Obituary: Professor James Pegler

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The Independent Online
James Basil Holmes Pegler, actuary, born 6 August 1912, General Manager and Actuary Clerical, Medical and General Life Assurance Society 1950-69, Managing Director 1970-75, Chairman Life Group Comite Europeen des Assurances 1964-70, President Institute of Actuaries 1968-70, Chairman Life Offices' Association 1959-61, Professor of Actuarial Science City University 1976-79, Visiting Professor 1979-86, married 1937 Enid Dell (one son, three daughters), died 22 September 1992.

JAMES PEGLER served for 25 years as the Chief Executive of Clerical, Medical and General Life Assurance Society, first as General Manager and Actuary, and later as Managing Director. That appointment was the cornerstone of a most distinguished career, in the course of which he achieved the 'double' of the Chairmanship of the Life Offices' Association (LOA) and, later, the Presidency of the Institute of Actuaries (IOA).

Amongst his many other business and professional achievements his work for European insurance stands out. He was for some years Chairman of the Life Working Group of CEA (Comite Europeen des Assurances). When he retired from his executive role with Clerical Medical, whilst he remained a director, he entered a new academic life, becoming Professor of Actuarial Science at City University, in London.

To one who knew him well, Jim Pegler always seemed to be an academic at heart. His intellectual brilliance was combined with a shrewd business sense and an infinite capacity for taking pains. He entered his actuarial training straight from Charterhouse when he began his business career with Clerical, Medical in 1931. It was typical of him that, in his sixties and nearing retirement, he read for a degree at the Open University just as he was about to be made a professor. At this time he still played squash every week. In his seventies, he took up tap-dancing and remained fit and well until he developed heart trouble a few months before his death, just after his 80th birthday.

Pegler was Investment Secretary of Clerical Medical before he succeeded Sir Andrew Rowell as General Manager in 1950, at the early age of 38. In 1948 he submitted to the Institute of Actuaries his notable paper on The Actuarial Principles of Investment, in which he replaced the established Bailey's Canons, focused on security of capital, with Pegler's Principles, oversimplified in the phrase 'Look after the income and the capital will look after itself'. It is no exaggeration to say that he modernised, indeed revolutionised, the investment thinking of many of Britain's life offices.

His approach epitomised the motto of the Institute of Actuaries: 'I hold every man a debtor to his profession . . .' Everything he undertook, whether for the Institute, the LOA, the CEA, or for his employer, was carried through with extreme thoroughness and total integrity. He was uncompromising when he thought he was right, and hardly knew the meaning of the word 'expediency'. One of the several chairmen under whom he served was similarly uncompromising. As there were many matters on which they disagreed, their relationship was somewhat stormy and, to say the least, interesting to those watching from the fringe of the discussions.

I have one personal reminiscence which illustrates Pegler's character rather well. I have a son who is now a professional singer. When, some years ago, he gained an important choral scholarship, I told Jim, then my immediate boss, the news with due parental pride. 'Huh', said Jim. 'He doesn't get it from his father, does he?' He was a master of the elegant 'put-down'.

Jim Pegler was a giant of the life-assurance industry and all our lives will be the poorer for his passing.