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Don’t Forget Your Continuing Education Requirements!    It’s Part of Your Transition and Business Plan - 02/12/2009

By J. William “Bill” Cooley

Transitioning to independence is a huge challenge. Then, after you successful transition, you have the numerous challenges of running your business on a day-to-day basis. So, with all of the many details to take care of, how do you manage to stay on top of your CE credits?

First, before I put the cart before the horse, let’s discuss some important basics:

For insurance continuing education, you know, your CE credits are tied to your insurance license. So no matter where you go---if you change firms---you don’t lose any of your credits. Here is the issue, however, with insurance credits. If your renewal fees were paid by your previous firm, as an independent you may now have to pay for your state fees. For example, if you are with a major wirehouse and then you move to an independent B/D they may or may not pay your license renewal fees. If you transition to an independent who does not pay your fees, contact your state dept of insurance and give them your home address so they can send you renewal forms.

Now, the same is true for CFP, CLU, ChFC, and any designation licenses that you may hold. Securities licenses are different. If you complete your firm element securities CE with a firm and you transfer to a new firm, you  may or may not (depending once again upon the firm) have to complete a second set of firm element requirements specific to your new firm.For example, let’s say that on      July 15 you complete  your firm element requirement while at your previous firm (major wirehouse)  and then you go independent Aug 1, you will probably  have to complete the new independent B/D firm’s element requirements before the end of that same year.

But, it varies from firm to firm. Some firms will say, “ok you have done your firm element already with XYZ wirehouse and you don’t  need to do it with us.” But then some will say, “ it doesn’t matter you still have to do it with us.” 

So, here is what I recommend:  Ask your new indy firm if they will waive your firm element requirements for the year in which you transition. That should be part of the upfront negotiations when moving. Of course, if you are leaving to become an RIA you are dropping your securities license and so there is no requirement for that. However, if you are considering the popular “hybrid” advisor model---part fee, part commission---then the sale rules apply as if you were with a major retail B/D.    

It’s also prudent, as an advisor with an CFP, CLU CHFC, CIMA, that you should choose a CE provider that is nationwide approved, so after you move you can still continue to use that providerA CE provider must have all of the state-specific required courses for each and every state. For example:      Nevada now requires a 3-hour ethics course. Does your new firm have the content creation capability to offer the courses prior to your renewal?  If they don’t and you need an ethics requirement, you may not realize it. So what happens is, if you don’t take all of your CE, you either suffer a fine or you don’t get to renew your license.

Staying on Top of the Details: Time-Savers

I am sure you, as many other advisors, have time management challenges, and it is especially evident when transitioning, as I mentioned at first. You already know the various ways to save time, be more efficient, and try to maintain your business while providing excellent client service. Sometimes the CE is put on the back burner, and sometimes you just plain forget.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own personal “tracker” and “reminder” service so that your important CE requirements do not stay on the back burner until it is too late?

Of course, it would be. Your CE provider should be able to track completions, courses in progress, and purchases for you. So no matter where you are in the world you should have the opportunity to go online and access your CE activities, and to confirm what needs to be done next. Check with your provider to see if they have this type of service available. We have a system called Alarm Technology and any advisor on the system is notified nine, six, three, and one month before their license renewal as reminder service.

In financial services time is money. Ask yourself these questions:Is my CE provider making it easy for me to complete your CE credits?      If not, how much money am I losing by wasting an extra two to five hours on my CE? What would I rather do with that extra two to five hours? Play a round of golf? Go home and spend extra time with the family? Meet with a new HNW client? It also goes without saying that taking your tests online saves a lot of time and money, too.  

Also, your new firm should be helping you with transitioning which usually includes assistance with paperwork.. While you are doing your due diligence on the various B/Ds before you transition over, check to see if they have an admin staff who helps with the paperwork and remember to ask who they currently use or recommend for CE providers. That will give you some insight into whether they value their advisors’ time. If they recommend a clunky, out-of-date or non-nationwide approved firm, you might want to talk to them about that aspect of their services.

And last, but not least, your CE activities should be a part of your annual business plan. Not just to remind you that it has to be done, but if don’t have your CE you can’t renew your license and then you are out of business, and don’t need a plan!!  You then need to write an “out of business” plan!!##

Editor’s Note: Ask your firm if it provides CE credit cards or vouchers.  Your wholesaler may offer them as well. Mr. Cooley told us that many firms, such as Lincoln Financial, offer the SuccessCE cards and vouchers to their advisors.