1/30/2008

Are You Certifiable?

A breakdown of the top claims certifications and designations

By Michael W. Kay, CPCU, AIC

Some days you may feel like you have more on your plate than you can handle and you just may end up in a padded room. Other days, you’re on top of the world and handling claims like a champ. The key to staying on top in this business and not losing your mind is simple—knowledge.

Knowledge is power and generally you procure it in two ways—by study and experience. More simply put, knowledge consists of book smarts and hands on experience. With the growing concern in the insurance industry about the perpetuation of experienced adjusters, what can be done today to prepare for the future? And, how can you make sure that you and your team are adding knowledge and value to improve service while maintaining the necessary numbers of experienced adjusters to meet the need?

There is no other way to get hands on experience than to simply do the job. Young or new adjusters should not only make the most of the opportunities within their job scope but also seek out every option available to increase their on-the-job experience and enrich their practical knowledge—whether in the field or at their desks.

Even if you’ve been to college, continuing education is critical and should be ongoing. Notoriously crunched for time, claims professionals are being challenged every year to handle more claims in the same time period.

While attending courses to attain a certification/designation or sending your staff out of the office can seem counter productive, nothing could be further from the truth. Studies have shown and experienced managers will attest to the fact that both money and time are saved when adjusters have the knowledge they need to assess their claims quickly and accurately. Crucial time is often wasted when uncertainty and error enter the mix. And with those two present, a bad faith claim may be close behind.

Clearly the industry is one that begs for ongoing study and learning—especially if you want to stay sane in this exciting yet crazy business. For the individual, consider furthering your education, pursue certifications and designations. Opportunities abound for the well-rounded adjuster now and in the future.

For the manager, assess your team’s skill levels and make sure your top performers get time out of the office to obtain the education they need to handle their current job and the one you will give them tomorrow.

Following is an overview of some of the most common certifications and designations pursued by property and casualty insurance adjusters:

CPCU — Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter
More than 60,000 people have earned the CPCU professional designation. They are claim adjusters, underwriters, risk managers, brokers, agents, regulators, consultants, attorneys and educators. CPCU is respected as the premier designation in property-casualty insurance, and holding this designation immediately identifies you as a knowledgeable and dedicated professional.

The program focuses on the legal, financial, and operational aspects of risk management and insurance, as well as on financial services; reflects the current business environment; and provides a broad understanding of property-casualty insurance. You’ll learn skills that you can put to work immediately, distinguish yourself from your peers and show you are committed to professionalism in your field. Earn the respect accorded people who hold the designation. For more information, visit www.aicpcu.org

SCLA — Senior Claim Law Associate
The ultimate designation a claims professional can earn from the American Educational Institute is the Senior Claim Law Associate (SCLA). The SCLA is achieved by completing the Legal Principles program and three of the other five AEI programs: Liability, Property, Workers’ Compensation, Automobile Claims and Coverage, and Claims Fraud Investigation and Defense. After earning the SCLA, a student goes on to complete a fifth program earns the SCLA Silver Award. By completing a sixth program, a student earns the SCLA Gold Award.

The SCLA designation and awards provide students with well deserved recognition for having met the requirements of one or more of AEI’s comprehensive claims law programs. Furthermore, by earning an AEI designation, a student becomes eligible to join the Society of Claim Law Associates, an organization dedicated to claims education and professionalism. For more information, visit www.aeiclaimslaw.com

AIC — Associate in Claims Program
Claim professionals handle a wide variety of claims, including property, auto, workers compensation and bodily injury claims. Earning the AIC designation can improve your technical claim handling abilities as well as your communication and negotiation skills. You can take the standard multiline approach, which covers personal lines as well as commercial lines property and liability, or you can choose among four specialty paths if one of them would better suit your career needs.

The AIC program was developed with the technical and financial assistance of the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters. Many companies use it as an official part of their claims training programs. For more information, visit www.aicpcu.org

INS — Program in General Insurance
The Program in General Insurance (INS) provides a solid foundation on which to build your career in insurance. The courses for this designation cover insurance principles, practices and policies in depth. Completing the INS program can enhance future career opportunities and help you do your current job better. Passing the three national INS exams earns the Certificate in General Insurance. Although INS teaches you the fundamentals, it assumes some basic knowledge of insurance. For more information, visit www.aicpcu.org

RPA — Registered Professional Adjusters
The Society of Registered Professional Adjusters establishes and administers the sophisticated criteria by which professional claims adjusters can qualify to receive the RPA designation, which formally recognizes their professional achievements in education, professional ethics and years of service. Professional adjusters are awarded the RPA designation after a set minimum number of years of service. They also must successfully complete a number of yearly continuing education courses and pass a highly sophisticated, professionally administered comprehensive three-hour examination.

For RPA members, they gain a professional designation valid in the eyes of the insurance industry; a benchmark for competency in claim/loss adjusting; a secure a path for achieving professional status; a portable, validated work and education history of individual achievements, cataloging the adjusters’ educational history and experience with multiple employers; and leverage to seek advancement, increased compensation and better assignments from their employer.

For employers, the RPA system can validate education and work history of an experienced adjuster; provide an alternative method to train and employ a number of high-end adjusters; provide a method to catalog and administer the educational accomplishments of employees and a cost-effective alternative to internal continuing education programs. For more information, visit www.rpa-adjuster.com

More AEI Designations
Specialist designations are earned upon completion of any individual AEI claims law program. Associate designations are earned when a student completes the Legal Principles program in conjunction with any other AEI claims law program. For example, by completing the Liability program, a student earns the Casualty Claim Law Specialist designation. By completing the Legal Principles program and the Liability program, a student earns the Casualty Claim Law Associate designation.

ACLS and ACLA — Automobile Claim Law Specialist, Associate
Students earn the ACLS designation by first completing the Automobile program. They then earn the ACLA designation by completing the Legal Principles program.

CCLS and CCLA — Casualty Claim Law Specialist, Associate
Students earn the CCLS designation by first completing the Liability program. They then earn the CCLA designation by completing the Legal Principles program.

FCLS and FCLA — Fraud Claim Law Specialist, Associate
Students earn the FCLS designation by first completing the Fraud program. They then earn the FCLA designation by completing the Legal Principles program.

LPCS — Legal Principles Claim Specialist
Students earn this designation when they complete the Legal Principles program first.

PCLS and PCLA — Property Claim Law Specialist, Associate
Students earn the PCLS designation by first completing the Property program. They then earn the PCLA designation by completing the Legal Principles program.

WCLS and WCLA — Workers’ Compensation Claim Law Specialist, Associate
Students earn the WCLS designation by first completing the Workers’ Compensation program. They then earn the WCLA by completing the Legal Principles program. For more information, visit www.aeiclaimslaw.com

ARe — Associate in Reinsurance
The designation’s new curriculum features electives to let you tailor your study and a contemporary reinsurance readings course. You will gain an enhanced understanding of reinsurance terms and pricing, reinsurance treaties and facultative certificates. You will also develop the necessary skills to design a reinsurance program. If you are a reinsurance professional working outside the U.S., earning the ARe designation can help you to better understand the U.S. market. For more information, visit www.aicpcu.org

ARM — Associate in Risk Management & ARM-P — Associate in Risk Management for Public Entities
Each day, your organization faces risks related to corporate governance, cyber-liability, terrorism, workers’ compensation and more. And, ever-increasing regulations and litigation only compound these risks.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, in its 2005 Global Insurance Industry Outlook, observes that insurance companies that can practice proactive, integrated risk management are better able to “not only satisfy regulatory requirements but also generate substantial business benefits through improved management of capital and increased shareholder value.” The ARM program is designed to help companies develop the needed personnel to meet these goals.

The Insurance Institute of America’s newly revised Associate in Risk Management (ARM) designation program will teach your employees the practical, relevant skills they need to help manage risk at all levels of your company. The new ARM program teaches the indepth knowledge needed to assess and respond to the numerous hazard risks your company faces. ARM helps employees to: build a strong foundation in the science of risk management; gain practical skills to avoid, reduce and manage risk; and learn to adapt those skills to meet changing needs. For more information, visit www.aicpcu.org

CRM — Certified Risk Managers International
A CRM designation is visible confirmation of your professionalism. It demonstrates that you are knowledgeable in all areas of managing risks, hazards and exposures; that you have a commitment to continuing excellence; and that you have what it takes to scale one of the risk management industry’s most demanding heights.

The CRM Program gives you indepth knowledge about today’s highest priorities such as identifying, analyzing, controlling, financing and administering operational risks, as well as political risks, catastrophic loss exposures, third-party exposures, fiduciary exposures, employee injury exposures, juridical risks, legal risks and more—whether insurable or not. The skills you learn will make you more proactive and valuable to your organization in discovering how risks can interrupt the flow of earnings and how to protect against it. For more information, visit www.scic.com

This was just a brief overview of the most common certifications and designations available to claims professionals. For more information and for a comprehensive list of the many other industry certifications, visit www.claimsadvisor.com/certify

Michael W. Kay, CPCU, AIC is the vice president for Editorial & Online Services at Nationwide Publishing Company, LLC. He has 15 years experience in the claims industry and is author of the Claims Intelligence Report. Kay can be reached at mkay@claimspages.com.



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