Risk Management, Estate Planning & Business Succession Specialist, Mark Everingham, watched his family struggle financially after his father suffered a heart attack. In this case study, Mark talks about his father’s TPD claim experience, and how this has impacted his own business.
At a glance
Submitted by: Mark Everingham
Business Name: Personal Risk Professionals
Years in advice: In finance since 1995, advising since 2001
Claimant: Bill, Mark’s father
Claim type: TPD inside superannuation
The oldest of four children, Mark grew up in a fairly ‘traditional’ family, where dad worked and mum stayed home to raise the kids. At age 20, Mark had just started his financial services journey, working for a credit union, and was yet to give much thought to a career as a financial adviser. But this all changed when his father suffered a heart attack.
“Dad had a heart attack in December 1996, and had triple bypass surgery in February 1997,” Mark recalled. “A whole range of complications occurred after that, including further bypass surgery, hernias, etc. He ended up permanently incapacitated as a result.”
How would she provide for the family? That image is burnt into my mind
Mark watched as his mother sat next to his father on the hospital bed after the first bypass operation: “Dad was covered from head to toe with what looked like alfoil, with tubes everywhere. He looked like he was dead. But it was the look on mum’s face that has really stuck with me. It was the shock of facing the complete unknown. She had no idea what would happen if dad didn’t survive. How would she provide for the family? That image is burnt into my mind.”
After returning home from the hospital, Mark’s father, Bill, was faced with not only the task of his own recovery, but managing the financial impact of all that had happened.
“Being told by the doctors that I couldn’t work came as a bit of a shock, because that’s what I’d always done,” said Bill. “I was very lost. Still to this day it takes a lot to get used to the fact I’m not going to work every day. I was very concerned about what was going to happen to Julie and the kids.
“You’re trying to deal with the illness, and the subsequent issues that can come from that, as well as the financial side of things. To have someone to deal with the financials, and not have to worry about it, would have been a tremendous help.”
Before the heart attack, Mark’s father had no knowledge of how he could protect himself and his family.
“It wasn’t that my dad was negligent in any way towards his family – he simply didn’t even know this kind of solution existed. Things are different now, because there are more advertisements for insurance, encouraging people to get their affairs in order. But 20 years ago, that didn’t exist.
“That lack of education meant he was completely unprepared.”
Bill was lucky enough to hold an account with an industry superannuation fund, through which he was entitled to a minimal amount of life and TPD cover. The benefit was just $15,000. But he had no-one to help him through the process of collecting that benefit.
“He was completely unadvised about what was in his super fund,” said Mark. “He was left on his own to try and get the proceeds out of the super fund and get the claim paid.
“He’s got a file as thick as two phone books of all the records he had to keep over the two and a half years it took to be deemed permanently incapacitated in order to receive the claim. That’s not a slight against the insurer or the super fund, that was just the nature of his condition.
“The amount of stress that put on him, to try and get what little amount of money was available to him, I think made his situation worse. That look on my mum’s face when she was in the hospital transferred over to dad when he was faced with trying to manage his own affairs, because he had no knowledge of how to go about it.”
The experience led Mark to seek out a career in financial advice, specialising in estate and succession planning.
“I knew I didn’t want anyone else to have to be put in the same situation as my dad. Not only did he not know he could have set himself up to manage financially if the worst should happen, but when it did, he had to go into ‘battle’ alone. It’s not that he was in a battle against the insurer or the super fund, but it was a battle against the great unknown.”
While Mark may not share his own story with every client he works with, it definitely impacts upon the way his business is run.
His advice model is built on two principles: education and support. His team helps to educate clients about how to effectively structure their financial situation to protect against risk, and then provides a support platform if the worst should happen. This process involves not only setting up insurances to fund the family’s needs, but also looking at the entire estate, and partnering with other professionals like accountants and lawyers to ensure the money gets to where it is needed.
When they know we’re there for the long term, that opens up two-way communication
“We talk about building an ‘insurance program’ with our clients. There’s so much more to be considered than just the insurance policy. We look at the whole estate planning picture, and provide ongoing management of that program to ensure it remains appropriate for the clients’ needs.
“Even at the end of that meeting, if they decide not to do anything further with us, at least they’re walking out the door informed.”
He urged all advisers to really think about why they were in the business of advice, and to use that to drive better client outcomes.
“We position our service as a partnership. We’re not just implementing a product solution and leaving the client to then deal directly with an insurer; they’re forming a relationship with us. If something does occur, we’ll be there to help clean up the mess. When they know we’re there for the long term, that opens up two-way communication.”
Bill added: “I didn’t realise for a long time that I’d had so much influence on Mark’s chosen career path, but when I did I was blown away. To hear the way people talk about him and what he does, or to see a letter from someone he’s helped, it just shows how much of an impact he has on other people’s lives. My wife and I are both very proud of Mark.”