Raymond Colin Palmer – 15th November 1924 – 4th June 2014

Ray, a former President of the Actuaries Institute, left us in his 89th year after a long and important actuarial career that started in the UK where he qualified as an FIA whilst working for Standard Life in London & Edinburgh following service in the RAF as a radar fitter in India, Malaysia and Singapore. He then moved to Australia in the early 1960s to work with James Parker who ran a unit trust bu siness in Melbourne before moving on to join Tig Melville’s consulting actuarial business in Sydney. Tim Trahair joined GL Melville and Partners shortly after Ray, and Tig Melville left to start a very successful business in the UK called Save & Prosper. Ray and Tim were joined by David Owen and the firm was renamed Palmer Trahair & Owen. Subsequently another long term consulting actuary, Bruce Whittle joined PT&O and the firm eventually became Palmer Trahair Owen Whittle with around 100 staff by the 1980s.

Ray Palmer (circa 1973)
Ray Palmer (circa 1973)

Ray was a highly respected and innovative actuary when innovation in actuarial work was not as welcome as it is today, and enjoyed a career consulting to life insurers, general insurers and superannuation funds in both Australia and Asia. He encouraged PTOW to move into new fields including non-actuarial fields like communications and to develop the first investment performance league tables in Australia jointly with the partners at ES Knight.

Approaching retirement he left PTOW to form Palmer Gould Evans in 1983 to round out his consulting career.

Always liking a challenge, Ray, when President of the Institute, did not prepare a paper for discussion at a sessional meeting but instead followed the UK tradition of presenting his views verbally and later circulating a paper – this caused consternation amongst the traditionalists. Nevertheless, Ray enjoyed a successful Presidency.

Celia and Ray Palmer
Celia and Ray Palmer

Ray liked challenges and went on to speak fluent German and Mandarin, which created some amusing instances when his colleagues tried to answer his phone. He delighted an audience in Taipei by delivering his paper to their conference entirely in Mandarin, no small feat for an Englishman. He challenged himself continually, and one other important aspect of Ray’s life was music and he became a proficient saxophone and clarinet player. He also liked giving others challenges, and delighted in going into Germany on an Australian passport and out on his UK passport (or vice versa), so maybe the Germans have many ‘lost’ Ray Palmers still in Germany!

All of us who worked with Ray found him an inspiration and someone who challenged us to think laterally.

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