Dominic Thomas
June 2023  •  10 min read

The big C

If you have a television, it’s likely that at some point you will have watched an episode of ‘A Place in the Sun’ or the BBC’s ‘Escape to the Country’.  You know the format – a 30-minute programme that would take 10 minutes to watch if it wasn’t for the constant of reminder of what you have just watched. I never really understand why despite each property being unknown, one is specifically described as a mystery house. These are popular shows (to put it mildly). We Brits are obsessed with house ownership and most of us hold onto a fantasy that ‘somewhere else’ is probably a better place to live.

I learned recently that one of the presenters of ‘A Place in the Sun’, Jonnie Irwin, who turns 50 this autumn, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2020.  He has talked publicly about his illness and recently appeared on a podcast for insurance company AIG. Sadly, he does not have critical illness cover and is now on a mission to encourage people to get some. He believes it would help if advisers could ‘humanise’ the insurance, sharing stories about how it works and what their experience has been.

I think he has a point, and certainly in his professional life, he is adept at helping people imagine a better future for themselves. However, imagining a bleak future is obviously uncomfortable, something most of us try not to do preferring to leave this to dystopian books, films, TV shows and music. We simply prefer to ignore or deny uncomfortable truths, thinking “it will never happen to me”.

I’m 54.  I don’t know if it’s unusual, but I have already lost many friends my own age to cancer. I’m guessing you know at least one person that has too.  I have critical illness cover; I provide it for the team here as a standard benefit. It’s not cheap and frankly, I hope it’s a waste of money, because if it isn’t, then there has been a major, unwanted life event.

Over the last three decades, I have had to deal with various claims against cover that I arranged for clients. Not all of them died, some have recovered very well and whilst not forgetting the experience, it isn’t top of mind.

Given my background and when I started in financial services, selling products was what I was trained to do.  Rightly or wrongly, I have been somewhat reluctant to use sales ideas that make people feel uncomfortable within my own business. I often haven’t shared the details of fairly harrowing stories of things that might prompt you taking out more cover (or some). I hate being manipulated and I struggle with the tension of using a true story that is designed to encourage you to get more insurance (even if we do remove commission). For that, I apologise. I have a drawer full of stories and with permission, I will share a few, not with the intention of getting a sale (we don’t even arrange protection policies these days – we refer you to a specialist broker); but to ensure you give this proper consideration.

I hope that Jonnie and his family find the miracle they seek.

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