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More Education, More Designations

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Expansion of professional training and credentialing opportunities keeps moving ahead for the financial community. In the past weeks, for example:

Organizers for a new trade association in critical illness insurance debuted their groups unique mission, objectives and organizational structure. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the association is called the National Association for Critical Illness Insurance. Its target audience is producers.

The Health Insurance Association of America and the National Association of Health Underwriters, Washington, D.C., announced they are co-sponsoring two new disability insurance designations. One is the three-course Disability Income Associate (DIA). The other, for those completing the three DI courses plus two health insurance courses, is the Disability Healthcare Professional (DHP). The program targets agents, brokers, home office employees, financial planners and others in related fields.

LOMA, Atlanta, Ga., has debuted a new financial services designation–the Fellow, Financial Services Institute (FFSI)–for company employees. The 10-course program covers financial services products such as wealth accumulation products, retirement plans, employee benefits, mutual funds and banking products. Target candidates are employees of financial service companies, but the program is open to others, as well.

The Institute of Financial Engineering, a division of The Financial Engineering Alliance LLC, a for-profit company in Clearwater, Fla., has started marketing of its Registered Financial Engineer (RFE) designation. This is a two-day “boutique” program aimed at helping practitioners do strategic financial planning for high-net-worth clients.

These developments indicate that the huge proliferation of professional education programs, begun in the 1990s, is not over yet.

This article takes a brief look at the newcomers. But readers should keep in mind that nearly 100 financial professional education programs exist today (see chart). The growth has been so rapid that education watchers have a hard time keeping their lists current. For example, several lists do not yet show all of the long term care insurance programs now available, and most omit programs from for-profit third-party providers.

Why form a trade association focused on CI insurance? The founders decided it was essential to forge an alliance with CI stakeholders, says Alan Watson, senior vice president of independent agent distribution-life and annuity division at Protective Life, Birmingham, Ala., and president of NACII.

CI insurance is so new, he explains, that many producers and consumers do not know how to work with it. Some do not understand the need for it either, he adds.

The NACII aims to provide “practical” and “skill-based” education in these and related areas, Watson says. It will also provide information, research and data.

The not-for-profit trade group is backed by 10 insurers, now the charter founders, notes Norbert Kraich, executive director if NACII. Its first annual meeting will be September 21-23, in Atlanta. Its Web site ( will debut shortly.

The new DIA and DHP designation programs from the HIAA/NAHU venture should fill a growing need in the DI industry, says Gregory Dean, executive director-insurance education at HIAA.

“My sense is that, in the past few years, there has been renewed interest in DI insurance,” he explains.

For example, DI insurers have new products out that have better pricing structures than DIs did in the 1990s, he says. “Meanwhile, as the population has aged, consumers in mid-life have started realizing that disability does happen. Were hearing that people are growing more concerned about how they will manage if they become disabled.”

DI producers are picking up on the two trends, Dean adds, and some want more advanced education to help them respond appropriately.

Up to now, the industry has not had a designation that focuses only on DI insurance. Providing this focus is the purpose of the new not-for-profit program, he says.

Over at LOMA, the new FFSI designation “is a response to the education needs of our members,” says Gene Stone, senior associate-education and training.

“Many of our member companies no longer focus only on life and health insurance,” he explains. “They have evolved into multifaceted financial services institutions that offer a wide assortment of new products. Now, their employees need to learn about these products.”

This is a rigorous self-study program from a not-for-profit association, Stone adds. “Some might complete it in one year, but others might take several years.”

The new RFE designation grew out of the educational programs that Nicholas Gregory had been providing to advisors in the affluent market. The president and managing partner of The Financial Engineering Alliance, Gregory says advisors asked him to make it into a formal credentialing program.

The program is a for-profit venture, he points out, but it is not intended to be an alternative to widely recognized programs, such as CLU, CHFC and CFP, from not-for-profit organizations. In fact, Gregory says most who seek the RFE already have earned the other designations. They enter the RFE for “hands-on education in strategic planning,” he says.

There are a lot of designations available today, Gregory agrees, adding that “the customer often has no clue” about what they are.

“Its a shame the programs cant all get together,” he adds. “But financial planning today is a multidimensional discipline, so the programs are targeting different needs.”

Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, July 14, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.