Jesus Christ, imagine actually winning the Lottery? We all have our fantasy Amazon baskets filled with plush 4K TVs and a solid gold swingball set, but only the good Lord knows what we'd actually do when faced with such a befuddling amount of money. Charity? Cokey cruise? Get some people you don't like taken out? Would it turn you into a madman, hellbent on genetically modifying stem cells into an eternal caviar production line? We can dream.
For those of us lucky enough to have a bizarre amount of cash bestowed on us by the sky deities, certain protocols need to be adhered to. You don't just get the whole lot plonked in your account. Camelot, the governing body for the National Lottery in the UK, has a team of what they call 'Winners Advisors.' These people help newfound mill-yun-airs not go completely spare and drop it all on a lifetime supply of Bentleys in a fit of adrenaline-fueled madness. They also make sure their recently sugared children don't get exploited.
We spoke to the Senior Winners Advisor at Camelot, Andy Carter, to find out what really happens when you win big.
VICE: Hi Andy. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Andy Carter: I'm Camelot's Senior Winners Advisor, so I lead a team of five people, and we're based around the UK. When someone wins more than £50,000 [$72,000] on the Lottery, we go out to their home to pay them their prizes and look after them.
How are you notified of the win, and do you all bundle into an A-Team-style van and head up to where they are?
When people win, they ring the number on the back of their ticket to make their claim. We then get passed their details, give them a call back, and tell them what will happen. We go and see them and sort the paperwork out, but there's more to it than that. It's about looking after people at a life-changing moment, a moment nobody ever forgets. We make sure they have access to legal advice, financial advice, we talk to them about media interest, we talk to them about what other people have done. It's about giving them a bit of support.
Is there any specific skill set you need to be a Winners Advisor?
You need good listening skills, you need good empathy, and I think you need to be quite happy and upbeat as well. You need to be able to judge people's moods because everyone reacts differently. You need to be able to jump up and down when people are jumping up and down, but equally you have to understand when people are feeling nervous and being quiet, and you have to reflect that.
What do you personally do in the team?
We're all Winners Advisors, I just happen to manage them. We're based around the UK. I'm in Cardiff, but winners are never spread out evenly—it's a lottery, so we could end up anywhere. We go and see them, pay them the money, and have follow-up meetings with lawyers. We see about a thousand people a year who win more than £50,000, so it's quite a lot.
What kind of protection and help do you offer to these newfound millionaires?
They need to have access to high quality legal advice, namely legal that's used to dealing with large amounts of money. So if you were to win, say, over a million pounds, we'd be saying to you: 'First of all, we recommend it doesn't go into a normal high street bank account.' We have contacts with all the major banks. Some of them have departments that just deal with lottery winners. We get one of those representatives to come out while we're with the winner, and they open up a separate account that's shielded from the branch network. So if you were to walk into a branch of your particular bank, they would never know that you have this money. It's about ensuring the funds go over there discreetly, and swiftly, and make sure the winners have access to advice.
Perhaps people have to consider things like inheritance tax, which they haven't had to think about before. People think, 'I want to put money aside for my children when I'm older but I want to make sure they spend it wisely,' you know? The classic one is always, 'I want to put money aside for my daughter but when she turns 20, how do I know there's not a lad hanging around who isn't… you know!' People worry about what happens if one of them dies so make sure they have things like wills in place, because their estate is big now, and needs managing. We have meetings with lawyers and financial advisors. Now, they don't have the winners' contact details at this point, so they're not able to contact the winners afterwards. If the winner wants to contact the experts, that's down to them. It's all about making sure the winner has a bit of time, and a bit of space.
Where does the relationship with the winner come to an end?
That's a real challenge for us. You need to know when to withdraw. Some people just want to be paid the money and move on very quickly and that's absolutely fine. Others, particularly the publicity ones, will stay in contact with you for much longer because you're entering their lives at a unique time. Only for a short period, but still. For us it's about ensuring we maintain the ratio the winner wants. There's no hard and fast rule on that one.
Whats the worst reaction you've have had to a win?
You get a multitude of reactions. You get people jumping up and down, you get people who are very quiet, you get people who are in denial and disbelief and perhaps don't even want to believe they've won because it's a shock. They want to carry on with the day they would normally have had, and we've got to respect that.
What's the largest amount of money you've had to help someone with? What did they do with it?
The biggest winners in the UK that I dealt with were Colin and Christine Weir from Largs in Scotland, and they won £161 million [$231 million]. To be honest with you, they reacted the same as any other major winners react. The disbelief, the shock. There's happiness—their brain will be going a thousand miles an hour to deal with the news. They set up a huge charitable trust (the Weir Charitable Trust) and have been very wise. They invested money back into their community, charitable causes, things like that. Running a charity is a full-time occupation too. They employ people and they've been able to do a lot of good with their money.
Do you think people have a responsibility to give part of their winnings to charity?
I think it's down to the individual. What you find is, a lot of winners gift money anyway, to family and friends. You have to remember if you've won a million pounds, there's a difference between that and winning £61 million [$87 million], regarding what you can do. You know, a million pounds means you can set yourself up, you might be able to set your children up a bit. And that's wonderful. Loads do make charitable donations and lots do set up charitable trusts. I'm not sure they have a responsibility. They have a responsibility to use the money wisely.
Does meeting millionaires all the time make you a bit jealous?
No! First of all I'm not allowed to play, so I know I can't win. That makes it easier. But it's great. You're meeting these people who won money through good fortune, so there's nothing not to like about that really, is there? And they let you into their life for a little bit of time. You get to know them. If you won a million pounds on the lottery, you'd think it's fantastic, wouldn't you?
What do you do when you're not traveling the country greeting winners?
Well to be honest, it's a full-time job. There's a lot of traveling, a lot of media stuff. A couple of weeks after we first see a winner, we have a follow-up meeting with a lawyer and financial advisor. There are [Lottery] draws on Friday and Saturday night, and scratchcards come into it too. Six millionaires every week are made across the UK so there's an awful lot of work to do.
Finally Andy, how on earth did you get into this line of work?
I just saw the job advertised! I think you've got to have a passion for it, you've got to love it, and you've got to make sure you see the winners as human beings. You need the human touch, you need to look after people. I think that's what matters. You need to take the time and identify what people want.
Lovely, hopefully I'll see you soon.
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