Continuing Education for Insurance Agents

Insurance professionals must complete a minimum number of insurance continuing education hours every 1-2 years. Insurance agents must check with their state to see when they are due and how many hours are required. The requirement differs from state to state. The classes an agent must take also differ depending on the license(s) they hold. The most common licenses agents hold are health, life, and property and casualty. Each license allows a producer to sell a different line of insurance depending on their clients needs. Usually, for each license the producer must complete different continuing education requirements depending where they live and do business. Life and health is usually bundled, but property and casualty is selling to a completely different audience.

Insurance educational training is a great way for agents to keep current with industry trends and also learn about new and upcoming products. Many agents have been licensed for 10+ years now and of course rules and regulations have changed. An agent may be committing insurance fraud or a crime and not even know it! Continuing education requirements are meant to benefit the insurance agency, the insurance agent and of course the consumer. The agency knows the agent is being ethical when selling policies to clients. The agent is current with all laws and new products available to their client and the client knows they are getting the best product possible. It is a win/win situation for all parties involved.

Continuing education for insurance agents is very important because the state can revoke your license if you do not stay in compliance. Every agent should know exactly when their continuing education credits are due and how many hours they need to complete to avoid any fines. To find out how many credits you need and when they are due you should contact your state authority or an approved provider. An approved provider will be able to look up your information with the state and help you select online courses to take. Online continuing education is usually the fastest and easiest way to complete your insurance education, especially if you are nearing your compliance deadline. Just confirm with your state that online continuing education is an option. Some states require you complete your education in a classroom. The only real benefit of completing your education requirements in a classroom is there is no exam at the end of the class. The drawback is sitting in a classroom for up to 24 hours!

Over 90 Insurance Designations and Rising

The insurance agent designations are not noted by rank. This is because a specialist working the senior market might think his insurance designation more important than one selling life insurance. And of course the opposite is very likely. In additional, some designations require very extensive and intense learning to obtain.

Thanks to the continuing education requirements of state insurance department licensing. Continuing Education has become a major incentive for an agent to obtain an insurance designation. Agents must obtain additional Continuing Education credit points or study hours to renew their license. They can take online study courses, attend qualified insurance seminars, or work toward receiving one of the multi-phase insurance designations.

An important sideline of the required ongoing further insurance education applies to agent retention. The industry agent retention rate of agents 4 through 10 years, has improved significantly because of agents obtaining insurance designations. These insurance designations and better retention rate can be directly contributed to the continuing educational requirements to make agents more professional.

These are the certification explanations of related insurance designations. Each certification process for obtaining insurance designations differ, as far as requirements that must be achieved. Some insurance designations may not even be started, until prior experience, of either study or of even other certification is obtained first. Here we will try to provide additional meaning to the insurance designations, as far as to how many may have obtained that certification, course requirements, or notable changes to their income.

You can be an agent with one of the prominent insurance designations and sit on your butt and do nothing. Or it is possible that you obtained one of the insurance designations, and three months later, due to lack of selling skills or prospecting leads was forced to drop out of the profession. Therefore two analyzes tend to hold true. First, insurance designations by themselves do not provide a higher income or professional longevity. Secondly applying the certification skills obtained ambitiously helps agents with insurance designations obtain creditability and knowledge. This in turn, leads to a longer lasting and higher income level.

Insurance Designation of CLU, Chartered Life Underwriter. This is universally the recognized professional advisor certification given in the insurance industry. The study field consists of 8 college level examinations. The 5 required and 3 elective courses including estate planning and pensions, taxation and economics, life and health insurance, along with taxation and income replacement. The American College, is not a dormitory or full time style daily college, but since 1927 is devoted to providing educational certification. The American College currently provides CE studies in at least 8 areas beneficial to the insurance professional. Additional continuing education, experience, and ethics are required to maintain CLU certification. Qver 90,000 agents (included those retired), have achieved the CLU insurance designation. Although we can’t give an exact figure, our internal analysis shows the, income earnings of an insurance professional CLU to be 25% to 35% higher than an agent with out any form of insurance certification.

Insurance Designation of LUTC or LUTCF. 80% of agents earning this certification use the letters LUFC, while the remainder use LUTCF. This is probably the easiest, and first insurance designation most life insurance agents earn. Given in classroom setting, it includes role-playing self-study, and examinations. The required 300 designation credits covers a very broad spectrum of life and financial areas. Many of the over 60,000 LUTCFs obtain their insurance designation within their first 4 years of insurance experience. Although not a significant income increasing factor, LUTCFs have about 35% less career dropout than other agents in their same experience category.

Insurance Designation of FSS. This rather new degree is the Financial Services Specialist. It is often referred to as the financial services counterpart to the life service LUTCF certification. Courses are provided in a classroom format, and consist of 6 total courses with 3 of them being required and a choice of 3 elective courses. Here the emphasis is on financial and estate retirement planning, along with the products and investments used to service their clients. Like many of the insurance designations, retaining certification requires periodically completing ethic seminars.

Insurance Designation of FIC. A Fraternal Insurance Counselor usually represents a Fraternal Insurance Company. The Fraternal Insurance Company is dedicated to the welfare of its members, with the members often having a common work-related, social, or religious bond. The members are required to buy life insurance “certificates”, instead of policies. Meetings and social events reach out to members in need. Many FIC designated agents have already completed LUTCF qualifications and course cover estate planning, and sophisticated financial plans. Some consider the FIC designation as important as the CLU. Financially, our analysis of agent income, shows an agent with FIC certification to have significantly higher income that an agent with the same time experience and no designation. However this income earning tends to be less than a similar CLU.

Insurance Designation of RHU. The Registered Health Underwriter is not the CLU of Health Insurance. An RHU but is a highly trained and respected specialist in the health insurance market. The three required courses the must be successfully completed cover disability income replacement, individual and group health and medical coverage, and long term care insurance. With an exploding population of senior citizens, the long term care insurance market is in dire need of ethical and knowledgeable professionals. Rapidly increasing medical costs require that HSA, Health Savings Accounts, and Worksite Benefit Plans have qualified representatives to help individuals and groups. The RHU is required to complete at least 30 CE hours every couple years. There are over 6,000 RHUs, who have become the knowledge and income leaders in their area.

Insurance Designation of CSA. This certification, Certified Senior Advisor, was relatively unknown until recently. It is very unique, as the focus is not on product knowledge. Instead it builds communication skills, so that both the agent and client understand the financial, health, and social impacts of senior age. Intense training is in senior health, financial, and effects of Social Security. The CSA training has three options: classroom style, self study, or online. The total certification process includes high emphasis on ethics, and the normal time period to complete is 6 months. While we will get arguments here, the insurance agent has 3 key initial directions and courses to start with. The is LUTCF for life, FSS for financial, and CSA for seniors. Expect to seem a big boom in Certified Senior Advisors.

Insurance Designation of CLTC. Certified in Long Term Care is becoming well known. This is one of the fastest growing certifications that we have seen, and there is a reason. The training is not just beneficial to the senior health specialist, but just as important, if not more to the senior market financial specialist Therefore there are many CLUs and RHUs currently expanded their senior market knowledge but advancing toward CLTC certification. Not only do courses focus on selling long term care insurance, it covers governmental programs in effect, home care needs, and financial planning. It requires completing an eight part course and more. In additional, to uphold the high standards, a CLTC must go through a renewal every two years.

Frequent Insurance Designations include: CLU as a Chartered Life Underwriter, ChFC as a Chartered Financial Consultant, LUTCF as a LUTC Fellow Designation, RFP as a Registered Financial Planner, RHU as a Registered Health Underwriter, FIC as a Fraternal Insurance Counselor. Other common related insurance Designations are: CSA as a Certified Senior Advisor, CIC as a Chartered Investment Advisor, FSS as a Financial Services Specialist, and CPC as Certified Pension Consultant.

The insurance designation CLTC as Certified in Long Term Care is increasing in numbers exceptionally fast. This rising amount of designations also apply elsewhere. CEBS is a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist, REBC is a Registered Employee Benefits Consultant, CIC is a Chartered Investment Counselor, AEP is an Accredited Estate Planner, CSS is a Certified Senior Specialist, CPA is a Certified Public Accountant, and RIA is a Registered Investment Advisor. Although the later is not really an insurance designation.

Lesser known financial and insurance designations follow. CAA is a Certified Annuity Advisor, RFC is a Registered Financial Consultant, LIFA is a Licensed Insurance Financial Analyst, CEP is a Certified Estate Planner, AFC is a Accredited Financial Counselor, CFA is a Chartered Financial Analyst, MSFS is a Masters of Science in Financial Service, FLMI is a Fellow Life Management Institute designation, CPC is a Certified Pension Consultant, CAC is Certified Annuity Consultant, RFG is a Registered Financial Gerontologist, FFSI is a Fellow Financial Services Institute designation and CRP is a Certified Risk Professional.

Independent Insurance Brokers Forced by Insurers to Adapt Captive Agent Restrictions on CE

Captive agent restrictions are what causes most insurance agents to break away from the career agency system. It is outrageous for a Brokerage Insurance Company to try to enforce independent insurance brokers to comply with some ridiculous restraints on CE, continuing education. Check out constraints limiting independent achievement and see how they could backfire.

There is a two-faced insurance company saying it actively promotes continuing education, but is disregarding and discounting over 80 financial, health, and life designations as being virtually worthless. They are so twisted on this subject that the INDEPENDENT insurance brokers that sell their products, are restricted in using only use a list of 16 approved insurance designations in any association with this company. This means this independent broker must carry two different business cards, or have stationary designed differently. The one business card must only contain the earned agent’s designations recognized by this insurance company. His or her other business card can carry all the credentials they care to mention.

This particular insurance company should be properly renamed “Old Captive Handcuffs Insurance Company.” 25 years ago, only six of the approved designations were of common knowledge. Three of those reflect minor impact on independent agent professionalism. First of these three is the designation “LUTCF”, this is like getting a driver’s permit, before being thought of as a qualified driver. Thousands of new agents acquire this easy to obtain designation, and are out of the business before putting it on their business card. Insurance professionals with other earned designations prefer keeping LUTCF off their business correspondence. FLMI is still a designation few heavy insurance writers care to earn. It stands for Fellow Life Management Associate and is commonly received by insurance home office officials. The third is CPU, which you know is Certified Public Account. Years ago few CPAs sold insurance, and their numbers among the insurance ranks today is slim.

I agree that CLU, Certified Life Underwriter, ChFC, Chartered Financial Consultant, CFP, Certified Financial Planner, along with RHU, Registered Health Underwriter are highly prized designations to hold. This insurer lists CPCU, Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter that is obtained by an above average agent writing commercial business, auto, and homeowners. What the heck does this title have to do with this Life Insurance Company?

Other permitted designations are either relatively new or obscure. These remaining are MSFS meaning Master of Science in Financial Planning, CEBS signifying Certified Employee Benefit Specialist, CASL noting Chartered Advisor for Senior Living, CPC standing for Certified Pension Consultant, CRPC associated with Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, CFA referring to Certified Financial Analyst, CRPS for Charter Retirement Plans Specialist, and finally REBC recognized as Registered Employee Benefits Consultant.

The problem is thinking some continuing education is superior, and other is worthless. ALL continuing education is important. Besides non-degree courses, there are over 90 insurance designations and growing. The more agents learn, the more they will earn. Two designations that are very noteworthy and distinguished are missing. The two are RFP, standing for Registered Financial Planner, and CLTC, Certified in Long Term Care. These designations are very coveted among experienced independent insurance agents involved in total financial planning. I rate them far superior to over half the “accepted” designations of this insurance company.

Intelligent Independent Insurance Agents should rebel against any insurance company trying to impose captive agent restrictions. Too many great insurance companies would never implement boundaries handicapping CE. Especially when this takes away what the entire insurance industry needs. That is having clients feeling more trustworthy of agents. This is achieved by agents and independents who are highly educated with continuing insurance education.

The Role of an Independent Insurance Agent

As an independent insurance agent, your focus is serving your client – helping them find the insurance policy that fits their lifestyle, needs and budget best. In order to do so, you must listen and understand your client. You are not necessarily determining their needs and finding the policy that is best for them; your job is more than that. You need to listen and understand your client’s needs, educate them about insurance products and help them make educated decisions about the policy they need to protect their life. You want to educate and empower them to make the best decision about what insurance products they need. Think of it this way. If you market and sell only auto insurance, you are only selling to people who know they need auto insurance. But, if you create a market for your agency with all of your insurance lines, educated people on how they need insurance for each investment they own, they will then see that they need more than just the auto insurance they thought they needed. Educating your clients on insurance is the best way to expand your agency and show people the lines of insurance that they genuinely need, but had no idea about.

Some ways to educate your clients, expand your market, and brand your agency are:

1. Create A Website- A website that is well designed and full of information is the best way to educate people about your agency. In today’s world, every business is on the internet; it is how people shop for things. Once you have created a website that is attractive, contains pictures, has a quote form and full of insurance information, you must maintain it. Keep your website up to date with relevant information and announcements. Also, an insurance blog should be kept up to date each week, focusing on an insurance topic that your clients would enjoy to read. Your blog will allow people to find you your website easily and it helps you establish yourself as an authority.

2. Social Media – On social media posts, there isn’t a need to go into great detail on insurance topics; use your blog for that. However, leave small insurance guidelines on your personal and/or agency accounts. It is best to create a Facebook/twitter/etc. business profile and “like it” from your personal page. You can have interactions between the two profiles so your clients will be able to see a face behind the name of your agency, and your personal friends will be able to see your professionalism and insurance knowledge. Perhaps your friend might like something you post, his cousin sees the status and you gain a client. It has happened and it will continue to happen. Your agency is spreading by digital word of mouth.

3. Advertise to People – The BBB, neighborhood crime watch and general town meetings are a great approach to introduce yourself to the community. Typically you could sponsor the refreshments and do a quick 2-minute introduction of your agency (remember, you will not be selling, you should be educating).

4. Community Involvement – Sponsor a booth at the neighborhood carnival or buy an ad in the high school football program. Advertise your agency in the community so you are known. If you have a booth and are able to distribute materials, make sure to include a line that points to your blog/website for reference.

5. Drive traffic to your office – Sponsor a high school car wash in your office parking lot. If a client comes in for a 10 minute consultation, they get a free car wash. Be sure to donate money to the organization that worked the car wash and include your branding on anything that is given out.