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Licenses, Equivalencies, and Exams

Posted By Thom Young, December 16, 2015

Licenses, Equivalencies, and Exams

As a member of the General Insurance Council, I’ve spent a lot of time recently with issues surrounding this topic. I’ve been sitting on sub-committees for issues related to marking equivalencies for license levels 1, 2 and 3. Decisions have been made and sent to the Superintendent’s Office to prepare amendments to the regulations. Amendments to the regulatory standards are not easy to achieve. The many dynamics in the process include political review and oversight. Each step of the process is painfully slow.

You might wonder why this matter wasn’t addressed with the license regulation revisions that put into play new rules for each of these license levels. Well, I can only note that I wasn’t on the council when this occurred. It’s as much a mystery to me as it is to you. I’ve been arguing within the industry and with the regulator for about 15 years on the need for regulatory recognition of educational achievements in industry and academic courses. If people invest their time and effort to achieve professional recognition in a standard that far exceeds (my opinion here) the bar set by the regulator, they shouldn’t need to prove that knowledge to the regulator as long as the industry approves of the standard and, particularly, if the industry operates a recognized professional educational program designed to set the students above the norm. I’ve always lobbied for Alberta to be a leader in these areas but, ironically, the initiative did not arise in Alberta until these courses got the regulatory nod in other jurisdictions. Did I mention that this process is painfully slow and tempered by competing interests and different points of view? The General Insurance Council has agreed to equivalencies for Licensing Levels 1, 2, and 3 in CAIB and CIP courses. Now we await the regulation adjustments that will provide options for the AIC exams and the industry course exams. When you get your memo on this issue from the AIC, I would encourage you to talk to your association representatives on any matters that concern you and ask them to carry your concerns forward to the regulator. As with all group efforts, much of what has been achieved is a compromise of perspective, and that’s sure to annoy as many people as it pleases.

The AIC exam issue continues to confuse and evolve to new standards. A committee of academics and GIC members has reviewed the curriculum from which the exams are prepared and, in consultation with industry stakeholders and educators, agreement has been reached on the Level 1 curriculum. Educators will now be able to prepare a course of study to help students pass the exam. The curriculum design document for Level 1 License exams can now be viewed on the AIC website. This document contains the topics for study and the weight of the questions by category. The bugaboo about “soft-skill” questions has been addressed by removing all of these types of questions. (As the pass on these questions was better than that in most other sections, we hope that this change doesn’t cause a drop in pass rates.) The major emphasis in the exam is on insurance technical knowledge—where many believe it should be. If we devote the majority of teaching/studying time to this subject, pass rates should greatly improve. Technical knowledge was a struggle even before the changes to the exams and will continue to be for the Level 1 and 2 exams after the coming changes. Please look for the AIC information releases on its website and in the mailings being distributed. The details here are not an official update on these matters, but simply general terms from my own perspective.

The Licensing Level 3 examination is currently under review. Along with the many schools of thought on the form and content of the examination, some even question the need to pass an exam to qualify for a Level 3 License. At the present time, to become a Level 3 broker you are required to hold a Level 2 License for a two- year period. At Level 2, the highest technical components of knowledge are tested, and the technical duties and authorities of the Level 2 License holder, as well as the representations of insurance matters to the public, have no limit other than the regulatory requirement to work under the supervision of a Level 3 License holder. The Level 2 agent is required to understand the regulatory and licensing issues completely. The required knowledge is not exceeded by a Level 3 agent. The single difference is the Level 3’s duty to endorse the applications personally within an agency or brokerage for License 1 and 2 employees. Understanding insurance-based ethical and professional responsibilities of a broker are fully required of a Level 1 License holder and tested. The test of this component is no different for any license level, so why are we retesting it? That leaves a Level 3 agent with administrative issues that may well be necessary to manage any business properly, but should the regulator be testing business knowledge or acumen before granting a permit to start a business? Is that the role of the insurance regulator? Does doing so provide any additional protection to the buying public?

No bar is set for any other business or profession that limits entry to the competitive practice of the profession. I cannot reconcile with the history of business the requirement that those with the capital needed to start a business, the confidence of their suppliers to endorse and sponsor their application for a Level 3 License, and the technical knowledge of the craft needs to be tested to obtain the right to compete. So far as I can recall, not a single example of disservice to the public under any provision of the Insurance Act has been linked to a person’s inability to run a business properly. Nor can anything be properly tested that will provide further assurances to the public that people starting any kind of business will be successful in this regard.

The problem with setting a bar to entry in any business is it limits the free flow of capital that drives new initiatives and adds an additional bureaucratic step that complicates the process of succession. There’s much more to discuss and debate on this topic, but I'm going to stop here. Let me know if you’ve any thoughts. I’d be happy to represent them for you in my role on the General Insurance Council.

Wrapping up this topic, I should note that the new Level 1 exams will be coming into play early in the new year. With the clearer and more concise curriculum design outline, success in training new entrants into our business should improve substantially. The implementation timing for Levels 2 and 3 is being driven by a sense of urgency, but the wheels of progress turn slowly when trying to appease so many perspectives. Deadlines were pushed back once because, at the 11th hour in the Level 1 review, a letter from an industry association was received that resulted in the entire process being revisited. I can’t deny that the review produced a better outcome, but I can observe that it could have been delivered in a more timely fashion. The process continues!

Here Comes Santa … and All That Stuff

Another year is just about over, and all the little ones are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Christmas morning hoping they get the gifts they have asked for. For some, this is the most wonderful time of the year. For others in need, not so much. Imagine that the premise of the whole celebration is to share with each other the treasures we have. These treasures are not distributed equally though. We have the power to make a difference in the world. A dollar to the food bank, a hamper in the food-bank box at the grocery store, $20 dropped for the Sally Ann. Wish someone a Merry Christmas. Sing a Christmas carol with a little one. Never underestimate the power of caring—the single most important act you can do to both improve your life and someone else’s. It’s contagious, so pass it on.

I hope these holidays find you surrounded by friends and family within ear of young children playing and laughing and that you have to suffer through a meal’s blessing given by an old person glad to have the floor for the occasion of it. May these things give you joy and make you happy for the good things in your life. In my life, I count each of these moments as special and hope to encourage others to find the enjoyment as I do.

For those who don’t share the Christmas tradition, all the fuss we make of it must be interesting to you. I hope you find the joy in our message that is also to you: Peace on earth and good will to all!

See you all next year!

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

Tags:  Alberta Insurance Council  CAIB  CIP  General Insurance Council  licensing courses and exams  Licensing Level 1  Licensing Level 2  Licensing Level 3 

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