Today's hottest insurance training trend has to do with issues surrounding long-term care, says Cindy Davidson, CIC, ITP, vice president of insurance product management for Chicago-based Kaplan Financial, a provider of financial services and insurance education and training.
The trend is due to the inexorable “graying of America,” with 77 million baby boomers now approaching retirement, says Davidson, who is also the immediate past president of the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators.
In terms of industry training, about 20 to 25 states — including large states like California — are establishing partnerships for long-term care programs that allow individuals to buy insurance policies that let them shelter their assets while remaining eligible for Medicaid, and this is keeping educators busy. “It's a complicated product,” says Davidson, “and if you are going to sell that product, the states are requiring that you receive specific training on the partnership programs.”
The insurance industry also has an older work force. “The median age of an insurance producer is somewhere around 50,” Davidson notes. “It's clear we need to start attracting younger people into the field, and the way to do that is to brush up the industry's image and attract new talent.”
Ethics training is also high on the menu for trainers and educators, adds Davidson, particularly in the 40 states that have an ethics component in their continuing education programs for agents, who must meet the CE requirements in order to retain their licenses.
Online Versus Classroom
The industry is continuing its slow, but inexorable march toward online training, says Davidson. She estimates the split between online and traditional education is now about 50/50. “In general, the insurance industry is slow to adopt to new technology,” says Davidson. “And it's complicated by the fact that each of the states have different rules in place — it's difficult to build an online training system that can accommodate 50 different sets of rules.”
As well, some states insist that online education be truly verifiable. “These states are telling us that it's fine if a student doesn't sit in a classroom for eight hours taking a course, but we have to make sure to track that student's time online,” says Davidson. The state of California, for example, requires that online testing programs use students' bio data to verify — through pop-up questions on computer screens — that the person taking the test is the person who registered for the test. “The state wants to make sure the person taking the test is the producer, and not somebody's secretary,” says Davidson.