Hady Wakefield, who died at the age of 82, was a leading figure in the Lloyd’s insurance market during the tough times of the 1980s. Coming from a notable family of bankers and government officials, he was also the steward of a magnificent Hampshire estate.
Wakefield was a senior executive at insurance brokerage firm CT Bowring, which from 1980 was owned by US giant Marsh & McLennan. A specialist in North American affairs, he was heavily involved in providing reinsurance coverage for historical asbestos risks taken on by Lloyd’s underwriters which became the catalyst for one of the most painful episodes. from the long history of the London market.
Many American industrial workers had been exposed to asbestos in the postwar decades, but the link between this material and lung disease was not known until late. When the possibility of major losses first arose in 1974, it was Wakefield – shuttling across the Atlantic and assisted only by a mechanical calculating machine – that succeeded in breaking the “stop” cover. loss ”from two US reinsurance companies to unions run by RW Sturge, setting a precedent for other unions seeking to“ shut down reinsurance ”.
Bowring’s role as a broker was not controversial. But the emerging problem was that by the end of the decade most of the asbestos reinsurance to be closed was underwritten within Lloyd’s itself (rather than obtained from outside companies) by a small group. of underwriters, of which Richard Outhwaite and Stephen Merrett were the best known.
When huge claims started pouring in, ruinous losses afflicted the Names that made up the unions to which the parcel of asbestos risk had been transferred – and who were exposed, under Lloyd’s rules, to unlimited liability.
Recriminations and lawsuits (including, in the High Court in 1990, Wakefield vs. Outhwaite) flew in all directions in the following years. But Wakefield – who was himself a name on an Outhwaite union – maintained an unblemished professional reputation and served as Bowring president from 1996 to 1999.
The Wakefields were originally the Quaker bankers of Kendal, whose company Wakefield Crewdson & Co was sold in 1893 to the Bank of Liverpool, eventually becoming part of Barclays. Gerald Hugo Cropper Wakefield, known from childhood as Hady, was born in India on September 15, 1938 – in the residence of Maharajah of Nabha at Stirling Castle in the Himalayan foothills of Simla.
He was the second son of Edward Birkbeck Wakefield, a rising star in the Indian civil service who served as chief minister in several Indian states; Hady’s mother, Lalage, was a famous horsewoman, also born in Simla but raised in Ireland; before her marriage she had been a belle of society in Delhi, where her father, Sir John Perronet Thompson, was chief commissioner.
Wakefield’s parents, who had survived the live burial in the Quetta earthquake in 1935 in which their eldest daughter was killed, returned from India in 1947. Edward became Tory MP for West Derbyshire, treasurer of HM Household, baronet in 1962, and finally High Commissioner in Malta.
Hady, meanwhile, had been sent home at the age of six to Gordonstoun Preparatory School, where he endured “the worst years of my life” but enjoyed a vacation in the Lake District area of his uncle, the MP and former English rugby captain WW Wakefield, later Lord Wakefield of Kendal.
He went to Eton, where he was Head of House, and at age 17 was commissioned in the 12th Royal Lancers. While on a low-key posting to Germany, he responded to a warrant from the warrant officer for ways to kill time with the suggestion of learning German – only to be reported to his commanding officer for a “shocking idea and unfair “.
After the army he became the fourth generation of the family at Trinity College Cambridge, which he adored, and began working at Lloyd’s in 1961, only to join in due course Bowring, where he hailed the takeover by Marsh & McLennan, who brought new dynamism to the previously family owned London business. He became a director of Bowring in 1983 and then served as president of another Marsh company, Guy Carpenter & Co in New York.
Gentle and gentle, Wakefield was admired in clubs for his deep knowledge of wine. In his youth he had been a daring runner and skier, and a true competitive tennis player; later he had racehorse legs, and his best years were the rare years when he was not losing money.
In 2002, speaking as a Tory donor, he made an unusual political intervention when he criticized then party leader Iain Duncan Smith for “not cutting it … just doing it. no impression ”.
After leaving town, Wakefield enthusiastically focused for the rest of his life on farming in Bramdean in Hampshire and supporting his wife’s gardening projects. Victoria, née Feilden, whom he married in 1971, descended from her mother’s side of the Baring banking dynasty and inherited the Bramdean Estate – whose house dates from the 1740s and whose landscape features double-mirrored herbaceous borders s ‘growing through walled vegetable gardens. and orchards to a distant Apple House as a focal point.
Hady Wakefield is survived by his wife and their son Edward. The title of Wakefield Baronet is held by Hady’s older brother Sir Humphry of Chillingham Castle in Northumberland.
Hady Wakefield, born September 15, 1938, died June 16, 2021