Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dumbing Down Insurance Licensing Exams

The Wall Street Journal reported on April 25, 2011 that Primerica is pushing to make state insurance licensing exams easier so more of their potential agents can pass.

I have limited experience with state insurance licensing exams. In the mid-1980s the company I worked for brokered annuities for its small pension clients as a way to mitigate mortality risk. Since I was responsible for the folks who made those sales, I decided to become licensed myself.

I had to go to required classes—not exactly onerous—although it was a long Saturday because the class was B-O-R-I-N-G. I had to pass both the state licensing exam and a couple of NASD licensing exams since I was to sell annuities. I did read the suggested material for the state exam since many of the questions related to specific New Jersey requirements (including all the stuff about what happens to you if you don’t follow the rules). My study for the NASD exams consisted of taking one sample exam. I don’t recall my scores, but I had absolutely no problem passing and thought at the time that the minimal requirements New Jersey imposed didn’t make me feel comfortable that a state-qualified broker could give the best advice to the Aunt Bessies and Uncle Jakes of the world.

And now Primerica wants to make the tests easier? Insurance products have not become more straightforward in the last 25 years. If people can’t pass the tests, Primerica should change its recruiting so it attracts people who can. Primerica carps about an unsatisfied need because of the lack of brokers. The public, they say, is not being well-served.

If Primerica can’t attract people who can qualify under the current system, they need to change their ways. Perhaps they should look at their unique compensation structure that pays agents for bringing in other agents in addition to actually selling insurance products. Maybe if agent compensation was aligned with public needs, they would find qualified individuals, as their competitors do.

Oh, did I mention that if you want to join Primerica’s agent training program, it will cost you $99?

~ Jim

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