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In Memory of Dr. Jeremy Gold

By Evan Inglis

Dr. Jeremy Gold, FSA, CERA, MAAA, Ph.D.,  an influential pension actuary and former SOA Board member, passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 6, 2018.  

Gold had a profound impact on the pension actuarial profession.  He and a few actuarial colleagues engaged the profession about how traditional actuarial methods conflicted with financial economics principles in the early 2000’s.  Gold spoke and wrote extensively for actuaries, economists and the general public on pension risk, pension investments, and liability measurement.  His 2003 seminal paper, “Reinventing Pension Actuarial Science”, co-authored with Larry Bader, developed an understanding of modern corporate finance’s view of costs and risks of corporate pension plans.  He co-authored, with Richard Bookstaber, one of the earliest papers on what is now called “liability-driven investing” (LDI) for pensions in the 1980s “ In Search of the Liability Asset”, Financial Analysts Journal, 1988.  He was quoted often in the press, especially with regard to pension plans sponsored by state and local governments where proper liability measurement became a contentious issue. His quest to advance actuarial practice continued until he ran out of energy due to illness in mid-2017. 

Within the profession, Gold was sometimes a controversial figure to those reluctant to modify practice along the lines that Jeremy and others proposed.  However, even those who disagreed with Gold’s perspective respected his energy, his desire to advance actuarial practice and his thorough grasp of financial economics.  I along with hundreds of my actuarial colleagues became smarter about the work we do through our interactions with him.  Many pension actuaries experienced in-depth discussions or disagreements with Gold, who would call on his seemingly limitless reservoir of knowledge about finance, investments and markets to make his points.

Gold worked at both life insurance and pension consulting firms, eventually landing at Buck Consultants as an Account Executive and Consulting Actuary.  He left Buck in the mid-1980’s when he moved on to work at Morgan Stanley and broaden his professional perspective to include both assets and liabilities.  He worked at Morgan Stanley for four years before leaving to create his own practice.  He received a Ph.D in Pension Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2000.  The learning and thinking that Gold did at Wharton became the foundation for the perspective that he passed on to the profession for the rest of his life.

Gold served as a Society of Actuaries Board member (2006-2009) and Vice President (2011-2013).  He won the SOA’s Redington Prize for best investment research paper by an actuary twice – once for “Reinventing Pension Actuarial Science”, and again for “The Intersection of Pensions and Enterprise Risk Management” in 2008 . He testified for Congress, the FASB, the GASB and for the ERISA Advisory Council.  He cofounded and chaired the Financial Economics Task Force (later renamed the Pension Finance Task Force) and was Vice Chair of the American Academy of Actuaries Pension Practice Council. 

Gold became aware that he had a limited time to live due to MDS -- a rare form of cancer, in 2016 and accepted his fate somewhat matter-of-factly.   In 2017, when he informed friends and professional colleagues about his fate, he joked that “I’m either still in denial or I went straight to acceptance”.  He was referring to the five stages of grief and his lack of any grieving.  His sense of humor helped people discuss his situation with him without feeling awkward.  Late in 2017, his energy already depleted by his illness, Gold brought together more than a hundred family members, friends and professional colleagues for a “toast/roast” in New York.  His lifelong gang of friends “the LESBAR (Lower East Side Boys Annual Reunion)” joined family members, academics and actuaries.  People shared stories, poked good-natured fun at Gold and celebrated a full personal and professional life.

For the actuarial profession, Gold leaves a legacy of change based on challenging accepted norms and continual learning and teaching.  He will be missed but his accomplishments and influence will live on in the practice of the many actuaries who benefited from knowing him.