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Ask and ask again

Terry C. Johnson

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Client asks to cancel policy, instead finds he's owed $500,000.

Graham was one of the best clients I’d ever had the pleasure of working with. He listened to my advice, was respectful to me and my staff, and always paid his premiums on time. Graham was a client for more than 10 years.

One day, he called me and said he’d like to cancel his critical illness insurance. He said his business had changed and wasn’t as reliant on him anymore, and the premiums were quite high. He didn’t feel he needed the coverage.

I thanked Graham for being such a loyal client and told him that, if his decision was final, I would have my staff prepare the cancellation letters to be sent to him for signing. I explained that I always ask my clients if they have a current health issue and if anything has changed since the commencement of the policy.

He responded with a great Australian saying: “I am as fit as a Mallee bull.” (Mallee bulls are regarded as some of the finest beef stock in Australia and are renowned for their health and vitality.)

I asked Graham a second time: “Are you sure?”

He thought for a few seconds and finally answered, “Well, I did have this spot on my arm removed. It was no big deal. I was in and out of hospital in a couple of days. I didn’t take a day off work and I am fully recovered.”

I asked Graham to clarify what type of spot it was. As it turned out, it was actually melanoma. I explained that he wouldn’t be canceling the policy and, in fact, I’d be sending him some claim forms. Within a week, he sent the forms back, perfectly filled out, and I forwarded them to the insurance company for assessment.

Two weeks later, two checks arrived in my post office box from the insurance company.

I immediately set up a meeting to visit Graham up the north coast. He lived around eight hours from where I live. We met at a local café. Graham introduced me to his family: his wife, 17-year-old son and a newly adopted 5-year-old daughter from Africa.

An experienced advisor should always take the lead role and probe further when asked by a client to cancel or reduce a policy.

We sat at the table, had a bit of a chat and then I slid a check across the table to him. With astonishment, he said, “What’s this for?”

“Graham, you suffered from melanoma, which was a trigger event within the critical illness policy.” The check was for $64,000.

Graham couldn’t believe it. He was so thankful. He said, “And to think, I was going to cancel the policy.” 

Then I told him, “Graham, I have something else for you as well.”

I slid a second check across the table.

This time, Graham turned white. He immediately, and without saying a word, passed the check to his wife, who was sitting next to him. The look on her face was pure astonishment and amazement.

“What is this for?”

I explained that the first check was the premium reimbursement of all the premiums he paid since he suffered the melanoma seven years prior. The second check was the actual sum insured at the time of his health event. It was for the sum of $500,000.

Graham’s adopted daughter felt the excitement and joy her parents were experiencing. With her cute little voice, she said, “Mummy, does this mean we can go to Harry Potter World now?”

“Yes, of course we can, my dear!” her mom said.

The family not only used the claim proceeds to ensure their financial future was secure, they also used some of the money to provide assistance to the village in Africa where their daughter was adopted from.

Insurance can help more than just one person; it can provide financial dignity to many.

This is the true value of a client-advisor relationship. 

If the client had called the insurance company directly to cancel the policy, the policy would have been canceled on the spot and no further questioning would have been asked.

An experienced advisor should always take the lead role and probe further when asked by a client to cancel or reduce a policy. This is the time to be a true advisor and act in the client’s best interests. This is what we are paid to do and why MDRT members go the extra step for their clients.

Terry Johnson is an eight-year MDRT member from Windsor, New South Wales, Australia. Contact him at


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