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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Obituary: Clifford Sharp

There are very few actuaries who can be said to be the doyen of their profession but Clifford Sharp, who died on 17 September at the age of 98, was certainly one of them. Clifford started work with Gresham Life in 1928 and qualified as a fellow in 1940. In 1950 he transferred to Legal & General (by then Gresham’s parent company), later moving to Noble Lowndes in 1959 from where he ‘retired’ in 1970.

He spent much of his working life abroad, spending the war years in India. This led to his first contribution to actuarial literature, Oriental Mortality Experience, in 1944. After the war he was an early pioneer of the use of punched cards in life office valuations, appalled at the time taken in recording data manually.

During the 1950s he assisted Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher in developing the Conservative Party’s thoughts on the relationship between occupational pension schemes and state provision. Clifford recalled how impressed he was by the incisiveness of Margaret Thatcher’s contribution to their discussions.

After ‘retirement’, Clifford took on a variety of activities including further work overseas and was a founder member of the Occupational Pensions Board. His contribution to debates on actuarial matters was prolific, with 50 books, papers and contributions to The Actuary, all but five in the past 10 years. There were more than 30 contributions to discussions at sessional meetings.

In later years, Clifford became increasingly concerned about the role of the Profession and whether it and its members were acting in the best interests of the public, having regard to the commitment in the Institute’s Charter. At an elderly age he mastered the intricacies of the internet; with an eye to the protection of the individual pensioner and policyholder, he used to e-mail many in senior posts across the financial world. Appropriately, his last contribution to The Actuary dealt with ‘The workings of the Institute Council, with particular reference to disagreements over personal pension selling’.

Clifford was always keen to chat with other actuaries. I counted myself fortunate to meet him on numerous occasions. Always stimulating in his views, it was a great pleasure to join him in attempting to put the actuarial world to rights. I, and those who knew him, admired Clifford as an actuary who loved his profession and who had a genuine concern for matters of integrity, fairness to all and honesty to pensioners and policyholders. He endeavoured to be its ethical conscience, for which the profession should be grateful.
Roy Brimblecombe

I corresponded with Clifford for many years but met him only a few times, each of them memorable. The first was when he visited me in a London hospital to discuss a paper we were writing, driving himself in his Rolls Royce from the West Country. Clifford was then aged 87.

Several years later I visited his fine house in Dorset, expecting that a widower now in his nineties would probably be living alone. I was served lunch and champagne by Clifford and his friend Anne, whom he later married in 2005.

Joie de vivre aside, Clifford personified a rare yet somehow very English tolerance, open-mindedness, and concern for fairness.
Guy Thomas

My role - self imposed - was to act as the ’protector’ of senior actuaries from Clifford’s weekly emails, and I would often have to speak to him when matters escalated. If necessary, I would go to the chairman of the relevant board and the then-President, who was always ready to help.

At peak levels I would get one email a week from Clifford. He was a gentleman who had, as many do in later life, a concern for matters of integrity, fairness to all, honesty to pensioners and policy holders. In other words all ethical issues.

He was a great conscience for his profession and, while he could at times go slightly over the top, he did this simply because he felt so strongly on certain matters. He loved the profession and was determined to see that it did not shrink from stating its views – even if these were contrary to the short-term financial success of the companies in which actuaries were working.
Gregor Campbell