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Frank Redington – A ramble through actuarial history

Image of Frank Redington and quote: “[Actuaries] should not be content merely to operate as backroom technicians. There is a duty to come forward and to speak out on these questions of national finance – to be prepared to contribute in a forceful if non-partisan way every time the pensions debate resurfaces.”

This was the view of Frank Redington, former President of the Institute of Actuaries and a key figure in the history of the profession. And though it has been 60 years since he became President of the Institute, his views and contribution to actuarial science in the UK should not be underestimated.

Voted the greatest British actuary ever by readers of The Actuary in 2003, Frank is most widely known for his development of immunisation theory, theory, a concept he introduced in a paper on life office valuations. It would receive attention as a contribution to the emerging financial economics, that arguably the actuarial profession would not fully engage with for some decades. Born on 10 May 1906 in Leeds, Frank’s mathematical ability gained him an open scholarship to Magdalene College, Cambridge. His love for mathematics led him to begin studying for the actuarial examinations during his last year at Cambridge. Frank joined the Prudential in 1928, gained Fellowship in 1934 and became a member of the Prudential management as an assistant actuary at the early age of 39. He was appointed Chief Actuary of the Prudential in 1951 and continued in that capacity until his retirement in 1968.

It was in this role that the quality of his foresight became evident, through several major developments he made whilst Chief Actuary. Frank was grateful for his years spent at the Prudential. It was work which he enjoyed, and represented the highest achievement which he had envisaged for himself.

The profession was particularly close to Frank’s heart and was enriched by his long and distinguished service. Following his Fellowship in 1934 Frank began his work within the operational structure of the Institute in 1937 as a member of the Board of Examiners. He was made its Chairman (1945-48) and was a member of the Lever Committee to review the education and examination arrangements which reported in 1946. He served on Council for many years and became a Vice-President and then President between 1958 and 1960).

It was in this latter role that Frank broke new ground for both the Institute and the Faculty, as his firm belief that actuaries have a duty to contribute to public policy resulted in the publication of ‘An Appeal To Statesmanship’ in 1959. Designed to inform the pensions debate that was ongoing in the UK at the time, this represents the first joint policy venture by the associations that would later form the IFoA.

The policy briefing, as it would be called today, covers a number of issues that would be familiar to those following today’s ongoing pensions debate. Most interestingly, the issue of intergenerational fairness features heavily, with the document stating “It is the voice of the future which is noticeably absent from present discussions: our responsibility as actuaries is to make that voice heard.” This remains a core duty of actuaries across the profession.   

Frank’s services to the Profession have extended far beyond his activities on Council and other Committees. His personal authorship and speeches were drivers of actuarial thought for almost 50 years. His approach and expositions were original, and he did not hesitate to question established wisdom. He was a leader whose inspiration brought the best out in others, and who challenged the profession to become more than just technicians. As he put it himself:

Image of Frank Redington and quote: "The actuary who is only an actuary is not an actuary".

Frank’s ‘actuarial work of pre-eminent importance’ was recognised by the award of an Institute Gold Medal later in 1968. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of his becoming IoA President, Frank’s family have graciously loaned us his Gold Medal to display. Next time you are at Staple Inn be sure to take a moment to view it.