The American College and NAIFA to Partner on New Financial Services Designation

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The American College, the nation’s leading financial services educator, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), the nation’s largest member association for insurance agents and financial advisors, announced today the creation of the Financial Services Specialist (FSS) designation. The new educational program is designed to provide financial services professionals in the insurance, securities, and banking industries with the high-impact sales skills and introductory technical knowledge advisors and their staff need to ethically and effectively meet their clients’ goals of financial security.

The American College, the nation’s leading financial services educator, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), the nation’s largest member association for insurance agents and financial advisors, announced today the creation of the Financial Services Specialist (FSS) designation. The new educational program is designed to provide financial services professionals in the insurance, securities, and banking industries with the high-impact sales skills and introductory technical knowledge advisors and their staff need to ethically and effectively meet their clients’ goals of financial security.

The program is based on the successful sales skills training model of the insurance-based LUTCF designation program. Like the LUTCF, the FSS designation program consists of six courses delivered in live classroom instructional sessions. The courses are organized through the same network of NAIFA local associations and agencies.

“The financial services industry provides a diverse and complex series of products and services,” said Larry Barton, PhD., President and Chief Executive Officer of The American College. “Knowledgeable financial advisors and their support staff are an essential customer service ingredient. The new FSS program will provide insurance agents, individual financial advisors and their staff with the information and techniques they need to provide enhanced customer service and be successful in today’s financial planning marketplace.”

“NAIFA’s latest collaboration with The American College establishes a program that will give practitioners the tools and skills to create and help their clients implement twenty-first century financial security plans with twenty-first century techniques, priorities and products,” said David F. Woods, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, NAIFA’s Chief Executive Officer. “The knowledge gained through the FSS program will allow practitioners to bring high quality financial security planning and products to the American people.”

Significance of the Financial Services Industry and Related Education in the United States

According to the Insurance Information Institute, from 1999 to 2003, employment in the financial services industry averaged 5.3 percent of total U.S. employment. The insurance industry alone is estimated to employ over 2.25 million people. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that employment of personal financial advisors will grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012. The next several decades will see the continuing rapid expansion of self-directed retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans. Along with this will be a continuing increase in the number and complexity of investment offerings and strategies. As a result the need for highly trained and qualified financial advisors to help people devise good investment strategies which are integrated into sound financial security and investment plans will grow exponentially.

Recent research of NAIFA members reflects their desire to meet the needs of clients in this dynamic marketplace. In a survey conducted in December 2003, NAIFA members indicated not only their continued interest in traditional financial security products such as life insurance, annuities, and long-term care and disability insurance, but also in financial planning.

Education is key to advisor retention and success. According to a recent study by LIMRA International, the average retention rate of insurance producers by companies after four years is only 11%. Companies see training as a key to improving retention because it increases the likelihood of an individual financial professional’s success. Increased retention also reduces the considerable time and resources required to orient and train new professionals, thereby improving company profitability.

The FSS Designation

The Financial Services Specialist (FSS) designation program is ideally suited for financial services professionals in traditional insurance roles, particularly current LUTCFs, as well as those in securities firms and banks who are looking to sharpen their sales skills. Individuals new to the financial services industry and sales support staff in financial services firms would also find the curriculum to be highly beneficial. Increasing the educational level of sales support staff through the FSS program can create more effective financial advising teams. Improving the level of product knowledge held by all the professionals working to address a consumer’s financial needs can lead to enhanced customer service and organizational effectiveness.

The curriculum consists of six courses including a required ethics course. Of the six courses, three are required and three are electives that can be selected by the student based on his or her area of interest and desire for specialized knowledge. Topics in the program include:

  • Basic planning concepts
  • Understanding the financial services market
  • Communication skills
  • Understanding the client life-cycle
  • Introductory financial planning concepts including:
  •          Estate Planning
  •          Investment Planning
  •          Retirement Planning
  • Introductory financial product knowledge including:
  •          Investments
  •          Annuities
  •          Insurance

Portions of the LUTCF designation may qualify for credits toward the FSS designation. To earn the FSS designation, you must formally apply to The College and be a member in good standing with NAIFA.

Working together with NAIFA associations and agencies, courses will be delivered in a live classroom instructional format with a moderator. Courses are open to all financial services professionals through local associations of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). To contact a local association near you, call Volunteer and Student Administration toll free at The American College at 877-655-5882 or volunteers@TheAmericanCollege.edu, or visit the NAIFA website at http://www.naifa.org, mouse over “Why Join” and click on “Find Your Local Association.” Additional information is also available at http://www.TheAmericanCollege.edu/Prospective_Students/Designations/fss.asp .

An advisory board, the Financial Services Training Council (FSTC), consisting of leading industry representatives from both The American College and NAIFA, will provide advice and counsel to ensure that the LUTCF and FSS designation programs meet the needs of the insurance and financial community and The College’s standards of academic excellence.

About NAIFA:

Based in Falls Church, VA, NAIFA is comprised of 800 state and local associations representing the business interests of 225,000 members and their employees nationwide. Members focus their practices on one or more of the following: life insurance and annuities, health insurance and employee benefits, multiline, and financial advising and investments. NAIFA’s mission is to advocate for a positive legislative and regulatory environment, enhance business and professional skills, and promote the ethical conduct of its members. The NAIFA umbrella includes three specialty organizations: Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU), the Association of Health Insurance Advisors (AHIA) and GAMA International. To learn more, visit http://www.naifa.org .

About The American College:

The American College is the nation’s leading non-profit educator of professionals in the insurance and financial services industry. Located on a 35-acre campus in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, The College is a public charity that serves over 35,000 students annually, predominantly on a distance education basis. The American College offers an array of specialized designation programs, Master of Science degrees in several disciplines and customized continuing education programs for those pursuing a career in financial services. For more information, visit http://www.TheAmericanCollege.edu

Contact:

Eric B. Gordon                    

Director of Public Relations

The American College

(610) 526-1450

or

Jim Edwards    

Assistant Vice President, Communications

NAIFA

(703) 770-8112

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