London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details

ROSS GOOBEY, GEORGE HENRY

Date of Creation:

1905 - 1999

Reference Code:

LMA/4481

Scope and Content:
  • Papers of George Henry Ross Goobey relating to his career in pensions fund management, investments and related advice to businesses and other organisations, attendance at conferences, benevolent and charity work, sports especially golf and his personal life.

    The collection is particularly rich in documenting Ross Goobey's involvement in pensions fund management and investments and related institutes and associations.

    LMA/4481/A: Records of Imperial Tobacco pension fund scheme and investments; speeches delivered by Ross Goobey in his capacity as pensions fund manager and director; papers and notes on investment subjects including copy of the paper "The place of Ordinary Stocks and Shares in the portfolio of large Funds"

    LMA/4481/B: Records from Ross Goobey's executive directorship at Hill Samuel, including copy of conference presentation 'The Investment Scene'; correspondence and advice based on investment philosophy; reports from Western regional office and correspondence between Hill Samuel and Church of Ireland

    LMA/4481/C: National Association of Pension Funds Limited (NAPF) conference programmes including draft copies of speeches and presentations delivered by Ross Goobey as both President and delegate; conference pack for 50th Jubilee conference in 1975; itinerary and reports from visit to South Africa; invitations and personal correspondence

    LMA/4481/D: Papers relating to Christ's Hospital School including valuation schedules looking at disposition of investments in equity market; Founder's Day dinner programmes for 1958-1986; drafts of speeches and toasts delivered by Ross Goobey; information booklet on the history of Christ's Hospital; minutes of Property and Investments Sub-Committee meetings and papers of the Amicable Society of Blues

    LMA/4481/E: Records of actuarial, investment and pensions bodies including conferences attended by Ross Goobey as speaker/delegate; organisations with which he corresponded as guest and advisor, and papers relating to his appearances in television and print media

    LMA/4481/F: Papers of other businesses and organisations with which Ross Goobey was involved, including Livery Companies (mainly Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers and Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders); trade associations and institutions; sports organisations; clubs and charities. Correspondence with organisations including copies of talks given by Ross Goobey and associated notes

    LMA/4481/G: Personal papers including general correspondence and household and family documents

    ACCESS NOTE: One file (LMA/4481/G/01/011) is available by permission only of The Pensions Archive Trust. Please contact staff for further details.
Extent: 7.45 linear metres
Classification: FAMILIES AND INDIVIDUALS
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:
    Collection

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Administrative History:
  • George Henry Ross Goobey (1911-1999), pension fund manager, was born at 42 Blair Street, Poplar, London, on 21 May 1911. He was the younger son and third child of Herbert Goobey, a shopkeeper and Primitive Methodist lay preacher, and his wife, Elizabeth Ross. An adept pupil at elementary school, he was encouraged by a local Church of England vicar to enter for a scholarship at Christ's Hospital. There he excelled in mathematics, and later in adulthood he became a governor, sponsor and advisor to the school.

    Unable to afford a university education, on leaving school in 1928 Goobey joined the British Equitable Assurance Company as an actuarial trainee. He played rugby for the Eastern Counties and gained cricketing repute as a hard-hitting batsman. On 4 September 1937 he married Gladys Edith (1911-2012), daughter of Charles Menzies, a local government official in Poplar; they had a son and a daughter. Having in 1939 moved to the South African company Southern Life Assurance, he and his family were about to embark for Cape Town, South Africa when the outbreak of war disrupted their plans.

    Instead Ross Goobey (he adopted this as his surname) worked for several British insurance companies, served in the Home Guard, and qualified in 1941 as a fellow of the Institute of Actuaries. In 1947 he was appointed the first in-house investment manager of the Bristol-based Imperial Tobacco Company's pension fund, then valued at £12 million. In common with most such funds, its assets were almost entirely invested in government bonds, known as gilt-edged stocks.

    Ross Goobey strongly maintained that the government's recent issue of a 2.5 per cent undated stock, at a time when inflation averaged 4 per cent, was nothing short of a swindle. Meanwhile the average portfolio of British equities was yielding 4.3 per cent, having moreover the expectation of future growth. He therefore proposed to his investment committee, chaired by Sir Percy James Grigg (a director also of the Prudential Assurance Society), to switch the pension fund out of gilt-edged into equities. He argued that, although the company's existing portfolio would have to be sold at a loss of £1 million, that loss would soon be recouped by higher equity returns. Ross Goobey's views were based on two articles by Harold Ernest Raynes, a director of Legal and General, in the Journal of the Institute of Actuaries in 1928 and 1937, which demonstrated from twenty-five years' research that company dividends tended to rise in real terms even in periods of deflation. The investment committee eventually accepted his advice. As most other pension-fund managers followed that step, he had inaugurated a new era in Britain's fund-management industry.

    Ross Goobey's overturning of conventional wisdom initially provoked resentment in the City of London, especially as he relied so little on City expertise. A well- publicised dispute with the chief actuary of Prudential in the early 1950s fuelled suspicions there of his intellectual arrogance. His light-hearted remark, about finding shares so cheap and plentiful that he felt like a child in a sweet-shop who had discovered everything at knock-down prices, did nothing to improve relations. Not until 1998, at the age of eighty-six, was he given the first-ever award of honour, as a past master, of the Company of Actuaries. He was also master of two other London livery companies.

    Rather than dealing in prestigious blue-chip companies (and paying commission) in the stock market, Ross Goobey sought out smaller and medium-sized companies, mostly based in the west country. He preferred to negotiate directly with their chairmen, once at least hammering out purchase terms until 3 a.m. in a night-club. Before merger mania set in, his fund held about 1000 separate equity holdings. Although some of these did poorly, the overall performance of his portfolio was second to none, with yields on cost for a time reaching double figures, in years of moderately low inflation.

    In 1972 Ross Goobey was elected president of the National Association of Pension Funds Limited (NAPF). By then he had discerned-ahead of his competitors-that company shares had reached their peak, and he moved into commercial properties, mainly in London. Yet when the stock market slumped in 1974 he began to buy gilt-edged, since war loan was then yielding 16 per cent. Even though the merchant bank M. Samuel (later Hill Samuel) tempted him with a higher salary, he remained loyal to Imperial Tobacco, which rewarded him with a seat on its main board and permission to become a non-executive director of M. Samuel.

    Ross Goobey's imposing figure prompted some City journalists to dub him the 'archdeacon of the equity cult'. His full moustache, carnation in the buttonhole, and fondness for cigars, socialising, cliffhanging bridge games, and telling risqué stories, plus a conviction that his judgement was always right, belied any churchy image.

    Since the late 1940s Ross Goobey lived in Clevedon, Somerset, most of that time at 'Greystoke'. He served for three years as chairman of Clevedon town council, and actively involved himself in local sports. After retiring in 1975 he was until his eightieth year chairman of the property company Warnford Investments. He also took up golf, regularly playing thirty-six holes a day, and was appointed president of the Somerset County Golf Union.

    He died of heart disease in Weston-super-Mare General Hospital on 19 March 1999, fit and active almost to the end. His son, Alastair, followed in his footsteps by becoming chief executive of the Hermes pension fund group, being honoured by the state (as the idiosyncratic George Henry Ross Goobey never was) with a CBE in 2000.

    Source: T. A. B. Corley, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Creator: Goobey | George Henry Ross | 1911-1999 | pension fund manager
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • Deposited by the Pensions Archive Trust in 2008, 2013 and 2014
  • B08/010
  • B13/115
  • B14/082
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 2018
Arrangement: In sections: A: Imperial Tobacco; B: Hill Samuel; C: National Association of Pension Funds; D: Christ's Hospital; E: Actuarial, Investment and Pension Bodies, and Promotion; F: Other businesses and organisations; G: Personal
Related Material: This collection forms part of the Pensions Archive. See also LMA/4529 for obituaries of Ross Goobey's son, Alastair Ross Goobey.

For main records of Christ's Hospital see collection reference code CLC/210.

For records of National Association of Pension Funds Limited see collection reference code LMA/4494.

Records of Imperial Tobacco Limited are held by Bristol Record Office (collection reference: 38169).

Appraisal: These records were appraised: papers relating to Ross Goobey's family, his health, personal household and finances including tax and banking were not retained