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The billion-dollar man - Duff ends 63-year insurance career

It's been estimated that claims paid out to Warren Duff's clients over his long career have totalled over a billion dollars.

Saturday, April 17th 2021, 6:07AM 1 Comment

by Matthew Martin

Warren Duff turned 80 this year.

On January 15, 1958, Warren Duff joined the National Insurance Company in Dunedin beginning what was to be a 63-year career in the insurance industry.

"After some five years, National promoted me to Rotorua as the company were opening a branch and were desperate for staff.  They were long days and not what I enjoyed and after a reassessment of what I was there for, I called on Owen Longhurst, manager at Colonial Mutual Life."

Longhurst said Duff was probably too young at age 25 to sell life insurance but he was prepared to give him go.

"Those first few months were desperate as I did not know what I was doing, then CML invited me to a course in Wellington where I met Raymond Benedict Creevey.

"Ray was a big writer and he discussed a number of pointers with me which I could understand.  One was to call on all the people with 'provided' homes such as teachers, farmworkers and railway employees and offer them cover to secure a home for a potential widow."

So, Duff decided to call on workers at Turangi where the dam was being built.

"I could not keep up with the business as cover on the persons' life deducted from wages was very popular...on one trip I completed 17 sales in two days."

After 17 years in management, he decided it was time to return to the road so Duff formed a brokerage business - Hawkes Bay Insurers.

"One day a young man called into the office to insure a boat.

"He accepted my quote then I asked him his occupation, he was the farm manager of a large station in the bay.  I pointed out his exposure and he agreed to cover on his life and paid the $40 premium deposit.

"An hour later he was dead. He had swerved to avoid hitting a person on a pedestrian crossing, hit a lamppost and was killed. I still had the proposal on my desk.

"Colonial paid the claim. The widow was able to purchase a home that she never knew was in her husband’s estate. The policy was in force for say one hour."

Duff's records show he has processed 179 death claims, but there could be more as clients occasionally moved to other parts of the country.

"I was told by a retired manager at Colonial that my claims would now exceed $1 billion through death, maturing endowment, superannuation payments as well as surrenders.

"I do not have details of all these claims but can say I am delighted to have played a part in many peoples' welfare."

In his later years, Duff spent more time working in fire and general insurance, where he originally received his grounding.

Over the years Duff has received 29 inhouse, national and international awards for production, quality of production and persistency.

For Duff, the latest change to regulations was enough for him to hang up his boots and call it a day.

"It looks like they are charged with rooting out problems where there are none, I just don’t want a bar of their agreements so retired on March 31, after 63 uninterrupted years in the business.

"The current situation we have in the country where there is no money for homes is caused by the interference over the years from people who do not understand the savings business."

But Duff says overall, he's had a wonderful life in the world of insurance.

"Going into a business with a ballpoint pen as plant, no stock to control and thousands of people to see.

"Sixty-three years in the one occupation is something I can write on my CV if ever called on, I doubt if it will be equalled, but this story might prompt comment."

Read more about Warren Duff's life in the industry in the next edition of ASSET magazine.

Tags: Life insurance retirement

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Comments from our readers

On 23 April 2021 at 1:45 pm ARK52 said:
In 1979 I went to my first ever LUA conference in Palmerston North and one of the workshops was on ‘Pre-Approach Letters’ run by Warren Duff. It has been amongst my top three influential industry sessions in all that I have attended in 47 years in life insurance advice. The learnings from that session became foundational to the way I did things as well as for lots of Advisers subsequently in my time in sales management roles & building a business. So thank you & best wishes Warren

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