It is with deepest sadness that his many friends and former colleagues will have learned of Stephens recent death at the tragically early age of 56. I am privileged to write about his life which, whilst all too short, was very well lived
It is with deepest sadness that his many friends and former colleagues will have learned of Stephen's recent death at the tragically early age of 56. I am privileged to write about his life which, whilst all too short, was very well lived, by Helen James.
Stephen pursued a varied and unusual career for an actuary after spending his initial years in a more conventional manner.
By the time he left school Stephen was well aware of the actuarial profession and had decided that he wanted to be an actuary. His school, Whitgift in Croydon, had produced many entrants to the actuarial profession. His elder brother was training to be an actuary and the family had a neighbour and friends who were actuaries. So instead of going to university he started the actuarial exams while working for an insurance company. He joined Clay & Partners some 18 months later and progressed there for more than 15 years. As a partner of the firm he was respected for his practical and professional approach and was involved in major changes to several pension schemes. He always encouraged colleagues and, in particular, more junior colleagues, enabling them to achieve their full potential. This concern for others and his contribution to the business resulted in Stephen being voted on to the Clay & Partners Executive Board where he took on responsibility for HR with notable success. This was neatly summed up recently by Alan Fishman, the Senior Partner at the time, as 'Stephen was such a charismatic character and a source of inspiration to our junior actuarial staff'
He was active in the profession. He served on the SIAS Committee for several years during the period when it grew up from the Students' Society into SIAS. He was involved in promoting the actuarial profession to potential new recruits and his career was used as a case study for the profession on the basis that, even if one does not go to university and takes 10 years to qualify, one can have a successful and enjoyable actuarial career. Undoubtedly Stephen would have gone further in the actuarial world had he not chosen to take time out to pursue a long term ambition to go sailing.
Stephen met his wife Alison whilst on a flotilla sailing holiday and they often sailed their first yacht YoHoHo out of the Hamble. After leaving Clay & Partners, YoHoHo was exchanged for a more substantial yacht, YoHoHo of Sark, for a larger project. Aware that his father had died before he was 60, Stephen was pleased to have been able to spend over 5 years sailing round the world, at a relatively young age with Alison. They visited some 50 countries and spent around 9 months in both the USA and Australia. They encouraged friends and former colleagues to join them aboard and gave their frequent visitors the opportunity to crew whilst providing generous hospitality and memorable experiences.
On his return to the UK in 2001 Stephen volunteered to apply his knowledge and experience of pensions to assist the Conservative party and this turned into modestly paid employment as pensions policy adviser. With the Rt Hon David Willetts MP he wrote the pamphlet 'A Fair Deal for Everyone on Pensions' which pledged the Conservative Party to reverse the spread of means testing by restoring the earnings link on the basic State pension. He was proud that the coalition government adopted this policy.
Through this work he acquired further communication and other skills that were valuable to actuarial employers with the result that in 2004 he joined Watson Wyatt in a senior role with responsibilities for communicating to the press, account management and research activities. During these years pensions were much in the news and Stephen was probably the most quoted actuary in the UK.
At his 50th birthday party in 2007, Stephen announced that he would leave Watson Wyatt to spend more time on his many other interests which of course included sailing and travelling. During the following years Stephen and Alison gave themselves many challenges including a storm lashed summer sailing the west coast of Ireland, an ambitious sailing trip to the Azores, learning Spanish and living for some months in South America, an extended trip to SE Asia and taking up carpentry. Stephen also enjoyed playing chess (seriously for the RAC Club) and bridge socially.
He was diagnosed with bladder cancer in May 2013 and bore the following months with characteristic pragmatism, fortitude, openness and bravery whilst being concerned for Alison.
His family and wide circle of friends and former colleagues will remember Stephen for his determination, his challenges to them, his interest in life, his entertaining conversation and his strength of character and he will be sadly missed.
This obituary for Stephen Yeo was written by Helen James, a friend and former colleague, with the help of several others who also knew him.