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By Cyril Tuohy
That was close.
Five months after The American College of Financial Services said it would drop the Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) designation, the College for Financial Planning (CFFP) announced it would teach the courses.
The deal between the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) and the CFFP represents a new lease on life for the prestigious LUTCF, one of the “crown jewels” for advisors, brokers and agents.
“We’re really excited that we were able to resurrect it and keep it going,” said Matthew Huntington, a holder of the LUTCF and a NAIFA trustee.
“The NAIFA Board of Trustees is looking at it as a positive move,” he said. The board has managed to take “a bad situation and turn it into a positive,” he also said.
The knowledge and the skills required to earn the designation have been taught by the Life Underwriter Training Council since 1947, but it wasn’t until 1984 that The American College established the LUTCF designation.
Since 1984, more than 50,000 have earned their LUTCFs.
In September, after The American College announced without warning that it would replace the LUTCF with the Financial Services Certified Professional (FSCP) designation, NAIFA scrambled to look for an institution to teach the courses.
NAIFA president John F. Nichols said the board delivered a “resounding, unanimous decision to go forward” with the LUTCF program. The decision to keep the LUTCF was “a historic day for NAIFA,” Nichols said.
Once that decision to continue sponsoring the LUTCF was taken, the board considered “a number of accrediting bodies,” he said in an interview with InsuranceNewsNet. Nichols declined to say how many institutions were considered, but said the board had conducted “a robust process and the result is that we believe we got our No. 1 choice.”
Insurance carriers expressed support for the LUTCF, and with extensive brand recognition, the question of whether the designation would continue was never in doubt, Nichols also said.
In an interview last fall, Larry Barton, chancellor of The American College, said LUTCF courses were facing enrollment declines. The “LU” or “life underwriting” part of the designation was not well understood, he said. It was “causing a mixed reaction in the marketplace.”
Agents rarely sell only life insurance anymore. They sell retirement, estate and college planning services, which is a much broader mandate than life protection products. The FSCP reflects that. “We just needed to make it about other financial products,” Barton said.
Kevin E. Baldwin, managing director of B&L Financial Architects in South Windsor, Conn., said in an interview that the time had come for the industry to move on from the venerable LUTCF, which was “delivered in a much more cumbersome way than many agents were willing to accept.”
“The American College made a business decision and they get to do that, and we were in position to make a business decision and that's what we've chosen to do,” Nichols said.
John Sears, president of the CFFP, said in a joint statement issued by NAIFA and the CFFP that the LUTCF curriculum will be delivered via a “state-of-the-art, instructor-led, live webinar platform.”
New content will be added to the courses covering the designation’s four specialties: life insurance and annuities, health and employee benefits, multiline insurance, and financial advising and investments, the statement said.
While NAIFA benefits from a small revenue-sharing agreement with the institution teaching the LUTCF, the loss represented a bigger blow in terms of prestige. NAIFA chief executive officer Susan Waters said the LUTCF is one of NAIFA’s “crown jewels and a defining credential for agents, advisors and brokers.”
“NAIFA is committed to helping members grow their business, and the re-launch of a 21st century LUTCF program helps NAIFA advance our mission by meeting the needs of today’s active agents in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” Waters said.
Advisors will have the opportunity to learn more about the retooled course at NAIFA’s Annual Career Conference which will coincide with its 125th anniversary in September.
“LUTCF is part of our roots so we are making a major statement to the industry that our roots remain strong and we continue to have impact on our members,” Nichols said. “The ultimate winner is the consumer.”
The LUTCF partnership between NAIFA and the American College will end in July 2015, at which point LUTCF courses offered by the CFFP will begin.
The American College will honor the LUTCF coursework of those currently working toward the LUTCF designation through July 1, 2015. Anyone who has begun LUTCF coursework with The American College can finish the requirements and earn the designation through The American College as long as they do so by July 1, 2015, NAIFA said.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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