The ball is always in play for the senior advisor. Not only do clients’ lives, needs and expectations steadily change but new regulations, laws, taxation, practice-management, recruitment and compliance issues commonly cloud the planning picture. Plus there’s the plethora of new products that, while often helpful when attempting to fill client needs, can also create requirements for additional or ongoing education and training.
Industry associations such as LIMRA (www.limra.com), the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (www.naic.org), the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (www.life-line.org) and the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association (www.imsa.org) regularly sponsor educational initiatives to help advisors stay at the top of their game. Educational institutions such as The American College (www.theamericancollege. edu), as well as broker/dealers and product providers also offer events covering the latest issues, frequently with continuing education (CE) credits as an inducement. And life education comes in various forms from seminars (and Webinars) to newsletters, in-office and regional presentations, conference calls, tutorials, national symposiums and general meetings.
“Within any organization, a crucial factor for accomplishment is continuing education on the tools, processes and procedures that are vital for success,” says Bart Daniel, senior vice president for education at Fixed Income Securities, LP in San Antonio, Texas. “Advisors are no different, especially as the products and services within our industry continue to expand and become more complex.”
And as agents retire, those replacing them will need to be educated in order to fill any remaining knowledge gaps left by their more experienced predecessors. The overall decline in the number of new agents entering the business and the decreasing number of trained advisors capable of serving customers needs to be addressed. There can be no substitute for a strong, diverse body of trained producers capable of meeting consumer needs.
“It’s an ongoing fact of life that to succeed in this business you must regularly be educated,” says Mark Snyder, an advisor in Medford, N.Y. with eight industry designations and more than 30 years experience advising mostly seniors on how to get the most from their retirement. “It’s a constantly changing field on all levels,” he says. While Snyder relies on Web sites and industry publications, he regularly meets with industry professionals and participates in a peer group to help stay current. He also gives his broker/dealer Royal Alliance high marks for the educational programs it features at its conferences.
“We’re always working to increase the educational value we can provide,” says Jim Freeman of b/d Cantella and Co. Inc., in Boston. Cantella allows annuity and other product providers to present at its conferences but also invites other speakers to discuss industry trends and how they can impact a practice.
Keeping current in life insurance education also means focusing on trends that are impacting one’s target base, whether it be retirees, pre-retirees, business owners, high-level executives or a more narrowly focused group. Then there are the nearly never-ending applications. Are your life solutions aimed at solving succession issues? What about estate planning? Income generation? Tax-minimization strategies? Working within a trust? How do you knowledgeably answer questions about new products or new ways to utilize existing ones?
Mark Hall of Market Street Advisors in Smithfield, N.C., regularly sends staff to meetings and seminars pertinent to their areas of responsibility. He encourages his staff to obtain professional designations to help remain at the crest of the wave. One Market Street advisor recently earned the Certified Senior Advisor designation while two others are preparing for the Certified Financial Planner examination.
“We noticed that senior clients like the idea of a specialist on board,” Hall says. “It increases their comfort level and sends a message that as an office, we’re making a commitment to increased education. This can only be seen positively among clients concerned about their financial futures.”
“So many successful advisors are busy selling that in order to excel above the competition, they must carve out sufficient time to read about the competition, new products, important new applications and strategies,” says Dr. Larry Barton. Barton serves as president and chief executive officer at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., which pioneered an initiative to provide the Certified Financial Planner Certification Examination program in seven months through its Financial Planning Express Program.
The widespread move to shift retirement and insurance burdens to the individual has largely created a more financially astute retail investor. And venues such as the Internet – with its promise of near instantaneous answers – plus cable and radio financial shows, as well as an overall greater participation by the average retail investor in the equity and bond markets, have made personal finance a prevalent conversation topic.