Compared to licensed real estate sales agents, insurance professionals are required to spend much less time in the classroom to meet licensure and re-licensure requirements.
However, if Senate Bill 2423 passes, some insurance professionals will need less continuing education and others will be mandated to take certain classes.
The legislation would require property and casualty insurance producers to study flood insurance while exempting from continuing education insurance agents who are 65 years or older and have held an agent’s license for at least a decade.
“National legislation was passed in the last year or so that essentially requires states to mandate agents selling flood insurance to obtain some flood training,” said Charity Wallace, director of education and communications for the 250-member Independent Insurance Agents of Mississippi (IIAM). “It was eventually coming down the road. The bill that’s really progressing requires only three hours every three years.”
IIAM president Richard Davis said property and casualty insurance producers “can’t get enough flood certification.”
“We completely support flood education,” he said.
Buddy Oliver, chairman of the legislative committee for the Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) of Mississippi, especially agrees with one aspect of the bill: allowing seasoned agents to bypass continuing education requirements.
“I’m 76 now and reached a point where so many of the continuing education classes are absolutely worthless,” he said. “However, if there’s a class that I feel will benefit me, I’ll take it whether it’s necessary or not. I think the majority of really professional-type agents feel that way.”
Pre-licensing education requirements for Mississippi agents include 12 hours of classroom study for insurance adjusters and 24 hours for agents selling life, health and accident, and property and casualty insurance. Agents are required to take 12 hours of credit in their primary field every year before their licenses can be renewed.
Online educational courses provided through PIA’s nationally sponsored program have gained in popularity over the last few years, said PIA of Mississippi executive director Ann Sturdivant.
“Most of them cost $39.95 for a 12-hour class, which is much cheaper than classroom instruction,” she said.
Wallace, whose IIAM group represents the largest association of its type in the state, said she hasn’t noticed a decline in seminar participation during the last several years. “I’m sure many people are using online courses — we’re beginning to offer more — but it hasn’t affected our numbers in the classroom,” she said. “We offer probably 25 different classes per year in various locations across the state. We recently met about adding a seminar on disaster planning and covering issues that arise following a disaster.”
IIAM usually charges members $50 for a three-hour course, and $70 to $80 for six hours of continuing education. Non-members may also enroll in the courses. “We bring in instructors from around the country as well as some local agents to conduct our seminars,” said Wallace.
Flood study excluded, Mississippi insurance commissioner George Dale doesn’t favor increasing continuing education requirements for licensed agents. “Continuing education is one of those things that sounds real good, but unless you have meaningful courses, it’s nothing but a waste of time,” he said. “Three or four years ago, we appointed an independent board (Continuing Education Board) to oversee this process. When it first started, people were teaching courses that didn’t know as much as those they were teaching, but that situation has improved considerably.”
Mississippi State University finance professor Ed Duett lauded Dale’s office for doing “an excellent job” of supervising licensure requirements. “In Mississippi, annual requirements for the insurance industry…are important for everyone to keep up with changes in regulations and trends and developments. Through programs at MSU, the various insurance organizations, PIA, IIAM, and NAIFA, agents have exposure to top speakers.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.