Updated: Apr 14
I have a LOT of agents and advisors that read my blog. They benefit from the perspective and learning I've done in my professional financial services career.
Sometimes the questions come up:
"Which agency should I join?"
"Which licenses should I get?"
"Should I pursue designations?"
And, unfortunately, there's more to these questions than just building a career. It's also navigating the obstacles that each of these questions brings into the success equation.
"Which agency should I join?"
Let me first put out the obvious information here: If I was with a captive agency, I could not have this website, this blog, or my social media pages. (Okay, I *could* have them, but they would be tightly regulated.) Why not? Compliance oversight.
Compliance exists to protect large name-brand firms from scandals.
Compliance generally works to protect the firm by imposing certain standards of conduct across the board. A by-product of this compliance oversight is that they also work to protect consumers, and agents/advisors are on the bottom of the list.
But it's HOW compliance works that I have an issue with. I recently talked with a friend of mine who was with a large agency. He had asked for compliance approval to distribute a common "I am your life insurance policy" poem to new policyholders. This poem here: https://www.dynamicadvancedwealth.com/post/who-am-i
Compliance rejected it!
That makes absolutely no sense to me! There's nothing wrong with such a message, but compliance didn't approve of it???
It's as if compliance are the 'smart people and authority' and you get to ask permission to do anything! But if there's anything 'out of the ordinary'... you have to ask for OUR judgment, rather than using your own.
"What licenses should I get?"
This question also directly ties into the previous question. If you think compliance can be tough on their insurance-only licensed professionals... try getting a Series 6 or a Series 7 license. It's FAR more intensive.
Again, if we have our own common sense to not put something stupid in writing, we should be fine - such as rates, returns, performance promises, or product details. However, they want control over everything you do and say. Why? Because of regulatory oversight by FINRA. Big firms are more afraid of regulators than they are of helping agents and advisors do a better job for their clients. At least, that's what *I* think. And I'm certainly not alone. Now, I don't necessarily agree with everything Jeff Rose says, but he was certainly in a similar situation.
"Should I pursue designations?"
I am a big proponent of more advanced education so that financial professionals can better serve their clients. This is the purest reason for pursuing higher specialized education. Here's the problem: The most prominent financial certification (the CFP) has its own practice standards. They want to be an SRO (self-regulatory organization) for the financial planning profession. As such, the regulate their voluntary designees as though they are trying to "save the consumers from abusive practices" by promoting "the gold standard" of financial planning. By the way, these additional practice standards also increase the advisor's liability as well as the firm's liability. I wouldn't touch either of those. Either I have the quality professional judgment to advise my clients... or I don't. What does my business model look like today?
Insurance: Today, I am an independent life insurance and annuity agent. I am independent so that I can do what I want... within the law, rather than just what some compliance person tells me I can and cannot do. I know "What stupid is and stupid does." And I do not plan to do anything that would cause me to lose this freedom. Securities: Since I originally wrote this article, I now offer investment advisor services through an RIA firm. The compliance standards are less than those with a broker/dealer because of the fee-based compensation arrangements, rather than selling securities for commissions. With these kinds of firms, I wouldn't lose my freedom of writing blog posts, etc. (Although I would have to arrange to archive everything for further review in the event of an SEC audit or inspection.)
Designations: I am proud to hold both the CLU advanced life insurance designation and the ChFC advanced financial planning designation from The American College. I am also proud to hold the RFC® professional designation offered by the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants. The educational requirements for the ChFC are very similar to the CFP, but I am held to a code of ethical conduct by both The American College and the IARFC, not some other arbitrary practice standard imposed by some regulator that wants to make a name for themselves.
In essence, I'm "on strike" from these other intolerable forms of doing business.
I worked within these organizations in the past because I wanted to learn. Today, I know my profession... and I don't need these "babysitters". I know the laws, rules, and regulations, and I am a true professional that doesn't need any "handholding" anymore.
Now, if any of my opinions or ideas are not correct or truthful, please contact me about it. I've been contacted a couple of times, learned something new, and adjusted my content accordingly. But I won't go to a company that will silence me because it doesn't fit in with their agenda.
Consider this clip from the book and movie Atlas Shrugged Part 1 by Ayn Rand. Hank Rearden, who produced a new kind of metal, is being politically pressured to stop production of his product. The political pressure is also slandering Rearden Metal.
Why did they do this? For political power purposes. They are afraid of losing power to those who command a lot of economic success. Consider this quote: "If Rearden Metal is NOT good, it's a physical danger. If Rearden Metal IS good, it's a social danger."
What does this have to do with insurance and financial advice? It has to do with compliance overreach. Show me where anything is wrong in my blogs, and I'll research it and update it as I learn more. Otherwise, it's my old favorite phrase "Lead, follow, or get out of my way."
However, if what I do is determined to be a social danger... well, Hank Rearden stood up to the political powers working against him:
(I just like posting these video clips! lol.)
Continuing in the book and movie of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, true value producers value their own mind and judgment, rather than those who want to impose THEIR ideas, morals, and ethics on other professionals. I always believed the professionals are professionals based on their training, not just that they get paid for doing a given task.
Advice for agents & advisors: I would NOT "go independent" until you have a solid foundation of knowledge so you can know "what stupid is and what stupid does." It would be dangerous for new agents & advisors to have too much freedom because they won't know what they should and shouldn't do. But eventually, it might make sense to leave? That's always an individual decision. I determined that *I* did my own research. *I* sought my training from outside sources. *I* saw various compliance people as an obstacle to what I wanted to do - legally, morally, and ethically. And I could *earn more* with an independent contract and *do more* with the additional freedom. The choice became more and more clear. I didn't ask for THEM to "get out of my way". I simply left and found the other path that allows for the freedom I desired.