Continuing education. Just the mere mention of it can evoke a sense of dread for the drudgery of having to comply, once again, with state-mandated rules for maintaining one’s license as an insurance producer. Some may look for the easiest and least expensive way to meet these requirements so they can “check the box” and be done with it. I personally have taken this exact approach more often than I care to admit, justifying my decision with the fact that I’m really busy and don’t have time to do “real” continuing education. Honestly, procrastination probably plays a bigger part in the decision-making process.
Throughout my insurance and financial services career, I learned the value of attaining professional designations as one way to differentiate myself from other producers and advisors while learning how to be a better, more knowledgeable advisor for my clients. Over the years, I have earned several designations both to develop this additional expertise and to meet the ongoing continuing education requirements imposed by state regulators and the issuers of these designations.
Since joining the College for Financial Planning, and still maintaining a small financial planning practice (and the associated licenses that go with that), I have had the opportunity to pursue additional designations and master’s degree courses in financial planning to further develop my knowledge base. All of this work has paid dividends because I have been able to leverage this knowledge base to better serve my clients, which has resulted in many referrals over the years.
I share my own experience to provide some background as to why insurance agents should expend the time and effort to earn professional designations. The additional knowledge when applied to specific situations develops greater expertise. Over time, this builds confidence in oneself, but it also builds the confidence clients have in you as you demonstrate your expertise.
However, I must offer a word of caution when pursuing designations: choose wisely. There are designations that are well-respected, and there are others that can be awarded after a weekend of “education” in a hotel conference room. A solid designation will take some time and effort to earn. It will have a comprehensive final exam that requires spending time studying the course materials to pass. Take some time to seek out reputable designations and pursue only those.
Another thing to be aware of is that the general public has little knowledge of professional designations and how much effort goes into earning one. Add to that the fact that designations are often presented on business cards and letterhead as a series of letters (e.g., CPCU, CLU, LUTCF). Given these circumstances, it is easy to understand how an uninformed public could be confused, or worse, misled.
Once you have successfully earned a designation worthy of pursuing, you will undoubtedly find that you learned a lot in the process. Rather than simply adding a set of initials after your name on your business card, you can explain to clients what your designations stand for and what you learned. This doesn’t need to be a lengthy conversation. Something as simple as, “For this designation, I had to take an eight-week course and pass an 85-question comprehensive exam. In the end, I learned a great deal about _______.”
Of course, our clients are the real winners when we put in the effort to pursue rigorous designations. If we take the time to become masters of our craft, the people we serve will benefit from that with better advice. The more your clients know about the choices available to them, and the more they realize you know what you’re talking about, the better decisions they can make for themselves.
In the end, isn’t helping people why we got into this business in the first place?
Mannaioni, CFP, MPAS is the senior director of Designation Programs and a professor at the College for Financial Planning. You can contact David at email@example.com.
Was this article valuable?
Here are more articles you may enjoy.