Help Clients See the Light and Support Them Through Serious Illness


In this feature, advisers are challenged by Susie Munro and Crissy Demanuele to listen carefully to clients who find themselves in financial difficulties and to consider other ways to help their clients beyond the claim payout…


Two Simple Words That Help People Say ‘Yes’ to Financial Advice

Sixpence Media’s Susie Munro challenges you to re-think your approach to your existing and prospective clients in this thought-provoking narrative…


Have you ever put off going to the dentist because you felt guilty about how infrequently you flossed? Or delayed joining the gym because you wanted to get ‘a little bit fit’ or ‘lose a few pounds’ first?

You know…avoided the thing that’s actually going to help you because you felt embarrassed about your past behaviour or aren’t proud of where you’re currently at? Yeah? Me too! And I reckon it’s the same for financial advice.

There’s a lot of Aussies who know they need to do something about their money situation. Things aren’t where they want them to be. They feel stressed. They know they don’t have things sorted.

But they often also feel embarrassed about where they’re at. There’s shame, guilt, regret. A sense of failure. That makes it very hard to ask for advice (and easy to put off). So, what can you do to help?

It’s okay. Tell people, ‘it’s okay‘. It’s okay that things aren’t perfect. It’s okay to be right where they’re at. It’s okay if they made decisions in the past that didn’t turn out as expected.

Tell them on your website, your social media accounts, and wherever you share your message with the world. Don’t wait until they’re sitting in front of you in your office. They need to hear it before then.

And you don’t have to use those exact two words — just get the message across.

How to say ‘it’s okay’

When you say things such as: “I’m amazed at how many people don’t insure their biggest asset / spend everything they earn / live in a house they can’t afford / buy insurance online / don’t have their wills sorted…”.

By expressing these thoughts, you risk making the people you’re trying to help feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed and stupid.

What if you said: “It’s okay. We’ve all made mistakes with money. That spontaneous six-week jaunt through Europe in the summer a few years back that left you with a debt hangover. That’s called being human. But now you’re a little older and wiser, you know your next adventure needs to come from your pocket, not plastic.”


“It’s okay if you’re not quite where you hoped you’d be by the time you hit the big Four – O.”


“It’s okay if you didn’t know what was going on with the money stuff before your divorce.”

And then…” So, let’s help you get things sorted…

How do you think that approach might make someone feel? Seen and understood? Like you ‘get’ them? Like you’re someone they can trust? Someone who can help solve their problems?

Saying, ‘it’s okay‘ can create a powerful moment that helps people make a choice to change – to actually make a decision to take a next step. To say ‘goodbye’ to the before and ‘hello’ to the after.

A sliding door moment. Real empowerment.

Be human

Saying ‘it’s okay‘ shows you’re human. It acknowledges we’re all human. We’re not perfect. It creates connection. It’s empathetic. It’s kind.
As Theodore Roosevelt said: “‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

So, forgive people. And more importantly, help them forgive themselves. Show them you understand they’re trying their best, even if that’s different to your best.

Susie Munro works with fee-for-advice and independent financial planning practices, or those who are on the path to being one.


Cancer Assistance Beyond the Claim Pay-out

Crissy Demanuele writes that support for those with cancer extends beyond the life insurance pay-out and considers issues such as recovery among the positive outcomes.


Movember is an annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November; it’s a light-hearted way to raise awareness of some serious men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide prevention.

With many Australians currently participating in and supporting the Movember initiative, it’s timely to consider how prevalent cancer is and how insurers are assisting clients who have been diagnosed.

According to the Cancer Council of Australia:

  • In 2020, it was estimated that there were just under 150,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed
  • One in two Australian men and women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85
  • Cancer is a leading cause of death in Australia
  • Compared to 30 years ago, around 17,500 more people are dying each year from cancer; this is due mainly to population growth and ageing. However, the death rate (number of deaths per 100,000 people) has fallen by more than 24%
  • 69% of people diagnosed with cancer in Australia are still alive five years after a cancer diagnosis

The most common cancers in Australia (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are prostate, breast, colorectal (bowel), melanoma and lung cancer. These five cancers account for around 60% of all cancers diagnosed in Australia.[1]

Insurance claims related to cancer

Breast and lung cancer have been the most prevalent diseases relating to claims by women across all BT Protection Plan insurance policies; while for men, lung and prostate cancer have been the most prevalent.[2]

In the period 2014 to 2017, BT paid more than $33 million in insurance claims to women who were diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than $11 million in insurance claims to men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Looking more broadly, in the same period, BT paid claims worth more than $85 million to women diagnosed with various types of cancer with around $33 million of these claims paid to women with Living Insurance (also known as Trauma insurance) policies.

Around $130 million in claim benefits were paid to men diagnosed with various types of cancer, and of those just under $34 million represented claims paid to men with Living Insurance policies.[3]

How can insurance help?

The gap payment between government-subsidised medical care and the cost of treatments such as chemotherapy can be costly. In these circumstances, having adequate cover can make an enormous difference to the financial position of clients and their families. A sound plan developed with an adviser can play a key role.

A Living Insurance policy can provide a lump sum payment in the event of a cancer diagnosis. When making a decision on which insurance option and level of cover are most suitable for a client, factors for consideration include whether to include funds for treatment, supplementary income, reducing debt or allowing a spouse to take time off work.

For example, Living Insurance can cover breast cancer diagnosed at any stage, with definitions evolving in the last few years to provide full claims to most women throughout their treatment and recovery.

If a client does not have Living Insurance, a lump sum benefit can be accessed through a built-in trauma benefit as part of comprehensive Income Protection policies.

Assistance above and beyond a claims payment

Due to the high prevalence of insurance claims related to clients being diagnosed with cancer, some insurers have introduced claims initiatives tailored for this client segment, including: better education for advisers and claims teams; more convenient claims processes; and, due to improved mortality rates as treatments become more effective, rehabilitation programs have also been a focus.

For example, BT has a Cancer Assistance Program (CAP), which provides early intervention to support clients in their recovery from a cancer diagnosis and also help them return to work.

As part of the program, health support intervention is introduced sooner to reduce the risk of developing secondary issues such as mental illness or increased long-term illness from unaddressed associated medical conditions, and other biological, psychological and social factors related to being diagnosed with cancer.

The program provides effective health support services, even when clients are undergoing extensive treatment. There is also a higher level of understanding from those who handle the claims about the different types of cancer and how each type can impact clients and how they can be better supported.

According to BT claims statistics from 2016/17, the average health support programs used to commence eight-and-a-half months after a claim notification, which was generally towards the end of the treatment phase of recovery. The majority of the health support services were return-to-work programs, cognitive programs and work conditioning. The average duration of a program was nine months.

Under this model, the average BT cancer claim took one-and-a-half years to reach the recovery goal. This led to BT realising that there was an opportunity to offer short-term effective intervention much earlier. The CAP focuses on providing an earlier chance to return-to-good work and to get clients’ lives back on track.

How does the Cancer Assistance Program work?

All new claims related to cancer are screened to identify which ones are appropriate for the CAP service, based on the life expectancy of the claimant and severity of their condition.

If a case is appropriate for the CAP, the claimant can choose to be referred to an external health consultant who will conduct an in-depth, personalised assessment and provide coaching and support during the treatment phase while identifying at an early stage any potential barriers which may hinder recovery.

After six months of implementing the program, the following results were observed:

100% of clients demonstrated an improvement in functional capacity through a tailored work-conditioning program

After receiving ‘adjustment to disability’ counselling, all clients showed improvement in their overall mental health

11 clients successfully returned to work: five achieved their ultimate goal of returning to their pre-disability hours and work, while a further six were gradually increasing their hours of work

15 clients were continuing to participate, however they were at the earlier stages of CAP support

The average client satisfaction post program was 90%

Having adequate cover can alleviate some of the challenges clients and their families face following a cancer diagnosis; and beyond that, obtaining assistance for rehabilitation and recovery can also make a significant difference.

[1] Cancer Council of Australia

[2] BT claims statistics, FY2013-2018

[3] BT claims statistics, based on all admitted claims with claims decision made in 2014 – 2017 calendar year, where the medical condition record is available.


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