01 AUGUST 2013 | NATASHA RADEMEYER
As a student actuary, it was an honour to be asked to interview John Lockyer, the former Master of the Worshipful Company of Actuaries (WCA). Our discussion covered the history of the company and its commitment to charitable causes. It’s an inspiring tale, and one that shows both qualified and non-qualified actuaries what the profession can give back to the community and wider world.
Tell us about your background and how you came to be Master of the Worshipful Company of Actuaries (WCA).
After completing my degree I headed to London to follow a career in mathematics. I’ve always loved mathematics and a career as an actuary sounded interesting. I qualified and worked in a mixture of pensions and insurance areas during my career.
My involvement with livery companies started well before the WCA. My grandfather had friends in livery companies in the 1930s. They encouraged him to join the Worshipful Company of Plumbers. Subsequently, my father became a liveryman and then I became a liveryman of that company by right of patrimony. In due course, I joined the court of the company and then became Master of the company in 2005/6. After I finished my term as Master of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, I was asked to join the court of the WCA. I worked on various committees, which is part of serving on the court, and later became Master in July 2011.
What is a livery company and what does the Worshipful Company of Actuaries do?
Livery companies date back to medieval times and are associated to local crafts in the City. The first livery company was established in 1155, while the Worship Company of Plumbers was founded in 1365, which makes the WCA, founded in 1979, modern by comparison.
The companies were a mixture of guardians of standards of each trade and a bit of a trade union. Each one of the trades was historically concentrated in a specific area of the City. As a liveryman, you were entitled to work within the borders of the City in the specific craft of the company to which you belonged. If you weren’t a liveryman and if you didn’t fulfil the standards set by the company you couldn’t practise the trade within the City of London. A number of companies have their own halls within the City of London. A good example is Goldsmith’s Hall, where gold is still hallmarked today.
Apart from looking after the craft of each profession, the livery companies historically looked after families of liverymen who fell on hard times. Now the livery companies give large amounts of money to various charitieseach year. Last year, the livery companies gave over £40m to various charities. The WCA raised over £170,000 from its 250 members for charity last year.
What did your role as Master of the WCA involve?
To be the Master of a company means you give up your year in service to the company. As Master you have the right to be on all committees and we have 10 committees in the WCA. You are also seen by others as the face of the actuarial profession and you represent the company when you meet other Masters of livery companies.
For my year as Master, we have been involved in various charity events. I incorporated my love of music to raise money for four opera students over a five-year period to help fund their studies. It is nice to help education on a wider platform than just actuarial. We are also funding a five-year research project with the Royal Society on mathematics in Britain’s schools, which can influence government policy. On the actuarial side, we give bursaries to mathematics students who would otherwise struggle financially, and awards for students in their penultimate year at university in order for them to continue their studies. We also use our contacts to assist students with placements for gap years after university.
We give talks at various universities around the UK to promote the profession, where several liverymen are usually on hand to answer questions the students might have.
The WCA assists the profession as well. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) runs the profession, its standards and its disciplinary procedures, but we help the profession in areas such as the work we do with the universities. We can also assist members of the council with introductions to people within the City because of the contacts we have. The current Lord Mayor, who acts as the financial ambassador for the UK financial services industry, is very interested in the international work the IFoA is doing. With the help of our contacts, we can feed information onto his office and team, which they can take up when they are visiting other countries.
What do you see as your greatest achievement, both within the livery company and more widely?
While Master, it is what you achieve for the company that is important. One of the highlights for me was the highly enjoyable dinner for 250 people at Drapers Hall. This raised £38,000 for three worthy causes.
Another event that stands out in my mind was the lunch at Westminster Hall. The lunch was held during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations with Her Majesty the Queen. The livery companies invited people involved with the charities they supported and those who devote their lives to charity. The WCA invited: Ella Spencer, a WCA award-winner, as the member of the actuarial profession who had done most for charity in the previous year; an opera student who we are helping with funds; one of the people involved in the research for the Royal Society; and the commanding officer of the Edmonton sea cadets.
Other events that stand out would be the Lord Mayor’s event for the Masters of livery companies and the invitation to the garden party at Buckingham Palace.
It is also really good to see young university students and qualifiers embarking on their careers.
How does someone join the Worshipful Company of Actuaries?
To join the company you have to be a Fellow of the IFoA. An actuary wishing to become a member should visit the website (www.actuariescompany.co.uk). The person has to be proposed and seconded and has to be approved for membership. You then become a freeman and receive the Freedom of the City of London. Once you have the Freedom of the City you then become a liveryman.
What are the greatest challenges the actuarial profession is facing?
Our profession has a very good reputation for integrity. However, maintaining that is very difficult. The banking profession over the past few years has needed a body with the same level of monitoring and support to professionals in difficult positions as the actuarial profession. We must also stay relevant to the financial services industry, adapting new skills sets such as risk management.
What advice would you give young actuaries?
Be true to your principles. Enjoy your work, work hard – I’ve heard that actuaries work very long hours now. The most important thing is to treat your colleagues and people who work for you the way you would like to be treated. So be challenging and stand up for what you believe is right.
How do you spend your free time?
I’ve been retired for seven years. During this time, I’ve spent two years in service to the livery company of which I was a Master. As hobbies, I like to play bridge, go to the theatre and opera, spend time in the garden and attend events for past Masters.