Earlier this month, LifeHealthPro Senior Editor Warren S. Hersch interviewed David Mannaioni, program director of revised Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow program.  Developed under the auspices of the College for Financial Planning (CFP) and National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), the LUTCF program will begin accepting student registrations on January 2nd. The coursework will get underway in July. The following are excerpts:

Hersch: How did you and College Financial Planning become involved in launching a revised LUTCF program?

Mannaioni: My colleague, Dr. Jason Brenner, spearheaded research to determine what was necessary and important in the program redesign. Based in part on interviews with existing LUTCF designees, the research results were then validated using a NAIFA advisory group involving leaders from various insurance companies. That’s when I became involved. I took the research and developed coursework curriculum based on the research findings.

Hersch: Can you highlight some of the key findings of the research and tell me how they helped to shape the new curriculum?

Mannaioni: The industry wanted consistency of content for all LUTCF students. The research indicated that, for agents and brokers who are relatively new to the industry, it would be premature for them to be taking coursework electives, as was possible under the old LUTCF program. We therefore designed the program to consist of three courses that provide the same content for every LUTCF designee.

Six of the eight classes that comprise the first course are all dedicated to life insurance. That’s the most important topic, according to our research, followed closely by annuities and mutual funds within the context of retirement planning.

The coursework also addresses disability income, long-term care, property and casualty and health insurance, plus group products. The second course will, among other topics, provide a quick review of life insurance products and compare and contrast them annuities and with mutual funds.

Hersch: Is the course curriculum not yet complete?

Mannaioni: That’s correct. I’m in the middle of developing the content now. The first online class, which I’ll be teaching, will begin on July 7. I expect to be done developing the content by the early part of next year. As I create the content, I’ll send segments to an advisory group for input on refining the material.

Hersch: How long will it take for students to complete the full program? Mannaioni: The research highlighted the need for a more intensive and shorter time frame for the coursework. The three classes being designed are 9-week courses. A student can finish the program in less than 9 months. That quick start is important for many of the new reps looking to get their businesses up and running.

Hersch: I noted that investment products will be a focus of the coursework? Will students require a Series 6 license or demonstrate some knowledge of investment products before enrolling?

Mannaioni: By and large, the focus of the LUTCF program is on insurance products. But we are addressing annuities and mutual funds because a significant portion of people coming into the industry are entering not only with a life and health license, but also a Series 6 license so they can sell variable products and mutual funds.

If graduating students want to continue in their education in investments, we have additional designation programs they can pursue, like the chartered mutual fund consultant, which is beyond the scope of LUTCF.

The LUTCF program is designed to get new reps up to speed quickly. So it mostly addresses variable products and mutual funds. Most states require a Series 6 license —others a Series 63 license to sell variable products and mutual funds across state lines.

Hersch: Given the transition of the LUTCF program from the American College to the College for Financial Planning, will there necessarily be a greater focus on comprehensive financial planning?

Mannaioni: I can’t speak definitely to what the American College’s focus was. What I can say is that financial planning and risk management, in addition to insurance, will be addressed in the revised program.

Hersch: And given the basic knowledge that students will be acquiring about other aspects of a financial plan, they will be expected to know when to hand off a client to a specialist in the field to handle, say, estate, retirement or business planning needs, yes?

Mannaioni: Initially, certainly. The LUTCF is an important first designation for anyone in the industry because it combines classroom work with real field work. So they learn material in a class, and then apply it in their practice. But the LUTCF program is also designed not to be the last designation that students pursue. We’re hoping that students who start off with an LUTCF designation will move on to other professional designations as their career develops so they can provide that well-rounded financial planning that so many people need.

Hersch: Who, apart from the advisory group, has been assisting you in the development of the coursework?

Mannaioni: Nearly the entire faculty here at the College for Financial Planning has contributed to the different components of the coursework I’m developing. We have experts in estate planning, retirement planning, investment products, in addition to insurance products.

Also, some of the people on the advisory group are adjunct professors at the College for Financial Planning. All of us combined make for a really strong team.

Hersch: How do you expect that advisors will ultimately benefit from the coursework? Will they come away with a greater understanding of the planning areas addressed in the program than you have observed among life insurance professionals in the marketplace who don’t have the designation?

Mannaioni: Absolutely. The LUTCF program is designed to provide a strong knowledge base across aspects of the insurance industry. Also, the LUTCF combines field work activities — a key part of the program.

So when we talk about prospecting for life insurance, the homework assignment is to go and prospect for life insurance. When the topic is how to conduct an effective client meeting, the homework is to conduct a client meeting.

Throughout the process, the expectation is that the LUTCF students will be partnering with a mentor — at their local firm or their local NAIFA chapter–who will be guiding them throughout this process. The partnering with a mentor, combined with the field work and the classroom activity, makes the program very dynamic and powerful.

Hersch: What technology is used in the course?

Mannaioni: The technology platform, MyChoice, allows for interactive, online classes. So I can remotely teach a class here in Centennial, Colo., to students from all over the country. All of the classes will be recorded into the system. We’ll also be able to deliver traditional in-classroom instruction.  

The online classes will be taught by me and additional adjunct professors who meet our requirements. Moderators used for in-classroom instruction typically are LUTCF designees or people who have been in the industry for a number of years. Hersch: How many agents and brokers do you expect to enroll in the LUTCF program?

Mannaioni: I can’t provide precise numbers now but I believe there is a lot of pent-up demand. There was a great deal of excitement about the initiative at the NAIFA annual meeting in September. And I expect interest will build further once registration gets underway on January 2. 

Hersch: Do you also have certain expectations in terms of carrier support, financial or otherwise, for the program?

Mannaioni: Carrier representatives attending the NAIFA conference — executives at MetLife, Northwestern Mutual, State Farm, Farm Bureau — among others — expressed a great deal of interest in the initiative. The partnership between NAIFA and the College for Financial Planning is turning out to be very strong.