Most people are familiar with the letters following a medical professional's name, which denotes both their profession and field of study. However, most people are not aware that insurance agents and financial professionals also have designations, which are indicated by an acronym.
In order to receive a professional designation, an insurance agent must complete one or more courses on the subject, pass an exam, and sometimes sign a code of ethics. Since most policyholders aren't aware of insurance agent designations or what they represent, most agents don't obtain their designations to impress clientele. Although many agents take these courses in order to further their knowledge of the products they sell, learning ways in which to better serve their customers is also a primary reason for receiving a designation.
Some agents also cite the benefits of networking and developing business relationships as excellent reasons to attend insurance professional designation courses. Since experienced and successful agents who have been in the industry for a long time teach many of the live classes, access to their knowledge and connections can be invaluable to an insurance agent who is relatively new.
Property and Casualty Insurance Designations
There are designations amongst all categories of insurance and financial professionals, and property and casualty insurance agents are no exception. Although the general public may not pay much attention to the letters after an insurance agent's name, it's a good idea to learn what the most common designation acronyms stand for. Since these designations indicate a particular area of insurance where an agent is especially knowledgeable, it can help a future policyholder determine which agent is most capable of understanding and meeting their insurance needs.
Most Common Designations
There are currently dozens of different designations that a licensed insurance agent can receive and more are being created every year. However, some are more common than others. Below, you will see some of the most popular agent designations and what they entail.
- CIC – Certified Insurance Counselor
This is one of the most popular designations, as it has been around for forty years. Not limited to just home and auto insurance, the CIC designation also covers commercial casualty and property insurance, life and health insurance, and agency management.
- CRM – Certified Risk Manager
Agents with this designation completed a course with a focus on analyzing, financing, controlling, identifying, and managing risks for organizations.
- ARM – Associate in Risk Management
As indicated by the name, ARM agents have a focus on risk management and may be able to identify and evaluate loss exposures more easily than an agent without this designation.
- AINS – Associate In General Insurance
This designation is becoming increasingly popular with agents since it offers three exam options and a range of flexibility. However, the focus of this course of study is to increase knowledge on standard property and liability insurance for both personal and commercial lines of insurance.
- AAI – Accredited Advisor in Insurance
An agent with the AAI designation has completed a course with focus on all facets of the Property and Casualty insurance industry. Unlike the aforementioned designations, an AAI course is extremely comprehensive as it covers underwriting and customer service in addition to most other aspects of Property and Casualty lines. This designation was created to give agency personnel a competitive edge in the P&C market.
- PLCS – Personal Lines Coverage Specialist
While some designations are created for more seasoned agents, the PLCS designation is designed for insurance agents who haven't been in the industry for long. This course strives to achieve mastery of all key topics pertaining to personal insurance lines such as auto or homeowners insurance.
Additional Designations to Consider
The most common agent designations tend to be popular because they cover a wide range of subjects. However, it isn't uncommon for an insurance producer to choose a course that will distinguish him or her by gaining knowledge on a particular niche subject.
- CISR – Certified Insurance Service Representative
An insurance producer with this designation is especially equipped to minimize risks and exposure to E&O claims (Errors and Omissions).
- AIS – Associate in Insurance Services
Unlike other designations which tend to focus on a particular section of writing property and casualty insurance, this designation trains agents on various aspects of customer service. Agents with an AIS may also have learned strategies for continuous improvement on their agency.
- AIC – Associate in Claims
This designation grants an agent knowledge on the technical aspects of claim handling as well as how to negotiate.
Life Insurance Designations
Many designations held by agents with life and health insurance are the same as those held by financial professionals since the two industries tend to have some overlap. End of life planning often means investing in financial products as well as life insurance, so a large portion of life insurance agents are equipped to offer both.
Most Common Designations
- CLU – Chartered Life Underwriter
With this designation, an agent has a special insight into how life insurance pertains to the economy, the operation and distribution systems of life insurance, and how to make safe and secure investments.
- LUTCF – Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow
Now defunct, having been replaced by the FSCP designation, a LUTCF was previously a highly sought after designation as it was rumored to increase agent earnings by forty percent. The LUTCF course combined product knowledge with planning concepts to help agents maximize their sales.
- CFP – Certified Financial Planner
Granted to both those in the financial industry as well as life insurance professionals, the CFP must complete their course, meet ethics requirements, and pay ongoing fees related to the certification.
Health Insurance Designations
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and health insurance marketplace, there are several new health insurance-related designations available to health insurance brokers. This is good news for agents and policyholders alike since these courses seek to further educate agents on the ever-evolving health insurance market.
Most Common Designations
- RHU – Registered Health Underwriter
One of the more comprehensive designations, insurance producers who have completed this course will have a broad knowledge of multiple aspects of the health insurance industry including but not limited to: Medicare, Medicaid, managed care plans, individual and group medical, and group dental and voluntary benefit plans.
- FHIAS – Professional, Health Insurance Advanced Studies
For seasoned insurance agents, the FHIAS designation may be appropriate. After completing the PHIAS (Professional, Health Insurance Advanced Studies) course, individuals may further their studies to gain an in-depth knowledge of healthcare products like long-term care, dental, Medicare, and disability.
- PAHM – Professional, Academy for Healthcare Management
This course is designed to cover the basic elements of health insurance plans as well as their functions. This will help students better understand products, health insurance providers, Medicare Advantage plans, and operational issues.
- ChHC – Chartered Healthcare Consultant
Agents looking to further their ability to counsel their clients may choose to obtain a ChHC designation. With completion of this course, agents will be better equipped to assist individuals and businesses who are considering their health insurance options.
- HCSA – Healthcare Customer Service Associate
This designation offers practical studies with proven strategies for managing customer service staff, and resolving customer service issues.
- HIA – Health Insurance Associate
One of the most popular health insurance related designations, this course covers a vast array of topics including coverage evaluation, underwriting, contracts, cost management, claims administration, government regulation, and fraud.
Additional Designations to Consider
- HCP – Healthcare Compliance Professional
Not available to just anyone, agents seeking this designation must hold a position that requires them to manage regulatory requirements set forth by the Affordable Care Act.
- FLHC – Fellow, Life and Health Claims
Experienced claims agents may choose to further their expertise in the field by obtaining the FLHC designation, which will provide them with a thorough understanding of how claim administration works in relation to group and individual coverages.
- GBA – Group Benefits Associate
Providing a focus on group health care and benefits, coursework for this designation covers various aspects of employee benefits related to healthcare and welfare.
- MHP – Managed Healthcare Professional
Agents who are seeking or currently hold a management position in health insurance are eligible to pursue the MHP designation. Doing so will help these individuals learn more about the organizational makeup and management roles of managed care.
Business and Commercial Insurance Designations
Although commercial insurance is part of the property and casualty insurance classification, it has a distinct set of products and risks that are unique to this line of insurance. As such, there are designations created to help further the knowledge of agents who specialize in or frequently write commercial and business lines of insurance.
Most Common Designations
- CPCU – Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter
This designation helps agents further their knowledge in the field of commercial insurance by covering a broad range of subjects pertaining to business insurance.
- CLCS – Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist
Although some seasoned agents may pursue this designation, it was created for producers who are new to the industry. This is a comprehensive program that covers many aspects of writing commercial lines.
Most business professionals want to do whatever is necessary to be successful. In the insurance industry, this is especially true since there are a wide range of designations to help agents further their knowledge of their products, their business, and the risks their clients are exposed to. Although some agents may spend the time and money on a designation simply for bragging rights or because it looks good on a business card, the majority of agents obtain designations to become better insurance producers. With a little research, policyholders can find the right insurance agent for their needs by doing a little digging to find what, if any, designations their agent currently holds.