Life Underwriters Seek Tougher Education Standards

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Journal Record Staff Reporter

Tougher continuing education requirements are needed keep to life insurance agents up-to-date with industry changes and professional standards, according to Timothy S. Olsen, 1989 president of the Oklahoma City Association of Life Underwriters.

"We've got a great start on continuing education," said Olsen, manager of the Oklahoma City office of Manufacturers Financial Group. "The next step is fine-tuning."

Olsen has taken 200 hours of continuing education in the past 12 months, "so nine hours every year is not real life," he said.

"The key with continuing education in Oklahoma is to refine and expand it," he said.

"Education is the meat and potatoes of the industry. It's the right information, the current information, and keeping advice in focus with changing tax laws. You can't do that unless you have continuing education."

Clients think that a life insurance license means the holder knows the issues and has updated information, "but that's not the case," Olsen said.

To keep the trust and confidence of the client, licensed life and health insurance agents must attempt to stay current by taking continuing education classes, he said.

Olsen wants more ways to police the industry, to clean out the people who are not dedicated to knowledge, professionalism and keeping up with the most current tax changes, services and products, he said, because clients want to deal with the person who keeps up with the issues and is conscientious.

But until then, he said the association must bide its time, live with the 18-hour requirement and learn where the problems are.

"We have to let it seed before we can go back and ask for changes," Olsen said.

All licensed insurance agents are required to take 18 hours of continuing education, including one hour of ethics, within a three-year period, depending upon when they got their license, said Betty Clymer, director of the agents' licensing division for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Limited insurance representatives and managing general agents are exempt from the education requirement.

Agents who received their license before Sept. 14, 1988, must complete their 18 hours of continuing education by Sept. 14, 1991, while agents licensed after Sept. 14, 1988, must complete the continuing education courses within 36 months of their license date, Clymer said. After 1991, the process repeats itself and the agents must get 18 hours of continuing education credit every three years, she said.

Already 126 groups are offering more than 500 classes for Oklahoma agents, Clymer said. For rural agents, there are correspondence courses available through Vo-tech programs.

"We're getting new providers periodically. More often we're getting additional courses submitted by the same providers," Clymer said.

The division must approve the course materials and text and its instructor, she said. Instructors must be qualified to teach the class by having either three years recent experience in the course subject, a degree in the subject being taught or two years recent experience in the course subject and 12 hours of college work or vo-tech work in the subject, Clymer said. …