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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Obituary — Charles Michael O’Brien

Born on 17 January 1919, Mike O’Brien died aged 91 on 26 April 2010. He will be remembered by a generation of actuaries as a perceptive and popular president during the late 1970s, when life insurance and pension provision was confronted by double-digit inflation and the profession was grappling with the long-term consequences.

Five years of war service intervened between his school days at Westminster and his degree course at Christ Church Oxford. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery, and held the rank of major on demobilisation in 1945, after service in Europe, Madagascar, India and Burma. At school and university he was a notable sportsman, representing Oxford at Eton Fives, and reserve teams at football and tennis.

Shortly after demobilisation from the Army, he joined Equitable Life as an actuarial clerk and qualified as a fellow in 1949. Four years later, he joined The Royal National Pension Fund for Nurses, effectively a mutual company providing life insurance and pension products for members of the healthcare professions. He became chief executive in 1955 and retired in 1984, taking on the role of a non-executive director until 1999. He was also a member of the Board of the M&G Unit Trust Group’s assurance subsidiaries from 1984 to 1994.

Mike was president of the Institute from 1976 to 1978, when the profession was sharpening its standards of advice and supervision to cope with the developing problems of long-term saving in conditions of high inflation and low, sometimes negative, real rates of investment return.

Mike’s genial character was manifest at all times. He possessed a remarkable ability to master complicated problems and identify the significant issues. His other interests ranged widely beyond his career and sporting accomplishments, from governor at Westminster School to trainer of gundogs, from active involvement with the National Trust to a love of music and opera. He is survived by his wife, Joy, and their two sons, Philip and Christopher, four grandchildren and one great grandson.

By Victor West