Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tilley, Frank Edward (1883–1954)

by Kay Sweeney

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

Frank Edward Tilley (1883-1954), stockbroker, was born on 22 October 1883 at Charters Towers, Queensland, second son of Tasmanian-born parents William Henry Tilley (d.1928), a carrier who became a stockbroker and company director, and his wife Mary Ann, née Jordan. Frank attended Charters Towers State School and, after the family moved to Sydney in 1900, Sydney Grammar School. He entered his father's stockbroking firm, William Tilley & Co., in 1902 and was taken into partnership in 1911, the same year as he joined the Sydney Stock Exchange. At St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney, on 16 March 1915 he married Evelyn May Perdriau, a niece of Henry Perdriau.

Frank Tilley succeeded his father as director of the Australia Hotel Co. Ltd (chairman from 1943), the Hotel Metropole Ltd and Joe Gardiner Ltd. A committee-member (1921-22 and 1939-52) of the Sydney Stock Exchange, he was elected chairman in 1941. Although F. O. Steel resigned from the committee in protest against the chairman continuing to hold directorships in listed companies, Tilley was to be re-elected annually until 1952. The Stock Exchange was a small institution in 1941, with a hundred members and a staff of twenty-four. Its chairman was a figure of authority who managed the organization and presided over sharetraders in the call room, sometimes an unruly gathering which needed firm control.

During World War II the Stock Exchange was reduced in several ways: many brokers and staff left to serve in the armed forces, the volume of business declined, and government regulations threatened the very existence of the stockmarket. In 1942 Tilley convinced R. A. Rowe, chairman of the Stock Exchange of Melbourne, that co-operation with J. B. Chifley, the Federal treasurer, was in their best interests, despite their political and philosophical differences with the Labor government. The three men met regularly to negotiate controls on the price of shares and developed a friendly working relationship based on mutual respect. A few stockbrokers, however, criticized the two chairmen for acting without consultation and for acquiescing in unnecessary regulation.

With the support of a largely conservative membership, Tilley discouraged proposals in 1947 (when price controls were lifted) and 1950 which would have changed the rules of an expanding Sydney Stock Exchange to allow advertising, the establishment of branch offices, and the introduction of continuous dealing (post trading) instead of the regular call system. Disapproving of the entry of institutions into equity investment, he forecast that they would take over the market. He favoured the continuation of small family firms, ideally where son learned from father.

Tilley was of middle height and fair complexion, with neat hair and horn-rimmed spectacles. In his public role he was inclined to be short-tempered, aloof and autocratic, but in private he was genial. His friends were fellow stockbrokers; social life consisted of bridge evenings and dinner-parties at one another's homes on the North Shore. A keen golfer, he belonged to the Killara (captain 1932-33) and Australian golf clubs.

After suffering a stroke, Tilley resigned as chairman in 1952. He died on 23 October 1954 at his Killara home and, although an Anglican, was cremated with Presbyterian forms. Tilley was survived by his wife, and their daughter and son William John who became a committee-member of the Sydney Stock Exchange and built the family firm into a large organization.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Salsbury and K. Sweeney, The Bull, the Bear and the Kangaroo (Syd, 1988)
  • S. Salsbury and K. Sweeney, Sydney Stockbrokers (Syd, 1992)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Feb 1941, 23 July 1952, 26 Oct 1954
  • Sydney Stock Exchange records
  • private information.

Citation details

Kay Sweeney, 'Tilley, Frank Edward (1883–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tilley-frank-edward-11864/text21241, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 2 September 2014.

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

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