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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Obituary: John Martin CBE BSc FIA ASA FSS FPMI (1929-2017)


Past Institute of Actuaries president (Leonard) John Martin died in July 2017, aged 88.

John began his actuarial career at the age of 18 after leaving school and joining National Mutual Life. Following national service in the Royal Navy in 1949, he returned there in 1950 until 1952 when he joined R Watson and Sons. He continued to serve in the Royal Naval Reserve for some years.

At Watsons, John enjoyed a long and successful career as a consulting actuary, concluding as senior partner from 1983 to 1993. His clients included the large UK pension schemes of British Airways and British Telecom, but he also advised some of the firm’s longest standing clients such as the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows, clients in the West Indies and Africa and was a member of the actuarial committees of the United Nations Pension Fund and the European Patent Office. He was chairman of the Association of Consulting Actuaries from 1985 to 1987, and from 1988 to 1992 a member and then deputy chairman of the Occupational Pensions Board, forerunner of the current Pensions Regulator. He was heavily involved in the firm’s European arrangements, EURACS. As senior partner, he set an example of service to the profession and encouraged others to get involved in the professional bodies. His overall contribution was recognised by an award from the International Association of Consulting Actuaries in 2016.

John qualified as a Fellow in 1954 and held numerous roles in the Institute of Actuaries, and became president from 1992 to 1994. His vision for the profession was for it to engage in wider fields, including general insurance, health and care, banking and finance and capital projects as well as continuing to build its role in international affairs, and was successful in setting the foundations for future progress.

He was a delegate to the International Actuarial Association at a time when its role was purely to arrange for International Congresses to be organised at four yearly intervals and then played a part in the establishment of the International Forum of Actuarial Association, which subsequently merged into the IAA to become the association of associations it is now.

John always took a keen interest in the international role of the profession, and had been closely involved in discussions leading to the establishment of a consultative group of actuarial associations in the countries of the then European Communities. Groupe Consultatif held its first meeting in Paris in 1978, with John representing the Institute of Actuaries. He was to remain an influential member of the group for many years, including becoming chairman from 1988 to 1991. He took great satisfaction in seeing the organisation, now the Actuarial Association of Europe, evolve from its initial 11 associations in eight countries to its present 36 associations in 35 European countries. He became an honorary past chairman in 1997.

 He was awarded a Finlaison medal in 1991 for his role in promoting the role of the Actuary in Europe and the CBE in the New Year Honours of 1995 for services to the actuarial profession.

After retirement he was a non executive director of the National Provident Institution and put right the omission of a university education by obtaining an Open University degree in astrophysics.

Outside his actuarial work, John was passionate about flying, making trips in his own aircraft to and from the Americas and Asia. Fittingly, his own former aircraft was flown over his funeral. He was interested in music, sailing and also a keen diver and had a share in a salvage business in the Isle of Wight where he lived in later years. He also owned a wood which provided the coffin in which he was interred.

As a colleague, John was always encouraging and supportive. This extended to his work with staff at the Institute of Actuaries when he served as a member of council and president. Contemporary staff fondly remember John as a "true gentleman of his time", "courteous, kind and totally professional".

As a person, he was enthusiastic and energetic, and his open personality was an important element in building the relationships on which his many achievements were founded.