By Jack Bobo
Like many other businesses, the early days of marketing life insurance were very primitiveparticularly if measured by todays standards. There were mistakes in judgment and in practices by both agents and companies. As the industry matured and leaders began to emerge, the level of concern over the consequences of such mistakes began to rise. The public perception of the business also suffered greatly. It was not uncommon to see signs in the lobbies of buildings that read: “No peddlers, solicitors or insurance agents allowed.”
One of the major reasons the National Association of Life Underwriters (now the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors) was created in 1890 was to establish some order out of the chaos that permeated our marketplace then. As the organization began to take root and became a factor in addressing our problems, it became clear that the primary thing the field force lacked was education and skills training.
A number of attempts to remedy this situation were made by a handful of NALU leaders but with only limited success. It seems hard to believe given todays emphasis on education, but the insurance companies showed little or no interest in supporting agent education. There is no record that I have seen as to why this was true, so I have to conclude it was because they simply did not wish to spend the money. This is also why I am concerned today when I see some companies cutting back on their allocations for agent education and training. It is true, education is expensivebut then ignorance is even more costly.
A major breakthrough occurred in 1915 when Dr. Solomon Huebner agreed to write the first-ever textbook of life insurance and NALU agreed to guarantee the financing of its publication. More importantly, though, this began one of our most vital partnerships: the insurance business and academia.
Dr. Huebner was a guiding light for the industry, lifting up the possibility of professionalism and the development of a scientific way to measure the “human life value” for insurance purposes. It was a wonderful partnership and ultimately led to the creation of the American College of Life Underwriters (now American College) by NALU.
There have been other partners from academia. Dr. Arthur M. Spalding, professor of marketing and selling at the University of Pittsburgh, was the first paid staff member of the American College of Life Underwriters, helping to create applications for CLU exams, study lists and criteria, and arranging for examination centers. Since the colleges humble beginning in 1927 there has been a steady stream of academics who have made significant contributions to the maturing of our business. Without this partnership I am convinced we still would be struggling with some of our early day problems.