American General Enters The Halls Of Virtual Academia

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American General Corp. is partnering with Michigan State University with the expectation that the halls of academia will offer new distribution pathways.

As a “branded sponsor” of the new Academy of Multidisciplinary Practice and the Estate and Wealth Strategies Institute being launched at Michigan State, American General will be part of an online effort that will bring “virtual” continuing education to a cross-section of professionals, according to academy co-chancellors Robert Esperti and Renno Peterson.

The Academy’s programs can be accessed at www.mdpacademy.com.

Both Peterson and Esperti say there is a need for an educational program that brings together a body of knowledge that is useful to a wide range of financial services professionals.

The Institute will include a “think tank” as well as an academy with three different tracks: wealth planning, business succession planning and planned giving. Completion of each of those tracks results in a designation of multidisciplinary counsellor.

The program includes online classes as well as an estate planning tool kit and an encyclopedia of 3,000 questions on estate planning.

It will feature Webcasts that will make it possible to access the experts’ expertise, according to Donald Britton, president with American General Life Companies.

Thus, explains Peterson, the Institute would bring together professionals to explain how the new estate tax law will impact professionals. If, for example, an attorney is working with a life insurance agent on an irrevocable life insurance trust, then the Webcast would provide practical ways for the two professionals to incorporate changes in the law.

Britton cites benefits including access to Cutting-Edge Current, a compilation of relevant estate planning articles for the estate planning professional, and the ability to take any selected course that a professional wants online.

It offers American General the opportunity to recruit other professionals to augment the distribution force of independent agents that represent the Houston-based company, Britton says.

The branded sponsorship given to American General after a contribution of “a few million” dollars, he adds, also offers those independent agents American General works with the opportunity to further their education.

When asked if the branded sponsorship will be in the American General name or American International Group following the New York-based company’s acquisition of American General, Britton says that “as the deal has been presented now, the American General brand will stay.” However, he was careful to note that the acquisition is so new that integration work has not yet begun.

Esperti says the Institute does not replace the programs provided by other educational institutions such as American Bar Association programs or the American College, but rather offers a comprehensive program that is applicable to all estate planning disciplines.

The Institute would “love to be a catalyst to bring together experts [from these different educational programs] on a topical basis,” Esperti continues. “Our home is open on an ongoing basis.”

He says the Institute will offer “a graduate-level education” that goes “far beyond” the level of other programs such as the American College and ABA.

The Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based American College, according to spokesman Evan Welsh, offers a masters degree program in financial services as well as online courses through a Webcast program.

The Financial Planning Association and the College for Financial Planning in Denver offer continuing education courses over the Internet. Included in those “Web-enhanced educational programs” are the Certified Financial Planner professional education program.

The American Bar Association in Chicago offers online continuing education and Webcasts.

The Million Dollar Round Table Center for Productivity is working with Life Instructors Inc., a unit of Fiserv Inc., Brookfield, Wis., to put insurance classes on the Web.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, June 11, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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