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“The world out there knows what insurance is, but they don’t really understand what it does,” says Mark Halpern, the founder and CEO of WEALTHinsurance.com. “They are used to it being a grudge purchase, like car insurance or house insurance. We have to change that mindset.”
Alongside his brother and business partner, Phil, Halpern launched the new website in December 2015, and the timing, he says, couldn’t have been better. “It’s been a perfect storm for us to launch. There’s a new tax regime in Ottawa that is defining ‘high net worth’ as someone making over $200,000; in Ontario, they are looking to take 53.5% of people’s investment returns. So there is a real sensitivity by people to reduce tax in any way.”
The issue of tax avoidance has dominated headlines for the past month since the release of the Panama Papers. Every business and individual wants to reduce their tax liability, and Halpern explains how there are perfectly legal ways to do so in Canada. “People go to a lot of trouble to send money offshore, but that could lead to problems down the road,” he says. “They don’t realize that there are ways to do things in a safe and legal way in Canada. We wanted to create an awareness that there are very few tax shelters left in Canada. Life insurance is one of the few legal tax shelters left.”
Halpern hopes to target high-end clients, a demographic he believes is being under-served in terms of insurance opportunities. “We wanted to create a wealth brand,” he says. “We focus on getting people equity returns, but for fixed-income risk. The people I deal with are not those who need insurance for the traditional purposes. They want to keep large sums tax-exempt, so they buy insurance. We have clients who are in their 60s who are getting a 12% to 13% return on their money. These products have cash values, so if the people really need it, they can access that money on a tax-free basis using leverage.”
Aside from the day-to-day running of his growing firm, Halpern also writes regular blogs about the industry on his own personal site, as well as a monthly column on tax and insurance estate planning for the TaxLetter® publication.
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