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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Appreciation: GW Pingstone

Gordon William Pingstone, who died in Beckenham, Kent, on 18 February 2004, was the actuary of Legal & General Assurance Society from July 1963 until his retirement in December 1971. Born in Rushden, Northamptonshire, in 1913 and educated at Kimbolton School, he joined the Life Actuarial Department of Legal & General at No 10, Fleet Street, in January 1930. Five years later he moved to the group department, where he worked closely with the group secretary, Pat Cahill, initially in Gracechurch Street and later at Chessington. In 1939 he qualified as a fellow of the Institute of Actuaries.

Commissioned into the engineering branch of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in October 1941, Pingstone spent the next five years on various home assignments, gaining, as he put it, an understanding of people and how to get the best out of them – a benefit that he would put to good use in his future managerial career. Returning to L&G, where he was universally known as ‘Ping’, he was appointed assistant actuary (group) in February 1947 and in the autumn of 1951 he took over responsibility for the administrative and actuarial sides of the society’s group pensions business, gaining the title of group pensions manager the following year. (New business production was now under separate management.) His headquarters were in Aldwych House, though the bulk of the staff had for some years been relocated to St Monica’s, Kingswood in Surrey.

The 1950s were a period of rapid expansion of insured pensions business, in which the society was the recognised market leader. Pingstone presented a significant paper on group life and pension schemes to the Institute of Actuaries in April 1951, and two years later he spent several weeks in the US studying the organisation of the Metropolitan Life of New York, one of the largest American insurance companies, whose UK group business had been acquired by the society in 1933. But, in his own words, ‘all hell broke loose’ with the passage of the Finance Act 1956, which created a level playing field between insured and self-invested schemes and led to significant savings in cost for the former if they were converted into trust funds.

Not only that, but successive governments were soon legislating – or, in some cases, attempting to legislate – for improvements in national insurance pensions which would have eroded occupational schemes had not suitable contracting-out arrangements been devised for their members. Pingstone was an active participant in the insurance industry’s National Pensions Committee, which played a crucial role in negotiating such arrangements with government departments and ministers, and he continued on that committee until his retirement. He also served on the Council of the Institute of Actuaries.

In April 1962 Pingstone became deputy actuary and succeeded Eric Martin as the society’s actuary the following year. (Prefixing that title by ‘chief’ was not thought necessary in those days.) Based now at Temple Court, his term of office saw a move from triennial to annual bonus distributions, and his final annual valuation showed the society’s actuarial liabilities exceeding £1bn for the first time.

Gordon’s wife Anne, whom he married in 1940, died in 2002, and in his last years increasing problems of mobility forced him to move to a nursing home. He is survived by his daughter Elizabeth and grand-daughter Rebecca.