Teaching a Risky Business | Article

Two companies partner to enhance online education for insurance CE credits

Outsourcing TrainingInsurance is a commodity most of us love to hate and is generally perceived as a necessary evil at best. We hate to live with it but realize it’s too much of a risk to live without it. For our part, we policyholders hope to never need what we pay premiums for.

But what about the challenges faced by the insurance industry producers and underwriters? How should they price the premiums that provide the payoff pot should they have to make good on a claim? What qualifies as a “good” risk? In a soft insurance market, how can producers juggle the time demands of continually generating revenue while staying current with their continuing education (CE) credits?

All of these questions point to a growing need in the insurance industry: a method for insurance producers and underwriters to obtain the training they need without jeopardizing their ability to generate revenue. CEU.com and Educatingunderwriters.com are two online trainers that were founded to address this need. CEU is licensed to provide Web-based continuing education training for insurance professionals to obtain a professional designation–CPCU, CIC, CFC, CLU, ARM, RHU and the like in 22 states. Educating Underwriters provides specialized training for insurance underwriters via the Web and also provides scripts and enhanced instructional content for Web-based trainers. The two companies became partners when CEU, based in New Haven, CT, solicited Educating Underwriters, based in Batavia, IL, to supply online lecture content for some of the company’s online CE courses.

Continuing Education Challenge

Bob Eckert is one of the founders of CEU.com and a 15-year insurance professional. As an insurance producer, sales manager and, finally, trainer for The Hartford, Eckert saw the growing need to fashion a method for insurance producers to gain the necessary CE credits without it interfering with their ability to produce.

“The whole reason for founding CEU was that it’s cumbersome to get your CE credits. I’m a licensed producer, and the last time I had to renew my license I went away to a conference, was out of the office for four days and had to stay away from my family. And the training wasn’t even that great.”

Insurance producers work on commission and the time they spend getting CE credits is time not spent earning them. So the idea of founding CEU was to put quality training on the Internet so a producer could earn his or her CE credits any time. Quality content is essential in creating an effective Internet curriculum and Bob Eckert, who serves on CEU’s board of directors, was looking for experienced industry people with underwriting backgrounds who could teach online when he met Barbara Reardon, CEO of Educating Underwriters. “Barb’s perfect for that. She’s got a strong underwriting background and she writes well.” CEU contracted with Reardon to produce some online lectures.

Recognizing and Filling the Need

When the insurance market went soft 10 years ago, companies had to contract in order to save expenses. One of the first things to go was the training department. According to Reardon, underwriters were not getting the proper training necessary to keep insurers from writing bad risks. “Absolutely nobody is doing this for the underwriters,” Reardon says in explaining why she founded Educatingunderwriters.com. “What we do is desk skills. We’re talking about risk analysis. We’ve had such an emphasis on production that in the last 10 years we’ve bred underwriters that do not understand risks – they just understand pricing. And they are two different things.”

With 26 years of experience in commercial insurance underwriting – her last position was as vice president of commercial insurance at insurance giant CNA – Reardon has developed a keen insight into what training is necessary to develop a competent insurance underwriter. She says the key characteristics are an analytical and intuitive ability. “If you don’t like digging for clues and the tedium that comes with digging under every rock,” she warns, “you’re not going to necessarily like underwriting. If you like schmoozing with people and being out there golfing all the time, underwriting is not your game.”

Eckert agrees that there is an underwriters’ expertise vacuum. He says there is a need for people who know how to do risk analysis and sell quality products instead of just selling on price and giving 10 percent discounts. “I’m finding both producers and underwriters are coming back to school and saying, ‘I need to know how to sell product now. Help me analyze the risk and differentiate one product from another.'”

Finding the Right Fit

Having recognized the lack of quality training in the insurance marketplace, CEU took action to procure the appropriate course instruction. Educating Underwriters fit the bill because, though the content would be for insurance producers rather than underwriters, it was an expert in writing scripts for software. So the company produced three different training modules for CEU.

CEU’s contract with Educating Underwriters demonstrates its commitment to providing the best online content possible for producers to obtain CE accreditation, whether it is in-house or outside the company. Eckert has witnessed firsthand some poor examples of CE training and didn’t want to be found lacking.

“Some people think that CE is just a moneymaking scam for both the state and for the companies that produce the training,” Eckert says. “I went to this seminar and there were probably a hundred people in the room and at least half of them were in the back of the room reading the Wall Street Journal. They were just there for the credits. And among the other 50 people that were interested, there’s somebody who keeps asking really basic questions about things I’d learned 10 years ago. If I were online, I could say, ‘I know that already’ and move on.”

Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:

  • Outsourcing can be utilized in even the most unlikely of business processes like insurance training.
  • The key to a beneficial outsourcing experience is pinpointing the exact need and finding the right supplier to fulfill that need.
  • Outsourcing allows insurance producers and underwriters to obtain the training they need without jeopardizing their ability to generate revenue.
  • Supplier alliances allow both suppliers to use their strengths to create a strong offering.


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