June 25, 2012

IRI Research to Serve as ‘Backbone’ to One-Stop Licensing Clearinghouse

Research will help remove red tape preventing BDs from using lifetime income strategies

Furthering its efforts to see the creation of a one-stop national licensing system for brokers and insurance agents selling annuities, the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) announced Monday a new research initiative to identify regulatory burdens facing BDs that impede their ability—and their advisors’ willingness—to sell lifetime income products.

Lee Covington, IRI’s senior vice president and general counsel, announced IRI’s research initiative during the first day of IRI’s government, legal and regulatory conference in Washington. He told AdvisorOne in an interview after his remarks that IRI started its research project about three weeks ago by conducting in-depth interviews with 10 of IRI’s broker-dealer member firms. The BDs’ responses, he said, will inform a “quantitative” survey, which the trade group hopes to have completed by late summer.

The biggest regulatory hurdles BDs and their advisors face in setting up a multistate licensing process, Covington said, are complexity and cost. Indeed, Cathy Weatherford, president and CEO of IRI, added in her remarks that IRI’s research will serve as the “backbone” to “identifying and removing regulatory red tape and other obstacles that are preventing the broker-dealer community from making insured retirement strategies more readily available.”

The National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 1112), which was sponsored by Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, passed the House last April.

This April, Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb., introduced the Senate version of the bill (S. 2342), which calls for a one-stop, national licensing clearinghouse for financial professionals operating in multiple states.

IRI says the bill would enable financial professionals that have passed background checks in their home state to apply for NARAB membership, allowing them to sell lifetime income products in other states and bypass the burden of duplicative licensing requirements across multiple states.

Both pieces of legislation, Weatherford said, "promotes the efficient and cost-effective licensing of thousands of financial advisors across the country."

Covington told AdvisorOne that IRI is now working on getting co-sponsors to sign on to the Senate bill and is having “solid success.” Noting the unlikelihood of getting legislation passed during this presidential election year, “hopefully we can move it next year,” he said.

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