That’s where individuals like Mark Halpern come in. For the proprietor of WEALTHinsurance.com, hockey has been a constant theme throughout his professional career. Having worked for the league in marketing and promotions in his 20s, he later moved into life insurance and a number of hockey players would become clients. Sports stars and successful business owners are similar in that they hold wealth and both need a sound means of protecting it.
“If you are a successful person, you have three possible beneficiaries to your estate – your family, your favourite charities, and the tax department,” he says. “You can only pick two of those, so I see advisors as gatekeepers for a lot of money being left to charities. It just requires planning.”
Now running his own shop alongside his brother Phil, Halpern’s choice of career was forged by two formative events from his younger years. One was losing his job suddenly at a promotions company at the age of 28, while the other occurred when he was just 11 and was a great deal more tragic.
“My father died at the age of 50 from a heart attack and there was no prior warning,” he says. “He was a two pack a day smoker and had stress from his work. It taught us how to be independent and resourceful, but if there had been insurance there it would have made our lives much easier.”
After first devoting himself to marketing and promotions, Halpern moved into the insurance world as a broker with North American Life in 1990. That firm later merged with Manulife, and after a spell in money management, he started to focus on critical illness insurance, founding illnessPROTECTION.com in 2003. In launching the business, he decided to market using a medium that isn’t exactly cutting edge, but still retains its effectiveness.
“We did something that nobody believed could work – we started advertising on the radio,” he says. “We brought in some celebrity endorsers that were clients, including Gord Stellick, who started telling people about critical illness insurance.”
Having allocated $36,000 for the campaign, soon he was receiving up to 70 calls daily. That meant critical illness of course, but would often mean clients walking out the door with higher-end life insurance policies instead.
At WEALTHinsurance.com, he specializes in the high-net-worth segment. It’s an area that’s underserved in his view, with those that enjoy great professional success often so busy that they neglect the truly important details – one of life’s more peculiar anomalies.
“If you look at the playoffs, the teams that win the Stanley Cup have the best defence,” he says. “In my experience with 25 years in this business, I meet business owners that are excellent on offence but nobody looks after the defence. The key to success is having your back covered.”
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Although professional hockey has become much more safety-conscious in recent years, it still holds true this is a sport with great inherent risk. Subsequently, players must be adequately insured, and not just in terms of being covered for a trip to the hospital after an errant high stick. NHL stars tend to accumulate plenty of wealth also, and like their health, it needs to be safeguarded.