Meet Bob Percival. He’s not real, but he could be, since he’s in the same industry as you and does many of the things you do. Bob has been in the senior market for 30 years. Over that time, he’s served thousands of seniors and their families. But he’s never been sued and never had a complaint filed with a regulator. Bob chalks that up to being a stickler for details. Although that sounds as if Bob might be a bit of a stuffed shirt, nothing could be further from the truth.

Bob admits he works hard to stay in compliance. He says not having to worry about regulators knocking at his door is liberating. “I know where the minefields are, so I just don’t go there,” he says. “But I do pursue legitimate client needs and provide suitable products that address those needs. I love solving client problems.”

So how exactly has Bob stayed out of hot water for so long? Here are some of the main entries in his compliance playbook.

Licensing

Know the product training, carrier appointment, and continuing-education requirements in my state.

Advertising/solicitation

Familiarize myself with NAIC and FINRA (if appropriate) advertising standards.

When promoting myself, do it in a way that’s fair, accurate, and truthful. To save time, use company-approved materials. If I create my own, be sure to run them by my carrier.

In writing or conversation, avoid prohibited terms like “account” and “deposits” when referring to life insurance or annuities.

In the rare times I do cold calling, be sure to search the national Do Not Call Registry and any relevant state registry.

When I buy leads from a marketing company, ask about the practices that generated the leads. Don’t buy from a company that uses deceitful or non-compliant practices.

When I create my own lead generation materials, make sure to disclose that I will be contacting the respondent.

At my seminars, always clearly identify the product to be sold and identify myself as an insurance agent.

Avoid all professional designations that lack substantial educational content and that appear to be just marketing gimmicks.

Suitability

When I meet with a prospect, always present complete and accurate information about the product or products I’m selling.

Strive to recommend only suitable products after evaluating all of the client’s needs, financial resources, goals, risk tolerance, tax status, and life stage.

If I’m recommending a replacement, make sure it is justified and that I complete all state-required paperwork.

Fair Competition/Disclosure

Do not give a prospect false or misleading information about a competing agent or company.

Do not hold myself out as a financial planner or investment specialist unless I am legally registered as an investment advisor with either the SEC or a state securities department.

Since I’m an investment advisor, make all required disclosures about how and what I charge for investment advice.

Sales Practices

Obey all rules regarding the use of illustrations.

Never sign a life insurance or annuity application on behalf of another person or ask a client to sign a blank application form. Also, never omit dates at the time of signing, then pre- or post-date the form.

Privacy

Do my best to assure client privacy by following the letter of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley and Health Care Portability and Accountability acts.

Other

Avoid getting involved in regulatory “hot buttons” such as living trust mills, reverse mortgage-funded sales, and stranger-originated life insurance.

Never give a prospect anything of value in order to get the person to buy.

Bob’s playbook has many more entries. But according to him, following these 20 will eliminate 99% of the problems that arise. “For me, compliance isn’t a headache,” Bob says. “It’s my admission ticket to a secure and successful future.”

For more information, please visit the National Ethics Bureau at www.ethicscheck.com.