The loss of Richard Cousins, the CEO of the Compass Group and his family over the New Year holiday made me stop in my tracks. Although I have never met Richard, we are close in age, both have two sons from a previous marriage and have new partners in our lives. As a result, I found it all too easy, to feel a deep sense of sadness at such a tragic loss of lives.
The loss of a business leader, particularly in such unexpected circumstances can have a huge impact on a business. As Richard had planned to retire at the end of March 2018 a new CEO had already been appointed to take over from him and large companies are usually in a position to be able to absorb the loss of a business leader much better than an SME, this led me to reflect on a particular previous client of mine who I will call Andrew.
At the time I met Andrew he was the senior partner in a medium sized law firm and in his late Forties. Years before, the firm had almost gone under and Andrew had stepped in and saved the firm by sheer hard work and force of personality, as a result Andrew was the face of the firm. There were 4 other partners in the firm but Andrew was still the firm’s principal “Rain Maker”, responsible for generating 75% of the work coming into the Practice. The other partners had become concerned over this reliance on Andrew and the potential risk posed to the firm. As one of the partners said to me “if something happens to Andrew just now we would be well and truly stuffed”. Rather begrudgingly, Andrew agreed to allow the firm to arrange a Key Man Assurance Policy on his life and a 5-year Term Assurance Policy with a sum assured of £1 million life cover and £250K of Critical Illness cover was put into place. The cost to the firm was £182 per month.
Eighteen months later I got a phone call from one of the firm’s Partners; Andrew had had a massive brain haemorrhage whilst playing football with his 8-year-old son in the garden of his home in Kent and died almost before he fell to the ground. One of those small daily tragedies we read about but hope will never touch us or those we know.
I met with the partners a few days later to discuss what was required for a claim on the Key Man Policy and we then put everything on hold until after the funeral. Once the death certificates had been issued and a copy provided to the firm we were in a position to begin the claim process and in this case within three weeks of Andrew’s death, £1 million was deposited in the firm’s bank account.
I remained close to the partners of the firm over the next two years and met with them annually whilst they came to terms with Andrew’s loss and put in place plans to continue the business without him. It was a busy and chaotic time for the firm and I watched the business falter, start to decline as it was restructured before things began to stabilise and the business got back onto an even keel.
At our third annual review I was invited to join the Partners for dinner at the hotel where they held their annual two-day review and planning meetings. Over dinner that evening the partners shared with me their personal stories about the previous three years, how they had called the staff together on the morning after hearing of Andrew’s death, the inertia and shock they had all felt from the loss of their colleague. They had been surprised how difficult their bank had become in the early days about their lending facilities and most of all how grateful they were that we had put in place the Key Man Assurance.
David Griffiths MLIBF Dip FA
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