feels and thinks.