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Sneddon, Andrew William (1880–1945)

by Clare Bellis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Andrew William Sneddon (1880-1945), insurance manager, was born on 2 January 1880 at Wallsend, New South Wales, second of ten children of Alexander Sneddon, a blacksmith from Scotland, and his native-born wife Christina, née Johnson. Educated at Sydney Boys' High School, Andrew joined the Australian Mutual Provident Society on 4 January 1897 as a clerk. In 1908 he was transferred to the A.M.P.'s London office. Three years later he qualified as a fellow of the Institute of Actuaries. At St John's Presbyterian Church, Forest Hill, London, on 20 September 1913 he married Amelia Mary Esdale Dunn. Returning to Sydney in 1914, he worked in the A.M.P.'s actuarial department. He completed (1916) the examinations of the Institute of Incorporated Accountants of New South Wales.

In December 1926 Sneddon was appointed manager of the industrial insurance department. He rose rapidly to become general manager of the A.M.P. Society in 1934. Made the actuary in 1938, he held the dual positions until his death. By the 1930s the A.M.P. had lost much of the vigour that had made it one of the largest life-insurance organizations in the world. Management was lacklustre. The society had grown staid, content to follow its competitors' innovations.

Taking control just as the Australian economy was starting to recover from the Depression, Sneddon promoted an active sales strategy. Under his leadership, selling was co-ordinated centrally, with new incentives for staff. He recognized the strategic importance of industrial life insurance: this took the form of small policies, with premiums collected weekly, door-to-door, and was designed for those who could not afford ordinary life insurance.

Sneddon liked to describe himself as a 'bush' actuary. He was unpretentious and pragmatic, with a shrewd understanding of business. Stoutly built, with a bald head and a bristling moustache, he had rowed and played lacrosse as a young man. He later served as president of the Sydney Rowing and Long Reef Golf clubs, and belonged to the Australian Golf and the Australian clubs. Sometime president of the Incorporated Australian Insurance Institute, the Life Officers' Association of Australia and the Actuarial Association of Australia and New Zealand, he also chaired (1941-45) the council of Women's College, University of Sydney.

From his experience in London, Sneddon knew that British life-insurance offices had wider powers of investment than their Australian equivalents. He persuaded the board of the need to change, but, due to the A.M.P.'s constitution, implementation required legislation. The Australian Mutual Provident Society's (Amendment) Act of 1941 empowered the society to purchase shares. This important step had no immediate effect because, during World War II, all new investments were channelled towards government war loans. The war also meant that life-insurance companies had to carry out additional work with far less staff. Sneddon not only held the A.M.P. together, but positioned it to become a dominant presence in the Australian sharemarket. The work, however, impaired his health. He died of a coronary occlusion on 10 November 1945 at his Mosman home and was cremated. His wife and their daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Notable Citizens of Sydney (Syd, 1940)
  • G. Blainey, A History of the AMP 1848-1998 (Syd, 1999)
  • Mutual Provident Messenger, July 1903, July 1904, July 1910, June 1911, Feb 1914, Mar 1916, Jan 1927, July 1931, Oct 1933, Sept, Dec 1934, May 1938
  • Australasian Insurance and Banking Record, 69, no 11, 1945, p 549
  • Institute of Actuaries Year Book (Britain), 1946-47, p 236.

Citation details

Clare Bellis, 'Sneddon, Andrew William (1880–1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sneddon-andrew-william-11730/text20971, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 21 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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