Brian Hey Prize 2024: Who was Brian Hey?

Brian Hey Prize 2024: Who was Brian Hey? The Brian Hey Prize is annual award given out at the IFoA’s GIRO Conference for the best actuarial research paper delivered each year. But who was Brian Hey, and why was this award established in his name? Dr Kenneth Bogle looks into the life of Brian.

George Brian Hey was born on 5 January 1915, and prior to the Second World War was educated at Manchester Grammar School (1924-1932) and Clare College, Cambridge (1932-1937).

Brian, as he was known, was a late-comer to the actuarial profession and had a variety of careers after graduation from Cambridge.

Notably he worked at the Nautical Almanac Office on scientific computing, which, given the primitive state of technology at the time, provided ample scope for his ‘remarkable ingenuity’ and during the Second World War his outstanding mathematical and calculating abilities were used on a range of important war-time projects, including the plotting of German radar beams used for guiding bombers to their targets.  

Following the end of the war, Brian had been rejected for a post as an actuarial student with an insurance company because he was considered too old for the lengthy and time-consuming process of studying and examination. Brian subsequently worked for the British Tabulating Machine Co. before moving to the District Bank, where he passed his banking exams effortlessly and developed a career within the bank's trustee department and working closely with many actuaries.

Undeterred in his ambition and following a conversation on a train with the actuary Arthur Duval he embarked on a major career change to become an actuary in his late forties. Starting in September 1964, he passed his actuarial exams in quick succession and qualified as a Fellow of the Institute in May 1966 at the advanced age of 51. Brian even won the prestigious Sir Joseph Burn prize for merit in passing exams in the process.

Shortly afterwards, Brian began work at the Cooperative Insurance Service. Working with his colleague Peter Johnson, he arranged for the collection and analysis of motor insurance statistics as an integral part of a wider data processing system which was then being established.

During his actuarial career, Brian wrote many highly regarded research papers, and regularly presented at sessional meetings of the Institute. In 1971, Brian and Peter Johnson co-authored ‘Statistical studies in motor insurance’, Journal of the Institute of Actuaries (JIA), 97: 199-249, which won the John Finlaison Memorial Fund Prize and is recognised as a pioneering work of general insurance. In 1974, he co-authored ‘Some thoughts on technical reserves and statutory returns in general insurance’, JIA, 101: 217-283, which won the Memorial (Messenger and Brown benefaction) prize paper.        

Brian also presented papers at several international conferences and colloquiums, but in truth his heart was in practice rather than theory.

When the General Insurance Study Group (GISG) was established in 1974, he decided to concentrate his energies on developments in the UK. He took part in GISG working parties and edited the GIRO Bulletin for five years until his retirement in 1979.     

In the mid-1980s, Brian joined the GISG Solvency Working Group. There, he worked closely with Chris Daykin to co-author several important papers in the development of dynamic solvency analysis, including one presented to a special solvency conference in Helsinki in 1988. Writing on the occasion of last year's fiftieth anniversary of the first GIRO conference, Chris remembered: ‘Brian did all the programming and model work, and I wrote the words! … Brian always demonstrated a very sharp mind with great capacity to watch out for detail. He was great fun to work with and a very stimulating research associate … Our pioneering work was foundational in the development of dynamic solvency analysis, which was further developed in Canada, and then formed the background to the concept of the internal model, which was adopted by the EU in Solvency II and is now bread and butter for both non-life and life insurance company actuaries and consultants.’

It was typical of Brian Hey’s restlessness and inquisitive nature that even after his retirement he stayed highly active and visible in the actuarial world -  as a tutor or examiner for the next generation of actuaries, an active and knowledgeable participant in the GISG, an engaging and esteemed speaker at meetings and conferences, a valued co-author of research papers. Despite only gaining Fellowship at 51 and retiring some thirteen years later, Brian Hey was a tireless proponent of his profession.

He was also a prolific letter writer: Peter Tompkins, a fellow actuary and former editor of The Actuary, recalled that as a correspondent Brian was, ‘one of the most complimentary and communicative. Not one to mince his words, his unpublished correspondence would have filled many more columns than the published letters.’  

Brian was married to Elizabeth and a loving father to four children: Ann, John, Jean and David. He passed away at the village of Adlington, Cheshire, on 26 November 1991, aged 76. In an obituary published in The Actuary in March 1992, Peter Johnson remembered that Brian was always full of energy and new ideas although sometimes his enthusiasm got the better of him and he had to be gently reined in. Brian liked to criticise the work of others, but this was always done constructively and without malice. Johnson wrote about his friend: ‘Brian Hey will not be remembered for his reticence. His lively interest in the world around him was linked to a compulsion to express, with a rigorous avoidance of understatement, his view on its shortcomings and what had to be done to put them right … He was a warm and generous friend and a stimulating, sometimes exasperating, but always highly valued colleague.

About the Brian Hey Prize

Following the death of Brian Hey, both his family and his previous employer donated funds to the then Institute of Actuaries in his name to further actuarial research in his memory, especially in the area of General Insurance where he focused. This generous contribution helped establish the Brian Hey Prize, the first of which was awarded in 1998

The prize is awarded by the IFoA for the best actuarial research paper covering General Insurance that is delivered in the 12 months preceding (and including) the annual GIRO Conference, where the Prize winner is selected by the IFoA's General Insurance Research & Thought Leadership

Submissions for this year's Brian Hey Prize are now open until 30 August 2024, and you can find full details on how to submit your research paper - including the range of support on offer from the IFoA - on our website.

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