It’s time to talk about death

By Colin Low, Kingsfleet.
As a society, we still struggle with the concept of grief and death.
Published in UK Director Magazines Summer 2024

Sharing Experience: Colin Low, Kingsfleet

The American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, famously declared that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. That being true, you’d think we would all be perfectly comfortable talking about these things and have plans in place to cover every eventuality. Sadly, this is not the case.

At Kingsfleet, we have taken steps to address this weighty issue following the sudden death of our friend and colleague, Gary Gladwell.

Gary died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition, on April 3, 2022. As an independent financial adviser (IFA), he was a valued part of the team and the shock of his death affected everyone in the business, both emotionally and professionally. His wife, Lou, also works for us, and finding ways to help her – and indeed every member of staff – process the bereavement was of paramount importance.

Pulling together

From the beginning, there was an immediate, clear need to put our people first.

We made sure everyone was informed on the same day, even though it was incredibly difficult for each one of them to process. Then the following morning, we all got together for a meeting and, while we felt horrendous and every word seemed completely hopeless, we just decided to stick to three basic principles…

1: Lou came first in everything now – she would get whatever time and support she needed.

2: Her family came next – she and Gary have a son – and we’d do everything we could for them.

3: Then, the focus was on us as a team – we had to look after each other. If we needed any emotional support or if we needed someone to talk to, we were there for each other. We offered counselling, conversation, and even simply the option to go out for a walk if space was required.

When, and only when, those three things were in place, we moved on to client notification and reassurance. Every single client was incredibly supportive, and we couldn’t have asked for more.

Moving on

Our experience of navigating through this difficult period, coupled with the company’s core values – be compassionate, be virtuous, be knowledgeable, be dependable, be meritocratic – has really set the tone for how we now move forward and grow. Gary himself helped shape our workplace culture and it is fitting that he still has an impact today as we look to implement strategies for the future. For example: Medical MOTs for staff, a Death in Service benefit, and Key Person Insurance.

We are also expanding our staff capabilities and have welcomed a new IFA, Chris Alcock, to the team, along with trainee, Jack Warnock. Lou is also now training as an IFA and will specialise in bereavement and divorce advice, drawing on her first-hand experience of the loss of a partner.

Yes, working through our grief has been a challenge, but we came together as a team and helped each other through it with tenacity and grace. Our advice for those that follow: you’ve got to have a plan in place, in advance, and that starts with thinking the unthinkable. It’s time to talk about death.

It’s time to talk about death 1


Colin Low is Founder and Managing Director at Kingsfleet Financial Services

T: 01473 744724
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