First insurance legislation in South Africa

The first insurance legislation in South Africa was the Life Assurance Act, No 13 of 1891,
which was passed by the 8th Parliament of the Cape of Good Hope. The act aimed at “encouraging persons to insure” and at “protecting persons assured”, and called for an investigation into the financial conditions of a company by a qualified actuary every five years.

Companies operating locally did not employ resident actuaries and actuarial data was sent abroad, usually to the United Kingdom, where actuaries performed the valuations.

The actuarial profession in South Africa

William Marshall, AIA, arrived from Australia in December 1883 to found the Cape Town branch of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society. This event is considered to be the birth of the actuarial profession in South Africa.

The first fully qualified actuary in South Africa of whom record could be found was James McGowan, BA, FIA. McGowan qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries (London) in 1883 and became Government Actuary of the then Cape Colony in 1890.

Various actuaries came to South Africa, a British colony until 1910, under contract for a fixed period during the 1890s and early 1900s. This established strong links with the UK profession, but also meant that the local number of actuaries remained very small.

The consolidation of South African insurance legislation under the Insurance Act, No 37 of 1923, formalised the need for actuarial services in South Africa, providing useful publicity for the profession.

First South African actuaries

The event that really saw the actuarial profession become an integrated part of South African life, however, was the qualification of Marthinus Smuts (Tienie) Louw as a Fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries (Edinburgh) in 1921. He was the first South African to become an actuary and was followed in 1927 by Thomas Abbott Murray. Both Louw and Murray spent some time abroad. The first South African to qualify as an actuary solely by local study was Jan Dommisse (FFA, 1935).

The first half of the 1930 was a period of increased actuarial activity in South Africa, due to a general business revival and a new spirit of competitiveness among some of the major overseas life offices that were operating in the country.

The Actuaries’ Club

George McLaren, by all accounts an outstanding actuary and very popular, retired as actuary of the South African Mutual Life Assurance Society in 1936. His farewell dinner was attended by 15 actuaries from both Cape Town and Johannesburg. The congenial atmosphere led to discussions on the desirability of a formal organisation, and the Actuaries’ Club was formally established on 14 June 1937. It was agreed that the Club should operate in two sections, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town.

The Actuaries’ Club served a useful purpose in bringing the actuaries in the country together.

The Actuarial Society of South Africa

While the Actuaries’ Club did some useful work in connection with draft legislation and the protection of the status and interests of actuaries, it was more suited for social purposes. Consequently, the Club was disbanded and the Actuarial Society of South Africa was established. Its inaugural meeting was held in Johannesburg on 22 December 1948. At the time, there were 42 people with actuarial qualifications in the country.

This event was celebrated at the Actuarial Society’s Jubilee Convention in 1998, which was preceded by the first meeting on African soil of the International Actuarial Association (IAA).

The timeline (pdf) provides an overview of events since 1883.