“Do not. Expect it to be long,” Mark Weaver wrote me on May 23. “Hoping for soft landing. Go well.”
I always told him to keep his sentences short.
But not that short.
Unfortunately, in keeping with his actuarial training, he had judged the odds correctly again – signing out of this world just two weeks after that last email.
He was good with numbers.
And with people, too, I discovered over the last few years.
Mark, of course, was well-known across the NZ investment and insurance industries through his work with the company that still carries the W in its name – Melville Jessup Weaver (MJW) – and prior.
His many professional achievements, summarised here following his all-too-brief retirement from MJW last September, include an influential role in privatising, and then de-privatising, the Accident Compensation Commission – an irony Mark relished – as well as establishing the first comprehensive survey of NZ investment managers, now in its 18th year of production.
Ben Trollip, who succeeded Mark at MJW last year, says he left “an indelible mark on the company, not just in name but through his tireless work putting clients’ needs first”.
Trollip says Mark was a keen supporter of the actuarial profession – serving as president of the industry body from 2001-2003 – while keeping a broad interest in “the more non-traditional” aspects of his probablistic trade, such as the ACC work and the more recent ‘leaky building’ controversy.
“Mark started his actuarial training with a life company and maintained a keen interest in the life insurance industry throughout his career,” Trollip notes.
In fact, the life insurance industry absorbed Mark’s final professional efforts. His report detailing the detrimental effects of high commissions on the NZ life insurance market was ground-breaking in more ways than one.
The now infamous Financial Services Council (FSC) life insurance report sparked a number of members resignations as well as a stream of personal vitriol delivered Mark’s way.
He laughed it off.
“I’m just interpreting the numbers,” Mark told me at the time, confident that informed debate was a more useful way to approach difficult problems than baseless mud-slinging.
His dedication to truth-in-labeling, however, could also extend beyond big-picture financial issues to mundane real-world events.
I witnessed one such occasion in the Auckland Vero Centre cafe circa 2014 when Mark ordered an alleged sultana scone to accompany his flat white.
“It looks like a date scone,” he said.
“No, the sign says ‘sultana’,” she said.
We retreated to a table where Mark quickly confirmed the dateness of the scone and absence of sultanas. He saved some evidence to present to the cafe staff before we left.
“Look, it’s obviously a date scone,” he told the stunned cashier. “You need to change that label.”
Mark walked off, sure he had restored a little more order to the world. The cashier never thanked him.
I don’t know how many times I met up with Mark over the last few years – he would probably have a formula for figuring that out – but it was always fun, and educational. Mark would usually catch up with me when he came down my way to visit his daughter Saffron.
He told me once, over a coffee and maybe a scone, about the three-mode theory of communication.
“You know,” Mark said. “People tend to relate to others as if they were their parents, their children, or their equals. Once you figure out who is who then it’s easier to communicate.”
“For example, you and I,” he said, “can talk as equals.”
I’m not quite sure that was true.
Mark died on Friday June 9, survived by his wife Melissa, Saffron and son David.
I hope he had a soft landing.
Go well Mark.