SFSP At 75

By Barry Higgins

Seventy-five years ago, 21 professionals graduated from The American College of Life Underwriters Chartered Life Underwriter academic program. This 1928 graduating class was the first from an institution that had just been founded a year earlier by Dr. Solomon S. Huebner.

These 21 graduates met following their conferment exercise in Detroit, Mich., to form what would become the alumni association for the college. Its name was simply that, The Alumni Association of The American College of Life Underwriters.

As professionals graduated from the CLU program the associations membership grew. Only a short while later, the first local chapter of the association was formed in Chicago, Ill. With one local, and several others on the way, the official name for the association became The National Chapter, Chartered Life Underwriters of The American College of Life Underwriters.

Following the formation of the Chicago chapter, local chapters began appearing all over the countryby 1931, the total chapter count came to 10, with representation from New York to Los Angeles.

In 1940, the organization went through its third name change, which still would not be its last. The name was officially changed to The American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters. For the first time, membership exceeded 1,000 program graduates.

Until 1944, the organization was purely an alumni association for The American College of Life Underwriters. But in that year, the Societys board approved an action that would change the direction of the organization. The board approved a change that would embrace the concept of becoming a true professional society, rather than that of an alumni association. The Society would employ a staff and would soon develop a professional journal for members.

Over the next several years the society continued to grow. As professionals graduated from the Chartered Life Underwriter program many would join the professional society to build relationships and learn from other members. By 1956, membership had grown to 4,000, and the number of local chapters was now at 100.

Three years later, the Societys 5,000 members approved the development of a code of ethics and expansion of continuing education programs. This was the year the first CLU national seminar was conducted, held in Philadelphia.

By 1966, this national meeting was combined with a two-day educational forum, where members would learn from educational programs and could network with their peers from other chapters. Membership was approaching the 10,000 level.

The Society continued to grow and by 1973, the 200th local chapter was formed. Membership exceeded 20,000 in 1975.

The society then went through another name change, which it hadnt done in 38 years. In 1978, the society abbreviated its name to include the designation which was required by professionals to gain membership. It was now called The American Society of CLU.

In 1981, the American College introduced a new program of study, the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). A year later, 2,035 professionals earned the designation.

Also in that year, the Societys membership approved a change that added two new membership classes. A new “student” membership class was created for students who had successfully completed two parts of the colleges CLU program. An “associate” membership class was created in order to accept professionals who had earned the Masters of Science in Financial Services (MSFS) or the Masters of Science in Management (MSM) designations from The American College.

Additionally, Canadian and Israeli CLUs were given the opportunity for associate membership status. This was the first time in the Societys 54-year history that membership was open to professionals other than those who held the CLU designation. Two years later, in 1984, membership was opened to graduates of the ChFC program.

In 1986, the Society added the ChFC designation to its name. It would now be called The American Society of CLU and ChFC. By 1988, membership had grown to almost 32,000.

As part of the Societys commitment to ethics and to promote ethical behavior among American companies, the Society launched the American Business Ethics Award program in 1994. The award, which is presented annually, recognizes U.S. companies that demonstrate high standards of ethical behavior in their business conduct. The award is presented in three categories: large, mid-sized and small companies.

In 1998, the Society underwent yet another name change, to the name it holds today: The Society of Financial Service Professionals.

A year later, membership was opened up to individuals who held other professional designations. At this time, professionals who earned the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation had the opportunity to join the Society. In addition, CPAs and licensed JDs were eligible for membership. By 2001, holders of the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) designation also would be eligible for membership.

Today, regular Society membership is available to professionals who have earned any of 11 different professional designations, provided their credential is in good standing. This includes the Chartered Leadership Fellow (CLF), the Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC), and the Registered Health Underwriter (RHU) designations. Associate membership is available for candidates who actively are pursuing the attainment of any one of the Societys recognized designations.

Most recently, in June 2003, The American College announced that it would be forming a new alumni association and would be holding its own commencement exercises independent of the Society.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 24, 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.