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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

How the other half lives

Margaret de Valois reports on The Other Half Club Attending a dinner at Mansion House some time ago, I was fortunate to find myself sitting close to a very interesting lady who, despite not being an actuary, has played an active and unusual part in the profession over the past 30 years. What follows is an extract from what this lady — Kay Abbott — had to say about The Other Half Club and about how the actuarial wives and girlfriends (and some husbands too) have provided support to each other and to their actuaries during their careers.

“In the early 1980s, several Council Members’ wives would meet infrequently at various social events and enjoy each other’s company. At a Fellowship Club Ladies’ Night in 1988, we decided that it would be a good idea to meet on a more regular basis by forming our own dining club. The constraint would be that we would meet when our men went to their dining clubs, which were held on sessional meeting nights, and they would then be able to collect us and escort us home.

“Therefore, we needed to meet somewhere near Butchers’ Hall, the home of the Gallio Club, and near a tube station to make access easier for those who were unescorted. This seems a rather old-fashioned approach 20 years on but it has worked well.

“We found a delightful restaurant in Charterhouse Square that had a private upstairs room available. Here we started our meetings in 1989, with dinners in October/November, January and March. Diana Brimblecombe was our founder chairman and I was the first secretary. There were around 20 members at the outset. Membership is now approaching 70 and we are still meeting in the same restaurant.

“We have always been informal in our approach and soon decided that there was no need to have speakers at our meetings. As we came to know each other better, we began to organise more events — theatre trips including behind-the-scenes tours, visits to art galleries, river trips, golf days, wine tastings and dinners in ‘grand places’. Husbands are sometimes invited too, and last year, with our ‘other halves’, we had our first weekend away — a memorable trip to Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

“A highlight of our year for several years has been a London walk guided by Red Badge guide and actuary, Robin Michaelson, who has organised, among other treats, access to some lovely Livery Halls for lunch. This year the walk takes place on 29 May and is sure to be enjoyed by members and their ‘other halves’.

“2008 also sees the 20th anniversary of the founding of The Other Half Club and a special celebratory event is planned — probably to take place in early September.

“Friendship has always been a key factor in our organisation, and we have put this into practice in particular at the International Congresses. We organise a meeting place so that members can get together and take along friends from other countries, and we host a breakfast meeting to which we invite the wives of international associates. We have breakfasted in some exotic places — on a narrowboat in the rain in Birmingham, a champagne breakfast in Cancun and, in 2006, breakfast and lunch in style in Paris. It is good to note that some of our members who are now widowed continue to belong to club and to enjoy its activities.

“We do not set out to support any charity but we make a donation to the Company of Actuaries’ Charitable Trust Fund.”

As a profession we focus so much on forming our own professional networks we sometimes forget about those who support us at home and who may share similar issues and concerns.

I am also an actuarial WAG and appreciate that this is a hard job requiring patience, tenderness and, at times, an unbiased sympathetic ear. I even confess that I often find it more demanding than my ‘day job’, and the opportunity to socialise and explore my concerns with others who share these is attractive.

I attended a dinner some time ago where the host presented gifts of £50 vouchers for a large corner shop in London to the people who had contributed to his team’s success. I am pleased to say that the vouchers were given, not to employees, but to the WAGs and HABs; I hope that this practice of rewarding and recognising the contribution of those who help support our profession continues.

If you or your partner is interested in finding out more about The Other Half Club, please contact either the current chairman, Jean Grenville-Jones on +44 (0)1386 841163 jean@grenville-jones.com, or secretary/treasurer, Margaret Ross on +44 (0)1296 630098 mross@gotadsl.co.uk