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After 50 years, Brian Klee decides to hang up his shingle

Brian Klee started as a life insurance adviser 50 years ago but has decided it's time to retire. He talks to Dale Owens about how the industry has changed and his predictions for the future.

Thursday, March 10th 2022, 6:00AM 8 Comments

Brian Klee has retired after an illustrious 50 year career in the financial advice and special risk claims industry. The Klee Consulting Services veteran says he gave the business everything and he’s been speaking warmly about his time in the insurance sector.

“Quite honestly, I believe I've given it 100%. I've had some very wonderful experiences. I've had hundreds and hundreds of very happy clients, so I'm leaving with a great deal of pleasure.”

The 74 year old established Klee Consulting Services Ltd in 2016 where he focused on insurance claims mediation work. But Klee’s connection to the insurance industry started some time earlier, back in 1972.

“I just got married and somebody I knew very well was working for Amev Life, the company I eventually joined. He said, I need to come and talk to you about insurance for your new wife, Mary. And so we met at a pub in Lower Hutt, and he just asked me how happy I was working for NAC and what I wanted to do in the future? And so he sold me on going along and learning a little bit about selling insurance for a month or two. Then at the end of that period I said yes, this is what I want to do.”

Things didn’t click immediately for Klee though, when he joined Amev Life in 1972.  “I was a very slow starter, methodical and I didn't sell much in the first year or two. But once I got to grips with things, I was happy, and I knew what I wanted to do going forward.”

The insurance industry in the 1970s was a simpler place with fewer products and Brian started to enjoy the work.

“There was quite a bit of excitement and I joined up with two other guys and we formed a partnership, we knew where we wanted to go. We set up our own offices after working out of the insurance company office and employed our first staff member, and it was all very exciting stuff in the 70s.”

Within three years Brian Klee, Ken Taylor and Ray Gough were operating as Insurance Associates Limited, offering all forms of insurance, with a taxation service as well.

By 1981 Klee was fully qualified and was elected LUA Wellington Branch Chair and completed the NZ Diploma of Life Insurance. The 1980s also saw the explosion of technology into every industry, including insurance.

“So I bought my first computer in 1981 and so technology, I grasped very quickly and saw the opportunities. Instead of having to ring up the company and get details of policies that somebody had, we could go online and download that information.”

“The needs analysis process became the right thing to do when offering insurance, to determine the amount of insurance somebody should have. So we now had computers to do that. We used computers to do formal presentations, that originally had been just pen and pencil with people. So the whole industry changed by upgrading to a more formal way of presenting insurance.”

As the 80s gave way to the 1990s new products offered by a whole host of different companies came onto the market. It was a time when many were attracted to the industry of advising and selling insurance packages. Klee reflects that not everyone was as fastidious to his trade as he.

“The general feeling was that there were too many cowboys around at that time. And so that the general perception of the industry was not very high. But it improved as we started to use needs analysis processes and so forth, in presenting things properly.”

In 1990 Brian Klee launched Special Risk Insurance, after visiting similar practices in the USA. He also completed NZ Insurance Institute’s Life Underwriting studies and joined the local Claims and Underwriting Association. In 1992 he chaired the national convention in Wellington and was awarded LUANZ life membership.

As the turn of the century rolled around Klee says he and others became constrained by legal changes, which affected both insurers and financial advisers. He said the introduction of the 2008 Financial Advisers Act was a game changer.

“The act and its consequential amendments has certainly introduced many necessary standards for public confidence. However, the time lost helping people with insurance needs has been considerable because of today’s unending compliance standards.”

“I was a Chartered Life Underwriter. So I've done years and years of studying and so forth. I think those who were qualified and that had gone through their exams like I did to get to that level thought that it was absolutely necessary.”

“And so you go back  into the 70s and you get insurance company managers, who were trying to employ people who were simply damn good salesmen. And so those who did their exams and took the industry seriously, like myself, we wanted those changes to be made. Because we saw ourselves as professionals, and not just salesmen.”

Because of the compliance legal risks and operating costs in the current market, Klee foresees a predominant return to “sole agents” or employee-adviser status. He predicts independent financial advisers will become a scarcity, which he believes will be a tragedy.

“These were the industry innovators of the past 50 years, unfortunately it’s a boring outlook as I reflect on my exciting career.”

“I think the industry will go back to sole agents or employees of insurance companies, because those companies or groups of advisers will look after all the legal side and the compliance side and just say this is what you've got to do. And it'll be plain Jane stuff again. Like it was back in the days when mutual's operated the market in the 60s and 70s.”

Although he will be bidding farewell to insurance at the end of March, Klee says his appetite to continue to ‘add value’ persists. Two years ago he qualified as a financial mentor and will continue to volunteer two days a week for the SuperGrans Charitable Trust.

“We do financial mentoring and help people to understand and manage their money better. It is typically solo parents and in recent times during Covid, I've been working with several people who've lost jobs and they've got big mortgages and they didn't really know what to do. So I help them as much as I can.”

Brian Klee will be sorely missed within the insurance industry but at least will continue to pass on his knowledge and expertise to those who need financial advice.

Tags: annuities

« Life insurance covers up but claims down through pandemicRBNZ plans to life company on-site inspections »

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Comments from our readers

On 10 March 2022 at 11:59 am Aaron Klee said:
Thought this was an obituary at first and wondered if I had missed something...
Congratulations on a wonderful career Dad.
On 10 March 2022 at 4:19 pm brian l said:
well done Brian and thanks for your endless hours supporting the industry
On 11 March 2022 at 8:59 am Backstage said:
Great fellow and always prepared to help. Enjoy retirement!
On 11 March 2022 at 10:00 am dcwhyte said:
Looking forward to the next 50, Brian!
On 11 March 2022 at 3:41 pm Graeme Lindsay said:
Well done BK! You have been a stalwart for many years - one of the best. I hope that you enjoy your semi-retirement as much as I am!

On 11 March 2022 at 3:54 pm warren.duff said:
Heartiest Congratulations Brian on the wonderful service you have extended to the profession. Thanks for all the time you extend to me at our Study Group Meetings which seem so long ago. Must catch up again and share the wonderful friendship. Cheerz Warren Duff
On 11 March 2022 at 8:58 pm Roger Duncan said:
Brian, hearty congratulations on a brilliant career.

I have always regarded you as a Guru in the Life Insurance Industry, and am very grateful for all the Inspiration and help you have provided me over many years.

Enjoy a well earned retirement.
On 14 March 2022 at 11:08 am Bikedude said:
Thanks for your service Brian. Your advice has always been extremely valuable. Enjoy your retirement, you have earned it.

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