Philip James Ryan

Philip James Ryan, AM, FIA, FCA, FCIS was born in Kew, Victoria, on 9 June 1915. He was baptised, married his wife of 66 years, Mavis, and was farewelled by his many friends on 14 January 2014 at the local Catholic Church, Sacred Heart. That Church played an integral part in his life both socially and in supporting his lifelong commitment to his faith.

His later school years were spent at Xavier College, Kew. Phil liked music, but was not a good singer. It was suggested he leave the choir, and spend time with the maths master. This led to his love of mathematics.

Initially he worked at the Tax Office, and later at Hutchinson Flour. He studied and completed the accountancy and secretarial courses during these years– becoming a Fellow in both disciplines.

A chance meeting with the maths master, and his love of mathematics, led Phil to commence actuarial studies. He studied part time for many years, as Actuarial examinations were then conducted by correspondence through the Institute of Actuaries in the UK. In one particular year Phil’s papers were sent off for marking but unfortunately the papers were on a ship that was sunk – it was war time after all – and so he had to repeat them the following year!PhilipRyan

Phil joined The National Mutual Life Association in 1949, and qualified FIA in 1952. Phil found a real niche at National Mutual (NM) where he was to become Investments Manager, Chief Financial Officer and finally its Assistant General Manager, responsible for all Finance and Investment activities.

Phil also served a term as President of the Insurance Institute of Australia. As was common for Life Office actuaries in that era, Phil was pension fund actuary for several private pension funds (the largest being State Electricity Commission of Victoria). Actuarial students in Investments could earn overtime assisting Phil in that work. They marvelled at his ability to correctly add in his head long columns of pounds, shilling and pence faster than they could with an adding machine. He retired from NM in June 1977.

Phil was an ‘old-style’ investor, seeking sound opportunities with steady income and good long-term growth prospects. (Thankfully, he did not have to deal with the short-term visions of today’s commentators). His motto was “the simpler the better“ for all transactions. He was also a great supporter of companies and business ventures where the principals had strong ethical standards. And when satisfied about the quality of his own managers, he backed their views strongly. He was particularly involved in NM’s thrust into Finance Companies, Merchant Banking and agricultural investments.

While work was very important to Phil, so too was sport. He played many different sports, invariably at a high standard. But it was football that he most enjoyed, playing 52 games for Hawthorn Football Club between 1941-1947. He was the Club’s Best Team Player in 1942.

We can say with some certainty that Phil is the only qualified Actuary to have ever played VFL/AFL football at the highest level.

And not only did he play football, but Phil went on to be one of Hawthorn’s great administrators. He held many roles there culminating in his Presidency from 1968 to 1979. Hawthorn would win three premierships in this period – 1971, 1976, 1978. They had won only one flag in their previous 40 odd years in the VFL.

He was made a Hawthorn Life Member in 1951 and inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2003. He was VFL Vice President for several years and lost out by one vote in 1977 to being elected VFL President.

Phil was a great supporter of charitable enterprises, generously giving his time and expertise to St Vincent’s Hospital, and several Aged Care facilities.

Phil was above all else a family man. He adored his two beautiful daughters, their partners and his five grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.

In his later years Phil was unwell but never complained about his health. He was a man who hated fuss and did not look for praise or reward.

In spite of this, he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 1991. The citation reads “For service to the community and to sport”. It was well deserved as he was a clever, intelligent man, a leader of men, a contributor who was well liked, respected and admired by all. He was a true gentleman, a man of great kindness and integrity, virtues borne from his upbringing but also from his membership of the Institute.

(Previous text supplied by Judi Byrne – Phil’s daughter, and Martin Hession and Ian Ferres who worked for Phil at NM.) Following is a separate contribution from Ron McDonald FFA, FIAA who worked with Phil at NM.


It’s hard to think of suitable actuarial material to include in an obituary for Actuaries Magazine. Phil Ryan’s could well be headed ‘A very rare Actuary’.

Phil was a highly qualified Accountant and Secretary. Why he decided to undertake the strenuous and then Correspondence course with the Institute in London is far from clear. I don’t think he ever was involved with actuarial work before joining NM. He never attended meetings or functions of the local Institute or its predecessors. Indeed he always claimed to be an Accountant (actuary) rather than an Actuary (accountant).

For a number of years Phil and I had adjoining offices at 447 Collins St. He was an ideal neighbour. Strange as it may seem in today’s world we had little work- related contact regarding his investment responsibilities and my concerns with Superannuation. It was taken for granted that we could rely on each other’s competence.

We both attended NM executive meetings and Board Room lunches. As always he was great company on such occasions, especially with his insights of the VFL. He insisted on drinking beer, regardless of anything else on offer. He started work very early each day and left early to attend to the pressing demands at Hawthorn Football Club where he was a former player.

In his role as President of Hawthorn he was on first name terms and completely ’at home’ with Governors, Premiers, Judges, Bankers and the captains of business and industry, plus the usual management and players of the then Victorian football world. To office colleagues he seemed completely unaware of such ’celebrity‘ status.

At about the time of his retirement there was an election for President of the VFL. Phil and Alan Aylett of North Melbourne were the candidates and received six votes each. Aylett got the nod by some obscure process. NM people felt strongly that this was a gross miscarriage of justice.

Ron McDonald

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