The Importance of an Insurance Designation/Certification

By Brett Gerger, Big I Illinois Director of Education & Agency Operations

There are a litany of designations to choose from in the insurance industry such as CPCU, CLU, CIC, CISR, REBC, FLMI, AIS, AIC, AINS, ALMI, ALB, ACS, WCS, AAI, AU... just name a few. Certifications are typically extremely narrow in their context, such as Workers’ Compensation Specialist Certification, which focuses on Workers’ Compensation. Designations are typically broad in their scope, such as the Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), Charted Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), as well as the Charted Life Underwriter designations. In this article, I will focus on the CIC, Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR) and CPCU.

In my 20+ years as a regulator, I was involved in over a thousand agent investigations. I never came across a CIC or CISR designee and came across less than a handful of CPCU designees (none of which resulted in any significant action). In my dealings with agents, the individuals that hold these designations are typically more dedicated and focused as the CPCU, CIC, and CISR designations involve a higher level of commitment that is, in my opinion, the equivalence of earning a master’s degree in insurance.

While obtaining these designations is intensive and time-consuming, I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Some benefits that I see are:

  • your resume will get more serious consideration for employment opportunities;

  • you can typically garner higher wages;

  • people will look to you for advice in those areas as people are well aware of the commitment that you have put forth;

  • you will gain invaluable product knowledge that your competitors may not have. I personally like to have my taxes done by a CPA and not an accountant. As the CPA has gained valuable knowledge throughout the process in achieving that CPA designation, just like an agent would earning their CIC, CISR, and CPCU designations.

The biggest negatives of designations are time and cost. Employers will often pay all or a portion of the classes as long as you produce a passing grade. The IIA of IL offers scholarships in some instances. As for time commitment, it ends up being well worth it once you have obtained that designation and can sign those letters behind your signature. Is every designation worth the time and cost?

I would say, “No.” However, the three that I highlight in this article, CIC, CPCU, and CISR, seem to be well worth the effort. If someone told you that you could increase your worth to your clients exponentially, increase your commission 25%+, and be more credible to your peers for a 6-18 month commitment, would you do it? I would think, and hope, that the answer would be yes. There is never enough time to do anything in today’s world, but we always seem to find the time if the endeavor is important.

My question to myself in any situation is, “do I add value?” If not, why do it? It has never been more prevalent in our industry that we have to add value or the client will just go down the street, to the internet, or not purchase at all. Designations are an easy way to add value as the information learned during class from the course materials, instructors, and classmates is invaluable. The information gleaned from these settings allows you to really become that five-tool player (baseball analogy) or swiss army knife (Brett analogy) for your clients. I think that what sets you apart from your competitors is your knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge to any given situation. Look around at the people you admire and respect in this industry, and my bet is that most of them hold a designation or two or four. I know most of mine hold designations.

I asked some designees on the agent side and the company side of their thoughts, and the recurring theme was the knowledge they gained from their designations was invaluable. It was more about what they learned throughout the process rather than the designation. The other aspect I think that gets overlooked in this process

is the networking opportunities with other agents as well as company personnel that are going through the process with you. The designees that I talked to all encourage their peers, coworkers, and employees to seek designations. One indicated that their commissions have increased 30% since obtaining their designations. It appears to them and me that their return on investment has been worth the time and effort. All of the individuals I spoke with for the article are very successful in this industry at what they do. Is it because they have a designation? I would say that it is a part of it, but more importantly, I would say that it is due to their insatiable thirst for knowledge.

In processing the whole pros and cons of this do I get a designation or don’t I get a designation, I determined that I do not want to be standing in a group of my peers and be the only one without LETTERS behind my name anymore. This endeavor is important, so I will find the time. Therefore, I have decided to pursue my CIC designation starting in March 2021. I would encourage all those on the fence to join me on this journey.

As always, this is just Brett’s 2 Sense, and I hope it was helpful. If you need any clarification or have any suggestions for future articles, please email me.

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The Importance of an Insurance Designation