• Rob Vitnell

AFRM Client Newsletter Q2 2020 - June 2020

Originally published 24 June 2020

I am so proud of the AFRM team right now. Please let me tell you why. For 21 days, from 11 to 31 May 2020, 16 members of the AFRM team participated in the annual Push-Up Challenge, raising funds for headspace.org.au The aim was to push ourselves physically, to learn more about mental health issues, to engage in some friendly rivalry and to help raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention in Australia.


The reason we are so passionate about this cause is that many of our team members have close personal experience in dealing with people suffering from mental health issues – both personally and professionally. The number of push-ups we had to do each day changed to reflect a vital mental health statistic. For example, the ultimate target for all 21 days was to complete 3,046 push-ups. This was the number of lives lost in Australia to suicide in 2018. Here’s a few other significant numbers to help put the issue in context:

  • Of the 3,046 Australians to commit suicide in 2018, 2,320 were men. That’s more than 75%. Women experience mental health issues at higher rates than men, but men are less likely to seek help.

  • 45% of Australians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life.

  • In 2018, suicide was the leading cause of death among people aged between 15-44 years

  • Around 75% of mental illnesses occur for the first time before a person turns 25.

  • At any one moment, approximately 20.1% of Australians are living with mental ill health. That’s 1/5.

  • 17.1% of Australians received a prescription for a mental health medication in 2018-2019.

  • The vast majority of these (~80%) were for anti-depressants, which were used by around 3 million Australians.

  • Around 1.8 million Australians over the age of 15 feel they have insufficient social support, and one in four of us are feeling lonely three or more times per week. The impact of loneliness and social isolation can stretch beyond the short term and lead to increased risks of developing mental and physical ill health.

  • In 2018-2019, headspace provided support to more than 130,000 young Australians.

  • A draft report released in October 2019 by the Productivity Commission estimated that the total cost of mental ill health in Australia was approximately $180 billion per year.

  • 2.2 million Australians have been affected by intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence contributes to more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged 18–44 years.

  • Research indicates that among Australian women who face a high degree of intimate partner violence, almost 90% will experience mental ill health during their lifetime.

  • 15.7% of Australian women have anxiety-related mental health issues. Anxiety-related conditions are the most common mental health difficulty in Australia, and females experience these conditions at one and a half times the rate of males.

Sobering statistics, aren’t they? That’s why I am so proud of my team. We set ourselves a target of raising $3,046 for headspace and we smashed that. Together we raised $4,595 and the positive spirit and camaraderie displayed by the team was electric. This was no better exemplified than by a note sent to all staff by Joy Nolland, our Client Service Administrator – Retention Specialist.


Joy said:

“I have been thinking about the Push-Up Challenge. I cannot do a push-up, but I can run to the letter box every hour and back. I would love to donate. It’s a great cause. Let me know if this is okay?”

You really could feel the good vibrations across the business that day. We are all passionate about helping people which is why we committed to the challenge. It’s also why I established AFRM Claims Advocacy with Nicholas Hatherly and Bruno Muraca.


AFRM had a "combined" team (AFRM Pen Push-er-uppers) and an "individual" team (AFRM Pen Push-ers). The combined AFRM Pen Push-ers worked together to achieve the 3,046 push-up total. While each member of the AFRM Pen Push-er-uppers pledged to do a total of 3,046 push-ups. Collectively, the nine-person "individual" team pumped out a massive 26,703 push-ups. Legends! Special thanks also go to those Referral Partners and other stakeholders who donated. We really do appreciate your support. Across the board, the 2020 Push-Up Challenge raised a total of $4.8m. All too often we, at AFRM, are supporting clients through insurance claims relating to mental health issues. In fact, it would be fair to say that mental health-related insurance claims are the most common type of claim we now handle. Even if the primary issue is originally physical (either sickness or injury), our experience is that mental health more often than not becomes a factor at some point through the claim process. The issue is real ‒ and it must be addressed. To close on a positive note, please allow me to share one final statistic. Did you know that getting just 15 minutes of bright sunlight each morning could reduce your levels of mental distress? That’s 15 minutes a day across seven days... or 105 minutes of sunshine per week! There are a lot of factors that could be at work here to make sunlight a mood booster, including effects on your circadian rhythm, Vitamin D, or just being outside - getting into nature for a few hours per week can also help out your mental health. So never be shy of getting a little sunshine. And always remember that it is always better to talk and reach out for support than to suffer in silence alone. Sincerely, Rob Vitnell. Acting Managing Director, AFRM


AFRM Managing Director, Nicholas Hatherly, announces appointment of Rob Vitnell as Acting Managing Director


In response to his ongoing absence from the business as result of suffering from encephalitis, AFRM Managing Director, Nicholas (Nick) Hatherly, has announced the appointment of Rob Vitnell as Acting Managing Director.


In last December’s newsletter, Nick shared a case study about how he fell ill during a European holiday in May 2019.


Since that time, Nick has been diagnosed with encephalitis and continues to be off work and on claim.


And while he has been more ‘hands off’ over the past 12 months and has not been involved in the intricacies of running the business, Nick has still been maintaining an oversight of the business and providing input as required.

Nick’s situation underscores the importance of any business having an appropriate Succession Plan and Keyperson insurance protection in place; each of which are among the services provided by AFRM.


It is an example of the need to plan for the unexpected; to consider how prepared are you if something should go wrong. In AFRM’s case, the succession plan has been in place for many years.

“Rob has been the Managing Director designate for the last four or five years. We have been grooming him towards moving into that role,” Nick said.
“I am pleased to announce that the Board is putting Rob Vitnell, who was AFRM Director and General Manager Victoria, into the chair to take on the role of Acting Managing Director of AFRM, with immediate effect.”
“Doing so will give me time to step back a bit further and give me time to get well. All my doctors keep telling me that will not happen while I keep my head in the business.” “I have decided it is time I had better take my own advice. There are three different doctors telling me to take a proper break.”

Just as has been occurring for the past 12 months, the AFRM team will appoint another highly skilled and experienced adviser from within the business to take over management of the risk advice for any of Nick’s existing personal clients. Prior to his appointment as Acting Managing Director, Rob has been managing and growing AFRM’s Victorian business as General Manager Victoria. Supporting Rob is the strength and experience of the whole Leadership Team. Rob has been with AFRM 12 years, Damien Jones, General Manager – Services, has been with us 11 years. Amanda Anstess, General Manager – Client Relations, has been with us

19 years and Wathana Farley, our Accountant, has been with us 15 years.

“We are totally of one mind that the best interests of our clients always come first,” Nick said. “They all thoroughly understand the business. They all have a passion for what we do. They love the company and how we help people. They are a strong team that have worked together well for many years.” “And that depth of experience also carries into our advisers. Phil Hatherly has been with AFRM for almost 13 years. Daniel Musumeci has been with us for 14 years and even our younger advisers, Justin Beeforth and Sam Brennan; who have been with us five and four years respectively; are both incredibly good advisers and passionate about what they do.” “We have a strong business and the entire team, including all our administrative staff, are passionate about helping people. I have always said helping people is at the core of what we do.”


Case Study


“...talking with John, it was clear that all the preparation work, putting together the required documentation, would not have happened without AFRM’s persistence, support and advice.”

In May 2019, a law firm managing the estate planning of couple, John and Anna [names changed to protect client privacy], referred the couple to AFRM to investigate a potential Income Protection claim dating all the way back to 2012.


The team at the law firm were not sure if it would be possible to lodge a claim relating to an incident that occurred eight years ago but were confident in AFRM’s ability to accurately determine whether a claim was possible or not.


Anna had suffered an aneurysm and stroke while at work in 2012. The brain haemorrhage also resulted in a partial loss of vision.


The incident left Anna hospitalised for months with speech and mobility rehabilitation taking years beyond that. Anna is now very frail and walks with the aid of a walking frame.


She will never work again.


John is financially astute, working in the financial sector, and had commenced the process of trying to lodge a claim through Anna’s group insurance included within her superannuation fund in 2012.


However, due to the sheer weight of paperwork involved he set the claim aside at the time to focus of providing support to Anna in her time of most need.


Fast forward to 2019 and AFRM adviser, Justin Beeforth, met John to determine a plan of action.


Justin’s initial review of the Superannuation fund policy suggested Anna had a valid claim.


Fortunately, the meeting with Justin had occurred the same day John had met with the couple’s financial adviser who had commenced paperwork to roll Anna’s superannuation over, out of the fund with the group insurance policy upon which Anna could make her claim.


The adviser was contacted and the roll over paperwork was immediately reversed.


With the first hurdle overcome, Justin and John set upon a months-long path of gathering all the appropriate documentation to support the claim.


The long list of formalities included some initial back and forth with the superannuation fund in order for it to recognise John as Anna’s legal guardian, a meeting with Anna so she could sign an authority for Justin to act on her behalf with the superannuation fund, insurers and medical practitioners.


Prior to even providing the claim forms, the superannuation fund insisted on receiving the date that Anna last worked, the date of her diagnosis and also the date she was certified unfit to work.


Then paperwork was required to opt-in to continue her insurance in her superannuation. Complicating the process, while dealing with the superannuation fund, it was discovered the fund’s group insurer had changed in the intervening years.


Reports were then required from her previous employer, her GP, and other treating medical practitioners to verify the details of Anna’s circumstances back in 2012.


The completed claim with all required supporting documentation was finally ready to be submitted in February 2020.


By mid-March, Justin received confirmation from the insurer that the claim had been accepted with payments backdated to 2012 and paid through to November 2015, when Anna turned 60, in line with the term of her policy. A total of almost $40,000.


Justin said that through talking with John, it was clear that all the preparation work, putting together the required documentation, would not have happened without AFRM’s persistence and support and advice.


When John thanked him for his help, Justin was quick to return the thanks, saying it was a team effort to get the complex claim across the line.


AFRM handled the entire claim on a pro bono basis.

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