Insurance Cares: Trekking for dementia

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Jonathan Swift spoke to Covéa’s commercial lines and high net worth director and Insurance United Against Dementia board member, Simon Cooter, about how the industry is working together to conquer the Mont Blanc Massif and how brokers can help.

If you needed any further proof about the competitive nature of brokers, then the upcoming ‘InsureTrek’ on behalf of Insurance United Against Dementia (IUAD) surely provides all the evidence you need.

In September a host of Covéa senior managers, brokers and other industry folk will be tackling the Mont Blanc Massif Trek to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society.

Organised by Covéa Insurance, in an effort to raise at least £75,000 and as part of the IUAD campaign, InsureTrek 2018 has seen the insurer’s commercial lines and high net worth director Simon Cooter recruit colleagues and friends across the industry to take part in the ‘Mont Blanc Massif Trek’ in late summer.

And with 21 people on board, Cooter notes that things are already getting serious for some of the brokers, at least two have recruited personal trainers to make sure they are fighting fit for the three day hike. Whilst Aston Lark CEO Peter Blanc has made an impressive start with his ‘Blanc on Blanc’ fundraising page. 

Hopes
The InsureTrek seeds were sown at the British Insurance Awards last year when the IUAD chairman and executive director, continental Europe, QBE Insurance, Chris Wallace stood up to speak about the initiative’s ambitions.

“I’ve known Chris for a number of years, and when he spoke about the IUAD it struck an immediate chord with me; for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my father and my wife’s father both died relatively young with dementia related illnesses,” Cooter explains.

“My father was someone who was incredibly bright. Too bright for his own good really. Indeed I can remember when I was a student playing him at Trivial Pursuit and he had would have got to the middle before I had even had a go.

“But then to see that intelligence and energy gradually decline was very sad. And it was the same with my father-in-law who was in his 60s.”

Mont Blanc Massif trek

Impact
He adds: “A lot of people think of it as a disease of really old people, but the reality is that it can impact people at different ages. And so when Chris starting talking about the IUAD, it struck me. As did the fact this was the insurance industry doing something together.

“We spend a lot of time competing – and it is a very competitive industry – but we are a sector where a lot of people know each other so we are probably better placed than many to combine our collective strengths for the greater good. For something beyond the industry.”

Cooter has now joined the IUAD board, and highlights that his involvement is very much in keeping with Covéa’s overall corporate ethos, underlined by the fact that each of its three offices in Halifax, Reading and West Malling all support a local special education needs school and hospice and raised just over £100 000 for these charities alone in the last year.

“As an organisation Covéa believes strongly in giving something back; and that if you get your people proposition right, and your staff and customers see that you are doing right by way of the community, then it is a positive thing.”

The IAUD aims to raise £10m to fund vital dementia research, and to help businesses to become more dementia-friendly, better supporting their people and customers.

“The enormity of what we are trying to achieve is appealing, and we can only really do that if we raise awareness across the piece. And at all levels. And the more we can do to aid that, all the better,” Cooter explains

Mont Blanc Massif trek

Brokers
“So once I was involved, I thought, what can I do? Now given as a business we work mainly with brokers. And that my day-to-day interactions are with brokers in commercial and high net worth I felt if we could set a challenge that was demanding and involve some serious effort, but not be so big that it is going to kill us, then I could rally some support from friends and colleagues within Covéa and the market.”

The Mont Blanc Massif Trek takes three days, with those involved walking seven hours at altitude and Cooter comments: “It is clear that all of us involved are going to have to do some training; and it is also clear that people are not going to see this as a jolly. Sleeping in dormitory style mountain accommodation, not the luxury hotels that some associate us with.”

When asked how easy this has made recruiting brokers and others, Cooter says that the party will be made up mostly of intermediaries, with representation also from a software house, reinsurers and Insurance Age’s very own Siân Barton. He is even toying with idea with inviting a few competitors to complete the team.

“In terms of the take up rate it has been better than one in two and if we are having an event, a one in two sign up rate would usually be really good. In most cases the people who said no were committed to doing something else. One guy said they would be on Pebble Beach [in California], so that’s fair enough. Or frankly others could not commit to the training,” he continues.

“So I spoke to people and asked if they were interested in principle, sent them the details and the training program and asked them to let me know. One or two, said you must be joking, including someone who said they would not run to catch a bus, let alone trek for three days. But generally speaking many were excited by the challenge, because it is a fantastic cause and they have had relations or close friends that were impacted by dementia.”

Mont Blanc Massif trek

Challenges
And it is not just the brokers who are taking their preparations seriously. Covéa’s personal lines director Carol Geldard is doing the Three Peaks challenge just after the British Insurance Brokers’ Association conference. Meanwhile, Cooter is planning to climb Snowdon with his oldest daughter, and also take on Helvellyn in the Lake District.

However, Cooter does admit to making “a bit of a school boy error” in booking to go to Tuscany for five days a fortnight before the trek, adding he will have to front load his training before having a week off to eat Italian food.

Ahead of that he will be taking part in an InsureTrek-related challenge at the Biba conference with Geldard, the details of which will be revealed shortly.

“So people are taking it seriously and I think they have to, because trekking for seven hours in one day. Most of us could do that,” Cooter concludes. “Doing it for three days on a trot will be quite tiring.

“The great thing is that this has helped raise awareness of the IAUD within our business and the wider broker community and that in itself should help our wider objectives.”

To help donate money to InsureTrek 2018 please go to: www.justgiving.com/insuretrek18.

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