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Searching for Elephants - Episode 10

Ben Burgess, Poonam Khan and Tom Baigrie discuss what it's like to be a top adviser at LifeSearch, how nervous they were on their first day and how long it took them to get up to that A+ standard.

They are open with Tom on how they view the business and protection industry as a whole and even delve into why the job they do works, and sometimes doesn't work, for them.

Tom Baigrie - Yo PK, how are you?

PK - I'm very well. How are you? Who's frozen here? Have I frozen?

Angus Baigrie - Okay, WiFi issues err Ben your internet connection is not good.

Ben Burgess - All right with that, let's fix that.

Angus - Can I just check Can you hear me whispering right there? Perfect. Okay, Wi Fi troubles fixed, I think. I hope. Fingers crossed. Welcome one and all to another episode of Searching for Elephants, the advisor edition. We've got two tippity top LifeSearch advisors for you today, PK, now a senior people and business manager who won the 2018 woman in finance award for the best protection advisor, very impressive PK, and we've got the big the bad the dad Ben Burgess, another highly successful advisor and family man who often acts as a spokesperson for LifeSearch and interviewing them this week is not me. But Daddio, Tom Baigrie. Alright, so listen up, folks, this conversation is truthful. These are three passionate people as you will hear and their language sometimes reflects that. So cover your kids ears and enjoy this punchy little podcast.

Tom - Hey, guys. Thanks for Thanks for letting us do this or doing this with us. Rather, I have a sort of desire that what we really exemplify over the next however many minutes is the LifeSearch values of openness and honesty. So warts and all, tell me the truth. Let's start from the beginning, shall we? Or rather before the beginning, Ben? What's What's your story? I thought you were an actor. But you told me that was nonsense.

Ben - Nah, I wish but that's not quite right. I Peter Panned my way through life in terms of an opportunity to move to South America from my first job came up Chile served as my never Neverland. So off we went. I am taking this Peter Pan analogy quite far. But I met my Wendy if you will, in a hospital. She was a wild eyed Gypsy. She looked like Stevie Nicks in the seven days. And so we got married. And we moved to America and then started a family. And here we are with one of them coming in the room right now. So hold on one second. Baby you gotta get out of here.

Tom - That's brilliant. 

Ben - Love you. There we go. Sorry about that. Yeah, there's there's a little one little rascals now it's working from home. It's like you get off the phone and you got little ones in the room. You forget you're not in office? Yeah, my kids. Noah told you the other day Lu was sitting there. And he talks like he's from Towie. So he's got this little Essex voice going on. "Daddy Mummy". He's like "Luna, You're in my fucking seat." And I was like, that's definitely there's no way I'm getting around that.

Tom - The perils of parenting. 

PK - Ben's been about hasn't he. I've moved from London to Yorkshire and Ben's been everywhere

Ben - Thank my parents. They were like you don't work hard enough. But we'll still give you money. 

Tom - Just quickly ask you to finish that off. So you came to England and what what got you into LifeSearch was it just a fluke?

Ben - I was like every dad's worst nightmare. Yeah, five girls, one boy married one off shipped her to America sweet don't have to pay for her anymore. One year later. Oh, actually, we're coming back and I got a husband and I got a baby now. Oh God if that happens to me I'll cry. I tried everywhere. Like I was struggling because I didn't have any UK work experience. And I sat in an interview room with Andrew Parker. And I think Mike Flynn and Adam Choudry or maybe just one of those two. And they're like he got a baby that he can't pay for he lives with his father in law. He'll come in here he will work his ass off to try to make it here. And that was true. So exploitative, but also opportunity. It worked. Well. It was a mutually beneficial.

Tom - I don't i don't think that's exploitative at all. I reckon just just proper talent spotting dude, proper talent spotting good stuff. And PK you were an advisor for how long? How did it go at the beginning? Did you struggle? Was there a tough tough period? Was your Did you have disasters to begin with? Or were you always just Rolls Royce?

PK - So I was an advisor for around seven years. And I've I remember me starting off slow. I've been told that I wasn't. But I remember me not being up to the standard that I wanted. Cause I wasn't used to that environment sat around people whilst your on the phone, having people having people listening to you, while you're talking to your clients or families. It was it was it was it was new for me. So it took me I would say probably took me about 12 months for me to fully get to grips with the systems learning all about the different insurers. In fact, that was one of the things that I loved about LifeSearch. In my background at Nationwide. We were tied to one insurer. So coming to a place where where you got a choice. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was like bloody hell. Your having a laugh here.  I've got a choice of all these insurers. I can speak to these. Speaking to these clients, if one doesn't suit, I can go to speak to somebody else. I was like yeah, this is the bee's knees and I thought this wasn't going to be the place for me, I wasn't sure whether LifeSearch was my place. But the more I did it, the more that I saw how I was speaking to one insurer the terms are so different to another, I was like, Man, this is it. This is Life...Search!

Tom - We got to use that in some kind of advertisement. Ben I hope your start was more traumatic than that. Although I don't think it was I think it was really you just went at everything like you do like an express train, as I recall. 

Ben - No, the first day, I was wild, nervous about coming on this job, like I was a school teacher before this, like, come on. I don't know what I'm doing here, the trading works like just be yourself. That's the best advice you can give anyone here, just be yourself. And that comes through like you're selling insurance, but you're also selling yourself. And if you're authentic, people will eat that up.

Tom - You just use the words that I banned from the whole organization as best I can. We don't ban anything, really. But you know, I always think the two words that always get me. One is leads. And so we've changed that to unprotected families. And I found a director the other day calling them UPFs. And I immediately sent a rude email back going, these are not UPFs, that as bad as leads, they actually sound worse than leads, they're called unprotected families because that way, we've got to treat them right. And that sits with our ethos. And then the fact that we don't sell insurance, I say this whenever people say what do you do? And I say, I don't sell insurance. My business protects families, which you may think is selling insurance, but we look at it differently. So I kind of go through that whole explanation. Some people think language like that is business bollocks. I don't. But What do you make of the way we talk? Does it just fall in naturally? Or do you think well, that's Tom's issue it's not mine I just tell it like it is.

Ben - No, I mean, if you think about its core, like you could buy insurance yourself on a computer, it doesn't take a person to really walk you through that. So if you are trying to help someone and really give them advice. Like people don't know what they're doing, and if you can overcome that hurdle, and take someone who would be in that sense an unprotected family, because they don't know what they're doing, they don't have something that fits well. turn that into a protected family, give a little bit of you in that exchange, you get a little bit of them. And you have like a real, you don't have a friendship on a 30 minute conversation. But if you can make an experience of buying insurance feel like you didn't just spend that time buying insurance, but you got to know someone in the thing. I love that. That's why I like this job. When your start no, you don't buy into that. Yeah, can't whatever I call it whatever I want. But when you're there for a long time, like it makes sense. It's good to use the words that you say as opposed to not so it's not people in a phone book, or people on a piece of paper. They're real people. And if you don't lose sight of that, then you're fine.

PK - Agreed.

Tom - And PK we go back a long way seven years, when you when you began to feel you got it as an advisor and you thought no, I'm cracking this role. What were your chief motivations? What what what did you feel was driving you forward each day?

PK - I don't know whether it's cause I'm conscientious but winning something or being the best at something but, but being dodgy about it doesn't cut it, there's no buzz in that, but actually doing something the right way. And being successful. That's, that's the buzz. And if you do things the right way, you're naturally success via byproduct of that. And so I go in knowing that with every single person that I speak to, I'm mean there's a story as to why I'm so passionate about wanting to protect people, just with my father. So my father passed away when, when I was 21. And I remember vividly, I was stood by the radio and I looked at him and I said, Papa what are you most worried about? What you're so concerned about. And and he passed away like three or four weeks later, but he said, I'm just worried about my your mom and leaving you, we were five brothers and sisters and so I'm just worried about your mom and leaving all you kids. So I was a second eldest. So the youngest was my little sister, Caina, so she was 17. And just him saying that I didn't, I didn't realize what an impact that conversation would have going forward in my life,  it's sad to hear your family speak like that. But when you're speaking to when you're speaking to people. And, and just, I suppose just trying to think of them that if they were in that situation, if they were in or something was gonna happen to me, it could be death, it could be an illness, anything, but knowing that they've got it could impact their family and if I can do anything, and I mean, this isn't this isn't just this isn't just chat. This isn't just me just saying it for the sake of saying it. If I can do anything, knowing that I've helped that person, give them that. That feeling that you know what they're going to be alright, if something does happen. It's sad that bad things happening to me, but actually, that's one less that's something that I don't need to worry about because that's taken care of.

Tom - Gosh that's that's very powerful PK, and you know what, it's so powerful. I Just want to change tack completely. Because, Ben, what PK says is, you know, I mean what what a thing and I'm not not going to ask you for your version, you may very well have lots of different things what I'm going to just move straight forward. straight onto is the, the other side of the coin. You know, we, we train you in a brush off training, because although we don't cold call, a lot of people don't want to speak to us, and we teach you how to just manage that situation so that you get some of them past that initial no, without being pushy, just just by trying to position the thing properly. What What is your feeling when you're getting brushed off? What is your feeling when a customer who probably needs exactly what PK's talking about? Just treats you like you were? You know.

Ben - I mean, it's like basketball. Like if somebody comes down the court and splashes a three in my face, I'm dribbling that ball right down that court. I'm gonna splash three in his and then we're gonna see what time it is like, I don't, I don't like that. I know what I'm doing like that to sound like, Oh, yeah, I'm the man here. But like, I'm the expert. If you can see the record and see the search historys, if they've run like 20 quotes, they don't know what they're doing. So trying to find common ground and really get to the core. Why are you looking at this? Like, I mean PK, you're doing it, like I don't know how to follow that at all PK I love you. I'll give you a hug for that one. That's so sad. I'm so sorry. But like, that's why people do it. Like that is literally the human embodiment of why we do what we do is something like that. So if you can establish people's motivation behind it, and try help them get there, then you've done your job. You've done the Lord's work you have so good.

Tom - Now PK, you've been managing people like Ben for a while, there's no one quite like Ben is there but but you've been managing advisors for what, three, four years?

PK - Three, four years now yeah.

Tom - Yeah. Am I remembered when I remember when we tried to recruit you into management? And we all thought you'd be brilliant. And you didn't want to know for a while Paula had to do a real persuasion job on you. Do you remember that way? Or was that just the line she was spinning me?

PK - No, I do you remember, I was so passionate about I love speaking to people. I come from a family of educators where everybody's involved in education. So when I speak to the families, and I'm talking to him about their, about their needs, etc. I used to, I mean, my conversation would be long, because I would love and explaining everything to him telling him about what terminal illnesses and how it actually works. Talking about the detail, the detailed benefits, I loved it, I could sit there all day. And the satisfaction you got from the families oh pure buzz that was pure buzz, when it came to wanting to lead, I thought why would I want to do something that I didn't think I was going to be great at. I thought I've got zero patience. And I haven't got any tolerance. But here I've got something that I love. I love speaking to people. But in the end, I thought I treat leadership more as mentoring. So I think to myself, if I can impart some of that knowledge on to these advisors that I that I now lead, then I've done then I've probably done more than just keeping all of that to myself. Does that make sense?

Tom - Yeah it does. I often think that the right way to lead in LifeSearch is actually to coach and mentor. And if that's the way you do it. That'll explain why your team is so, so so successful. I want to probe a little further though Ben. So is there a type of customer who you when you hear them on the phone, you go Okay, this this is this is the kind of person I work with well, and then again, is there another sort that comes on the phone and you think, no you're just oh dear, I've got a really sort of strap on my my extra tact boots here to be just perfectly gentle.

Ben - This one is a tap in to use a sports analogy that people actually play in this country. So yes, my favorite type of customer is a young family with young kids because I'm living that like, what are you doing not having insurance with two kids and a mortgage, it's so easy and it's so easy to establish common ground. What I love about this job is you don't ever have to like put on a face or play a part to talk to someone if you just be yourself like nobody wants to spend more money than they have on something that they need. So if you can make people feel like it's not daunting, it's not that kind of task and you can establish things to build off of IE your kids in that example of what's my favorite then you can just take it from there. So I love young families. I love older drunker rich businessmen because they think that they know everything about the entire world they know it all!

Tom - PK I'm gonna come to you in a split second but I just love this image of the of the drunk rich businessman. And I don't know whether I empathize a little with that, prehaps not, but the guy who does it all. Do you find that you actually you get through to them I think you do I think you're very successful with using humor to disarm people a lot.

Ben - I'm a young drunk guy doing out here from my family, you're an old drunk guy out here doing it for your family. Then there we go. Like everybody loves a drink. Finish. I also think more highly of myself than probably I should, there's a lot of common ground that you just have to dig for it. So it's fine.

PK -  I've been through all of this I still remember those conversations you'd get a an awkward you get a chap, I say a chap, but sometimes it would be a woman but you'd get somebody that was really assertive on the phone really confident, confident that they don't want to speak to you. And you'd be like, they are my favorites. You know what I'm gonna I'm gonna love disarming I'm gonna love you, when you hear my advice, you're gonna be loving me, let's go for this journey. Fundamentally, right? If we could speak to if the if the client that we speak to recognized that we want to help you We are experts, like Ben said, We are the experts. We do this day in day out, I always used to say to my advisors all the time that you'd go to a lawyer for legal advice, you go to a doctor, when you're ill, when you need protection advice, that's me, I don't care what you do, I don't care how rich you are. I don't care how successful or how knowledgeable you are in your field. That's your job. Brilliant, beautiful. But this is my field. I am the expert. I do this day in day out I research, I look at key features I speak to underwriters I speak to insurance companies. I am here to help you. Listen to me, because I am here for you. This is what I'm this is what I want to get across. The best thing used to be is when you when you speak to those people begin that didn't want to speak to you. And at the end of it, they're saying thank you. Thank you so much PK, thank you for thank you for being so persistent with me. And thank you for giving me the advice. That's fantastic. I had a lovely little liner. And it used to be, so I'm going to drop you an email it's gonna have my email address on there. PoonamKhan@LifeSearch. If you're calling in to speak to me, if you've got any questions, give me a call. But if you're calling in to speak to me, just ask for PK. So all my friends and colleagues do the same. Basically that same? Yeah. If you're not a colleague, you're going to be a friend. Default.

Tom - Very good. Yes. Fantastic. Ben, I think PK's just answered a question I wanted to ask, which is, you know, what is it that you wish customers would just get about us? If you go beyond the fact that we're expert, just relax, Leave this to me, it's all going to end up well for you. And do our various competitors who perhaps don't give advice. Or don't do it our way, do they clutter the field? Do they confused? Do they do you end up having to whats the word deconstruct various bits of stuff that other people have told them that are wrong?

Ben - Some people have a general idea. I think a lot of our families come from people that are buying their first house and mortgage advisors. It varies but are generally tied to one insurer or a handful of insurers. And generally try to milk it for all it's worth, which I love it because you're just like, oh, they gave you a quote for 150 pounds a month? Boy, well, let's talk about that for a little bit.

PK -  Can I just ask Ben, did you find that when he's when he spoke to the families, and they they may be presented another quote from somewhere else that often you see that? how somebody tried to maybe give them advice on critical illness? When actually it was it was terminal? Or when they've tried to reduce prices? By reducing the term for just little things like that? Did you often find that?

Ben - All the time. I think people on the whole, we wouldn't know, PK, you wouldn't know you guys wouldn't know? Like, how would you set up an insurance policy if you didn't do it for a job? That's not something that many people take in their free time. I'm gonna go to work, I'm gonna do my kids stuff. I'm going to do my stuff. And I'm going to research online how to do insurance. Nobody does that.

Tom - I guess I wanted to ask about about the role itself. Now the way we do the role is you get to do an awful lot of underwriting. And then you hand it over to a tele interviewer, who does the sort of medical questions, I mean, you can do them yourself at times. and some of the customers drop away at that point, and just don't ever make that second call. And what do we do this the right way? If you ran LifeSearch, would you would you change this sort of dual system we have where we take the customer away from you and give them to a specialist at asking questions, PK I can see you're itching to answer.

PK -  Yeah, I am. I've got opinions on this. So I do think one of the things that I liked about life search when I first joined was I liked the fact that we didn't do our own applications, because I think there's a conflict of interest. When you do do your own applications, you do your bit, give the advice, and then you pass it through ideally smoothly to a specialized department that know all the ins and outs of the policies, all the all the questions that they can really guide the client in the best way to get the application completed.

Tom - The advisor is all about seizing the opportunity, where a ti is all about doing something in an orderly and proper fashion. It's a different kind of different kind of psychology, which is one of the reasons why I think it's quite dangerous for advisors to do their own applications. But you do Ben. 

Ben - All the time, if possible. I love it. Like I see what you're saying in terms of a conflict of interest. But at the end of the day, all these calls are recorded. Everything is getting regulated. Think about if that was your family, that somebodies did this improperly, you had disease you died and you're not getting any money if you do that every time, like come on now.

Tom - No, no, no, no, I get that. So so you do you do your own a lot,

Ben - Every, I'm a control freak, I'm not giving that up, do you know, like, I put so much of myself into every one of these calls like I'm talking to you, I'm grateful to hear this from you PK that you were saying that your calls were wild long, your notes were wild long, I would have never thought that based on what I know, I didn't think you'd be doing that. And I'm the same like it takes me for ever to get through this. So for me to then take this baby that I create and this bond and hand it off to somebody else, I don't want to do that. As long as you can be ethical for how you're doing that, then I think you should be doing your own apps for everything, just because the continuity is there. Like, it's not fun to talk about that - when I was younger, I had some mental health issues, and I tried to hurt myself, you don't want to tell that to more than one person. Like, you know what I mean? It's, it's, you've got a close circle there. And if you can keep that I'm a big fan of that.

PK -  I was just gonna say don't you feel, I always felt that actually, when they when they're going for an application, you almost take the emotion out of it a little bit, and you are doing something a little bit more black and white because that's what the insurer is going to look at, aren't they they will look at the black and white responses to your, to your answers. But I do see your point of view, I do see that I think taking control of seeing the whole journey through is good because like you said, you give your you put your all into it. And I just like the fact that actually you're great at advising. So why not spend your time doing what you're brilliant at the TI is they do have a tough job. I mean, it's it's a tough job, isn't it knowing that everything, everything has to be clockwork, the apps got to be completed and then you've got somebody else waiting for you. So it's tough.

Tom - Do you know I think PK that the point is, we're offering choice. So if you have Ben's perspective, then you can indulge yourself and yes, you're not going to protect as many families because you're spending a lot of time underwriting each which the person who isn't next to any more down the street, or in the next town, the other LifeSearch advisor, they could be farming it all out to the TI's. And yes, they'll lose some because of the wait. But then they'll be doing more because they you know they're not doing the the underwriting calls themselves, which can be quite long. So horses for courses and I bet you with some customers you do it and other customers you don't I guess I just wanted to ask a kind of two connected questions which you can merge and blend into one the best in words worse bits of a job for you. And the What do you would change about LifeSearch if you could? Fancy having a go and answering that? who talked most most recently, Ben I think you get another shot at it.

Ben - There is nothing quite like it as an advisor, when you hear that tonal shift in a client's voice or in a family's voice, whatever they're like, Oh my God, this guy's actually trying to help me and it just opens it up. Like it's like a Disney movie, like the birds go off. And all this you don't have to be like, it's amazing. Like, that is it. So I love that. In terms of what I would change. I mean, we're doing the best with what we can, like, come on, this is a scary time that we're all living in. People need us more now than they ever needed us before. People are thinking about dying and getting sick now more than they ever did before. And if you can come through and be a real person on the other end of the phone as opposed to somebody thinking like, oh, we're gonna make some money out of this person and be done with them, then. That's amazing. So that's two positives and zero negatives. I mean, I'm not just saying that like I like do what I do, like I can sleep at night being like, I'm enjoying what I'm doing. Do I love all the time? Absolutely not. But so you know, like at its core, I'm happy with what I do. 

Tom - That's fantastic. That's That's fantastic. Well, PK, but I need a negative from you now I need something you tell me we got to change. 

PK -  I struggled with is thinking what would we change? And I thought was nitpicking. And there's something I wrote now and then I deleted because I thought that's what actually we do do this. But one thing just as LifeSearch I think sometimes we can jump from problem to problem without sometimes fixing the underlying the underlying thing. So we will we will look for another result when we actually I'm not sure we've got the most out of the initial thing.

Tom - Yeah, we sometimes go too fast instead of just fixing each individual thing as we go. Yeah, I wonder where we got that from, I wonder whose psychology cause of that it? Hurly burly, rapid approach, moving swiftly on moving swiftly on. And the best bit of the job for you PK now you are managing people.

PK -  Advisor wise, I think Ben's really pretty much said it but it's that it's that the buzz of knowing that you have done all that you can as a specific example would be when you have done your job, searched the market. This is what I think LifeSearch represents, we are the guys that you come to when you've got health issues. And you want to find the best insurer for you. That's why I think what we we specialize in what we should what we should be specializing in. So look, you're speaking to different insurers and knowing that you've done the best that you can to give this family the best possible terms and best price and best advice adding huge value to other people's lives. That to me is something that I really love being an advisor.

Tom - That's, that's gonna make it into the final cut that is. That's brilliant. Good stuff, guys. Well, I could actually talk to you both all day. Thank you. Absolutely absolutely brilliant. Well done. Have a good night. Night!

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LifeSearch Limited is an Appointed Representative of LifeSearch Partners Limited, who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Calls may be monitored/recorded.