MDRT’s extended network of achievers

I joined MDRT about 25 years ago to increase my production as well as become a better insurance advisor, financial planner and businessperson. MDRT delivered on that for me, and then gave me much more than I ever asked for or anticipated.

I didn’t join MDRT because I wanted more friends or to discover a network of incredible people worldwide who take the time to help me whenever I ask. And I didn’t join because I wanted to have the wonderful feeling of being able to help others when asked. Yet, happily, I found all three every single year since I joined.

The benefits of volunteering

One situation and person in particular sums up those unexpected benefits for me, and it began because I got involved at an MDRT Annual Meeting. Many years ago, I signed up to volunteer at the Annual Meeting for what is known as PGA, Program General Arrangements. These multitasking volunteers help during Annual Meetings in a variety of roles. So, for my first PGA assignment, I arrived at the appointed place to find myself working alongside Clay Gillespie, CFP, CIM, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Our job was to help attendees find their way.

Clay, who is now a 21-year MDRT member, and I hit it off pretty well. In between helping others, we had a few quiet moments to chat. Despite living almost 5,000 miles apart, we found many common interests, such as the ages of our children, the types of businesses we ran and a shared disappointment in the performance of our hometown sports teams!

When our two-hour time slot was up, we waited for the next volunteer duo to take our places. And we waited. And we waited. We’ll never know why, but the next two teams failed to show, so we just kept working for the next four hours. We both appreciated each other’s sense of humor, so the hours flew by as we helped other members.

Many hours later, as our duty ended, we decided to grab a bite to eat together. We asked a passing MDRT member to take a picture of us. In those days, it was a disposable camera instead of a phone, so I promised to send Clay a copy of the photo once the film was processed back in the U.K. We swapped contact details and arranged to meet at a session later in the week.

After the meeting and back at home, I got the photos processed. That’s when I saw my new friend had the last laugh. In my treasured souvenir photo, he was displaying bunny ears behind my head.


(From left) Clay Gillespie and Ian Green

As the years passed, our MDRT paths crossed many times in various volunteer roles.

Clay was kind enough to mention my name and volunteer work to those volunteering in Top of the Table. This led to me being offered a role on a committee. Having been privileged to eventually lead that division of MDRT, I’m grateful for the first opportunity to serve.

Friendship and the benefits to clients

I saw Clay again when I had a 14-hour layover in his hometown of Vancouver. Rather than being there alone, he met me and spent the day with me. My layover also coincided with the first time in decades one of his sports teams, the Seattle Seahawks, made the finals. Yes, he sacrificed the one chance to watch his team win to look after me. Years later, I was able to repay that generosity by hosting Clay and his family in London, England, UK.

On each of our visits, we also set time aside to “talk shop” and exchange our best business ideas. We shared what was working and what wasn’t working for us. Despite different tax regimes, products and businesses, the common bond of wanting to do the best possible job for our clients meant we had much to share and much to learn from each other. Clients served by each of us, thousands of miles apart, were better served because of our MDRT friendship.

Indeed, each of us has recommended to the other clients who moved across the ocean. How wonderful to be able to suggest a trustworthy, competent MDRT member to an emigrating client. Again, not why I joined MDRT at all, but when the need arose, how fantastic to be able to fulfill it.

Not “squashing” a support system

Our friendship was also cemented by a mutual love of playing squash.

When MDRT was in Philadelphia for an Annual Meeting, we arranged a “friendly” game at a wonderfully ancient oak-panelled club. Word got out, and we found we had an audience of U.K. and Canadian members cheering their player on.

We need not declare the winner here, but because of a friendship with the Main Platform committee, the name of the winner and loser flashed up on the Twitter feed on the main screen in the auditorium the next day. There were cheers from the victor’s country and silence from the vanquished!

And more recently, I was able to request that Clay have one of my “seats up front” to see me take to the stage as Nominee to the MDRT Executive Committee. And I was front and center as Clay took to the stage as Top of the Table Global Council Member and Advisory Board Chair.

We both set out to serve MDRT by donating a little of our time at an Annual Meeting. From that small gesture, we have both expanded our network, grown our practice and become better businesspeople. But most unexpected and best of all, we have a lifelong friendship too.

MDRT Immediate Past President Ian Green is a 24-year MDRT member from London, England, U.K. He’s also a Top of the Table member.

To discover a valuable network of your own, visit to register for an MDRT Annual Meeting.

If you are interested in volunteering for Annual Meeting through Program General Arrangements (PGA), you may sign up during the meeting registration process. Better together, stronger than ever!

  • Leanne Bull says:

    Fabulous story and fabulous outcome not only for you both, your businesses and clients but for MDRT as well. It is always a delight to see your both.

  • Tomas Ohannessian says:

    I like stories like this one because I can relate to them.
    Producers that are able to be members and don’t sign up for MDRT ask me, “what do you get by being an MDRT member?” and my answer is “is not what I get, is what I become thanks to the people I meet, and that makes all the difference in my life”

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