Master 1977 - George Ross-Goobey (23 May 1911 - 19 March 1999) was the only truly revolutionary figure in the post-war history of British fund management. He began his revolutionary activities in 1947 when, at the tender (for those days) age of 36, he was appointed as the pension fund manager of the Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco Company, then one of the giants of the British Industrial scene. At this time the yield on British government bonds, or gilts, was less than the yield on equities, even though the economy was growing. However pension funds did not generally invest in equities. He persuaded the fund to switch virtually all of its investments into the equity market, which was very profitable.
Before his arrival at Imperial Tobacco George's career had been typical of the impoverished middle-classes of the inter-war years. He was born in east London, the son of a non conformist preacher, but thanks to an enlightened local vicar, he was nominated for a scholarship to Christ's Hospital. Throughout his life he remained loyal to his Alma Mater, and was proud to be a governor.
Because his father was unable to afford to send him to University he trained as an actuary, but took some time to qualify because he spent so much time on the sports field - playing cricket and above all rugby, at which he represented Eastern Counties. In later life his chosen game was golf - indeed he played 36 holes with typical canniness and relish until well into his eighties.
George collected his pension - and a seemingly limitless supply of his favourite cigars - for nearly a quarter of a century, doing his best to preserve the pension fund from the effect of the takeover of his old firm by Lord Hanson. It was only natural for him to be elected - somewhat belatedly - to the presidency of the National Association of Pension Funds in 1972.
His refusal to toe any particular line ensured that he never received the public honours accorded to lesser figures in his profession. Not surprisingly his relationship with the actuarial profession was never easy. A public row with the then chief actuary of the mighty Prudential Corporation in the early 1950s, combined with his natural intellectual intolerance, delayed recognition of his status until 1998 when, at the age of 86, he was finally given the profession's first Award of Honour. But his brusque manner did not extend to the brighter young men who worked for him. He took enormous trouble with youngsters, many of whom, later distinguished in their work, regarded him affectionately as their professional mentor.
Though an intellectual loner he was a highly social animal, clubbable, enjoying the social side of sporting life. Until his death he was active in a number of livery companies, much in demand as an after-dinner speaker, distinguished enough to have become master not only of the Company of Actuaries but also of two other livery companies, the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers and, somewhat more obviously, the Tobacco Blenders and Pipemakers. His bridge was good enough for him to win the livery companies' annual bridge competition several times.
The human side of George emerged in the amused twitch of his moustache - which, like the rest of him, remained trim and fit until his dying days.
George married Gladys Menzies in 1937 and they had a daughter and a son, Alastair who turned out to be a (somewhat less outrageous) chip off the old block following him into the profession. George Ross Goobey died in 1999.