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The unintended friendship from volunteering
The unintended friendship from volunteering

Jul 01 2022

The unintended friendship from volunteering

Among the benefits realized from volunteering at MDRT events for Ian Green, Dip PFS, is the friendship with Clay Gillespie, CFP, CIM, that started after a volunteer stint.

By From the MDRT Blog

Topics covered

By Ian Green, Dip PFS

I joined MDRT about 25 years ago to increase my production and become a better insurance advisor, financial planner and businessperson. I didn’t join to make more friends or to discover a network of incredible people worldwide who take the time to help me whenever I asked. I didn’t even join because I wanted to have the wonderful feeling of helping others when asked. Yet, happily, I have found all three every single year since I’ve been a member.

The benefits of volunteering

One situation and person in particular sums up those unexpected benefits for me. It began when I participated in the MDRT Annual Meeting many years ago as a volunteer with Program General Arrangements (PGA). For one of my first PGA assignments, I worked alongside Clay Gillespie, CFP, CIM, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Our job was to help attendees find their way.

Gillespie, a 21-year MDRT member, and I hit it off pretty well. In between helping others, we had a few quiet moments to chat. Despite living almost 5,000 miles apart, we found many common interests, such as the ages of our children, the types of businesses we ran and a shared disappointment in the performance of our hometown sports team.

When our two-hour time slot was up, we waited for the next volunteer duo to take our places. We’ll never know why, but the next two teams failed to show, so we just kept working for four more hours. We appreciated each other’s sense of humor, so the time flew by as we helped other members. As our duty ended, we decided to grab a bite to eat together. We asked a passing MDRT member to take a picture of us. In those days before the smartphone, I carried a disposable camera, and I promised to send Gillespie a copy of the photo once the film was processed back in the U.K. We swapped contact details and arranged to meet at a session later in the week.

Upon returning home, I processed the photos, and that’s when I saw my new friend had the last laugh. In my treasured souvenir photo, he was flashing bunny ears behind my head.

As the years passed, our MDRT paths crossed many times in various volunteer roles. Gillespie was kind enough to submit my name to be a volunteer to organizers of Top of the Table events, which led to being offered a role on the committee. I am privileged to eventually lead that division of MDRT, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Friendship and the benefits to clients

I saw Gillespie again when I had a 14-hour layover in his hometown of Vancouver. Rather than me being there alone, he chose to spend the entire day with me. My layover also coincided with the first time in decades one of his sports teams, the Seattle Seahawks, made the finals. Yes, he sacrificed the one chance to watch his team win to look after me. Years later, I was able to repay that generosity by hosting Gillespie and his family in London, England.

On each of our visits, we also set time aside to talk shop and exchange our best business ideas. We shared what was working and what wasn’t for us. Despite different tax regimes, products and businesses, the common bond of wanting to do the best possible job for our clients meant we had much to share and much to learn from each other. Our clients, though thousands of miles apart, were better served because of our MDRT friendship.

Indeed, we both recommended each other to clients who moved across the ocean. How wonderful to be able to suggest a trustworthy, competent MDRT member to an emigrating client. Again, not why I joined MDRT at all, but when the need arose, how fantastic to be able to have that ability.

We both set out to serve MDRT by donating a little of our time at an Annual Meeting. From that small gesture, we expanded our network, grew our practices and became better businesspeople. But most unexpected and best of all, we have
a lifelong friendship too.

MDRT Immediate Past President Ian Green is a 24-year MDRT member from London, England, UK. Contact him at mdrtig@gmail.com.

Why insurance is a lifeboat everyone needs

By Derek A. Dingwall, AFP

When clients don’t understand the importance of insurance, I share this story with them.

Before the Titanic’s first voyage in 1912, it was marketed as unsinkable. No one seemed concerned, then, that the Titanic set sail without enough lifeboats for all aboard. After all, lifeboats won’t be needed.

Yet in the foggy early morning hours of the Titanic’s maiden voyage, it hit an iceberg. When the alarm sounded and more than 2,200 passengers and crew rushed to the decks to find lifeboats — the most important thing to save their lives — there weren’t enough for everyone and 1,500 people died.

In my 40 years of selling risk protection products, almost everyone I approached thought they were unsinkable. Then I told them the Titanic story and explained I sold lifeboats — and that every life insurance, disability and critical illness policy is a lifeboat. The discussion changed immediately.

I would ask them, “How big do you want your lifeboat to be? Is it only for you, or do you want to include your family?”

Then my life changed on Feb. 14, 2020. Our Titanic hit an iceberg called cancer. My wife of 53 years, Joyce, was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.

I had a large financial planning practice in Johannesburg, South Africa, built on the MDRT principles of honesty, trust and service. My wife, however, needed me more than my business did.

Fortunately, I had a large critical illness policy on my wife that paid out 100% tax free. This was to be the lifeboat that would allow me to hand over the entire practice, including five support staff, to another financial planning group that was willing and able to take over. I felt the same financial relief I had promised my clients for all these years.

The good news is my ship is still sailing. Joyce survived cancer and gets better each day. We are now enjoying our retirement together.

Everyone needs a lifeboat. 

Derek Dingwall, of Benoni, South Africa, is a 42-year MDRT member. Contact him at dings@mweb.co.za.