I wasn’t surprised when the cancer patient apologized to me. After all, my friend Matt Newman wasn’t your typical cancer patient.
Matt has been the top external wholesaler in eight of his nine years at Transamerica. He’s smart, engaging, confident, and persistent. Four great qualities when you’re on the road every week explaining why our strategies and solutions can help financial professionals better serve their clients.
In May 2013, I heard Matt was going to need surgery to remove a brain tumor. The news hit me pretty hard. Matt and I first met in 1997 while working at ING. 10 years later, when I began to rebuild the annuity wholesaling team at Transamerica, I focused on recruiting some the best people in the industry, and Matt fit that mold and still does today.
When Matt called to tell me about his cancer diagnosis, he apologized about needing to take time off to recover. This wasn’t a woe-is-me message. He was genuinely concerned about growing Transamerica’s annuity business and serving the financial professionals in his territory.
In colorful language you’d expect from a New Jersey/Philly guy, Matt also said I had nothing to worry about; he was going to kick cancer’s butt and be back on the job in no time. He wasn’t kidding. Matt was working the phones five days after his craniotomy, and he was wearing a suit for in-person meetings with clients within two weeks.
A personal connection
As Transamerica spreads its Wealth + Health message, I’ve encouraged our sales teams to find a personal connection to the brand. Matt’s experience is a perfect example of how planning, preparation, and preventative measures can help us take on the unexpected. Working out regularly and eating right were always part of his lifestyle. Life insurance, investments, and annuities were among the financial tools he used to protect his family.
“What I never realized was all the strategies and solutions I talked about with clients — planning, preparation, taking better care of yourself — it was actually all about me,” Matt said recently. “I thought I was just trying to give people good guidance, and it turned out I was really telling my story well in advance of me being aware of it. It was a crazy realization.”
Good salespeople will tell you people are attracted to things that are real. Matt’s story is as real as it gets. Successful husband and father of three gets diagnosed with brain cancer at 39. His world turns upside-down, but his spirit, support system, and advanced planning put him in position to tackle cancer.
“Things change on a dime,” Matt said. “Whatever happened yesterday is irrelevant. We need to prepare for what’s going to happen tomorrow. Everything I preached, everything I talk about, I owned and I did, which lets my clients know I’m not a guy swinging products. I can look someone in the face and say, ‘I did these things, and this is the position that it put me in.’ ”
As word of Matt’s surgery and subsequent recovery spread throughout his personal and professional network, hundreds of emails and letters poured in. One of our sales managers suggested Matt print the emails and publish them as part of an inspiration book. Matt took it a step farther and wrote a firsthand account of his journey. It served as an outlet for his thoughts and emotions as he made the transition from cancer patient to cancer warrior. The book is titled “ Starting at the Finish Line,” and it’s available on Amazon.
Within a couple weeks after the book was published, Matt heard from a woman who was recently diagnosed with cancer. She thanked him for giving her strength and courage as she prepared for her fight.
“The book was worth writing for that one email,” Matt said.
Matt shares another story about working out during his recovery. His scar was visible when he removed his cap, and a fellow gym member asked how long it had been since the surgery. The answer: 10 days.
“He literally wrote me a note saying, ‘Every time I don’t want to go work out, I think of you sitting there busting your butt at the gym 10 days after brain surgery,’ ” Matt said. “That was my first exposure to inspiring people.”
More than five years removed from his cancer diagnosis, Matt continues to inspire us here at Transamerica, and we’re proud to have him as an ambassador for our mission to help people save, invest, protect, and retire. He’s a wonderful motivational speaker who provides a sobering reminder about the importance of having a plan in place.
To steal a message from Matt’s book … most people need the benefit of planning after it’s too late. They want life insurance after they get sick, and they want long-term care protection when they are unable to get it.
Matt wants to help people create a strategy before it’s too late. His cancer has given him greater visibility and a bigger stage to do that.
“I used to believe in irony,” he said. “I don’t anymore. I think things happen for a reason. And I think my calling has been higher. I get more satisfaction out of helping people put themselves in a better situation so that when bad things happen, they have less to put on their shoulders. They can be ready for the fight and give it everything they have.”
No regrets. No apologies.
If you want to hear Matt speak, reach out to your Transamerica RVP. Matt will be presenting at more than 23 locations nationwide. Join us at one of the events near you.
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Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, legal or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent advisors for answers to your specific questions.