There are over 210 insurance and insurance-related designations available to property and casualty, life, health, benefits, actuarial and other financial service professionals. This list includes US, Canadian and European-based educational programs with each locale having its own designations and criteria.
Non-property and casualty-related topics constitute the greatest number of these programs; more than half are focused on financial planning, life, health and benefits. The remaining designations are split among P&C, risk management, actuarial, regulation, licensing and safety courses.
“With all the available designations, is there need for (or even room for) another designation?” was a question I fielded just a few days ago. Looking at the list and range of designations, YES, as strange as it sounds, there may be more than just room for another designation, there might actually be a NEED for one or a few more.
Review the 210-plus designation descriptions and it becomes quickly evident that each was created to fill a particular perceived educational gap. Each has a specific focus and completers of any in the long list of programs gain a much deeper understanding of that narrow focus. Yet such education often is gained to the exclusion of the entire insurance mechanism inside which the particular course of study operates. Note that the course creators/providers do not overtly intend for the materials to exclude the broader insurance mechanism, such result is a matter of “necessity.” Students become so focused on the specific subject matter that they lose sight of where and how the information fits within the entirety of the mechanism.
At the risk of angering some insurance designation providers and some designation holders, the current system creates a false sense of competency. Some designation completers, like many new college graduates, think the piece of paper signifies the end rather than just one step towards the ultimate goal of professionalism. As the holder of eight insurance designations (and working on a ninth), I am obviously a full supporter of continuing professional development through study when done for the right reasons and in the right context.
So what’s missing; what education, course of study, program or new designation will fill the gaps and tie the information from all the other programs together in a practical way? The only course that could accomplish this goal is one that imparts information learned from the schools of “hard knocks” and “experience.” Experience takes the theoretical concepts learned in a class and from books and makes them practical within the insurance mechanism. The problem, experience has to be gained over time, it cannot be taught; and “experience” is often the polite term for a “mistake” (“he really gained some experience today”).
Boiled down, any new designation MUST be imbued with experience and practical application. Very little coverage or theory should be taught, rather the chosen course needs to focus on the principles surrounding coverage and form interpretation. Following are two examples of the preferred training program:
- Learning how to read an insurance policy (any insurance policy) is far more beneficial than knowing what the commercial property, commercial general liability, homeowners or any other policy says. The mechanics of reading an insurance policy helps the student understand and effectively interpret ANY policy, even one they have not previously seen.
- Most insurance professionals do not remember every exclusion in every policy. In fact trying to depend on memory is quite dangerous from an errors and omissions perspective. It is far better for the professional to know why the excluded losses or hazards are excluded. Knowing the six major reasons for exclusions allow the professional to better understand the coverage and take care of the client far better than simply knowing what the exclusions are.
Education must combine experience, errors and omissions training (either experientially or by attending class) and practical application if it is to be useful. Lack any of these and the practicality and usability of the training is lost.
What is lacking within the industry, but which is sorely needed, is training leading to a designation that can be used immediately upon the completers return to the office. But any new designation must also be very rigorous and hard to obtain if it is to mean anything. Its goal should be increased knowledge and professionalism, not simply a bunch of letters.