Preparing your 2021 Firm Element Training Program – Step Two: the Written Training Plan

Adam Schaub

Vice President, Platform Product Management

RegEd, Inc.

FINRA Rule 1240 requires each of its member firms to conduct an annual evaluation and prioritization of its registered persons’ training needs, develop a written training plan, and implement and track completion of that plan.  Our first article covered the Needs Analysis, and this article covers the second step, which is to develop your firm’s written training plan. 

Similar to our guidance on the Needs Analysis, if your prior year’s plan was successful, you can use that as your template for 2021.  If planning Firm Element is a new task for you, it is recommended that you create a framework that can be reused in subsequent years.  FINRA’s Guide to Continuing Education Requirements has a basic outline of the expected areas that must be addressed in the training plan. Also, keep in mind that FINRA expects that the results of your Needs Analysis be directly translated into your training plan, and so we recommend you revisit our prior article if you’ve not yet done step one.

Establishing an Objective

The first area that needs to be covered is the overall objective of the training program.  FINRA has given us a good start on what that objective needs to include.  Rule 1240 states that the Firm Element CE program is meant to enhance the securities knowledge, skill and professionalism of a firm’s registered persons, and must cover training in ethics and professional responsibility and the following matters regarding securities products, services, and strategies offered by your firm: 

  • General investment features and associated risk factors
  • Suitability and sales practice considerations
  • Applicable regulatory requirements

A few things to note here.  Clearly, these broad topics should be incorporated into the description of your program’s objective.  However, FINRA uses the phrasing that the plan “must be appropriate for the business of the member”, which is one of several indicators that FINRA has given that the plan needs to be specific to what is “offered by your firm” and “applicable” regulatory requirements.  In other words, FINRA’s expectation is that you are tailoring the plan to your specific rep base and business structure and not just a recitation of the bullet points listed in the rule.  This is where you will need to bring some level of focus to the types of products, services and strategies offered by your firm, and tie them back to the objectives listed above.

Knowledge or Skills to be Imparted

The second area listed in FINRA’s Guide, in combination with the results from your Needs Analysis will help with the above.  FINRA states that the training plan must address the “knowledge or skills to be imparted”, and your Needs Analysis has captured the list of knowledge and skill areas that have been identified as gaps, needs, or topics to be revisited with your representatives.  For example, you might explain that your firm is going to train on “General investment features and risk factors of mutual funds, as our rep base consists primarily of Series 6 representatives with 90% of our production in that product, along with feedback from our Needs Analysis that we have seen a gap in knowledge in breakpoints, which is an ongoing regulatory concern.” 

Laying out the Training Plan

Once you have provided a sufficient description of the training program objectives, the next section gets into the details of the actual plan.  There are many formats and structures that a training plan can take, and your firm’s learning/training/development department may have a standard template for you to use.  As such, we will not get into the format as much as we will be discussing what should be covered.  Also, keep in mind that FINRA does not indicate that the Needs Analysis and Written Training Plan must be two separate documents; however, if you do combine them you will need to make sure that there is clear delineation between the areas covered for each component.

The four areas that need to be detailed next center around what, who, how, and when:

  • What – the specific training programs or activities
  • Who – the classifications of individuals to receive training
  • How – the specific delivery mechanism and resources needed to conduct the training
  • When – the specific time scheduled for delivery

In some ways the “What” ties in to the “Who” and “How”, which is covered below in more detail.  However, the underlying purpose of this section is to explain the key areas that will be covered in the training program, as a result of the Objectives and Needs Analysis.  For example, if your firm has decided that due to regulatory focus and/or specific inquiries with your firm, that the regulators are focused on outside business activities, communications via digital/social media, and senior investors, you may assign a course for each of those specific topics.  On the other hand, if the result of your Needs Analysis is a heavy slant on products, then you might assign courses based on the specific products your firm offers, or if possible, based on the products sold by each rep.  The latter is more time intensive, but it paints a better picture to FINRA if a rep is getting specific training on the top three product types that he or she sells, rather than a broad course assignment.

Regarding product training, FINRA provides a list of topics that can be utilized to make sure the training material reasonably addresses specific Firm Element requirements such as:

  • Providing descriptive information regarding the general investment features of the products, services or strategies offered by the Firm
  • Basic techniques for pricing the products and services
  • A discussion of the applicable risk factors (business risk, interest rate risk, etc.) associated with the products and services
  • Any special product features which could impact liquidity, taxability, etc.
  • Product suitability for different types of investors
  • Meeting regulatory requirements including standards for communication

If you are going to require different groups to take different training, you will want to explain that here or within the “Who” section.  For example, perhaps you will you assign a supervision course to supervisors, account processing training to operations staff, and communications with the public content to sales persons.  Be aware that you are required to specifically address the training needs of supervisors.

Given the competition for your representatives’ time, you are limited to the amount of coursework you can assign.  The annual compliance session is where you can compensate and cover a lot more topics in an attempt to hit all of the important training areas and all of the areas identified in your Needs Analysis.  The annual compliance questionnaire can also serve as training on specific topics.  Detail in this section all of the specific areas that you intend to cover in your training.

You will also need to include any other training that your firm plans to conduct.  For example, if your firm has decided that Reg BI and Form CRS training will be an annual requirement, be sure to mention this in your training plan.  If you are conducting branch inspections and a component is a discussion of the importance of cybersecurity, leverage this training and include it in your training plan.

In addition to the above, your firm may have other training programs that are either mandatory or optional, and which may be ongoing or available only this year.  If these training programs cover any of the topics in your training needs or objectives, you should include them here as well.  Providing a description of all of the training that your representatives must or can take will help provide context of your training plan to FINRA.

FINRA does allow firms to count training that representatives undertake outside of the firm, such as CE required for the CFP or other designation that they hold.  If your firm chooses to count this training toward Firm Element, keep in mind that there is an accompanying burden of making sure that the training is related to securities and is related to topics deemed necessary by the Needs Analysis.  To assist in tracking, RegEd offers an “offline uploader” where you can track training that representatives do elsewhere, and it can also be used to track all of the in-person training that your firm does such as in-person compliance session completion information.

A couple other items to note.  First, you will want to include training on anti-money laundering and ethics.  The former is necessary, in particular if you have insurance-licensed representatives, the carriers will ask your firm for documentation that annual AML training has taken place.  Regarding ethics training, this is required as part of Rule 1240 and must be included.

For the “Who”, you’ve likely already included this information in the background section of your Needs Analysis.  You will now want to take the various categories of individuals that your firm has, and indicate if there are any particular training areas needed for each group, and why. 

Regarding the “How”, FINRA expects that the training plan will identify and incorporate the type of delivery vehicles or media used to execute the training, such as direct participation in the form of seminars and lectures, computer-based training, audio/video/internal broadcasts, independent study or internally generated materials, meeting, videos conferences and conference calls, mentor relationships and/or externally developed programs (for which the specific vendors should be listed).  FINRA’s expectation is that the training plan will be reasonable in relation to your firm’s size and resources.

For many firms, the specific training program activities are handled in some common ways.  Firms will provide their representatives with assigned coursework, through an outside vendor such as RegEd that creates, maintains and updates courses, or through internal sources.  The challenge with the latter is no stranger to compliance personnel – lack of time.  While the Compliance team has the knowledge of what needs to be included in the training, they typically do not have the time (nor the PowerPoint skills!) needed to create professional-grade training courses.  If your firm decides to do this internally, it is recommended you leverage your firm’s learning and development team.  FINRA’s Guide covers some examples of how the training material is to be utilized to reasonably address specific Firm Element requirements, which should be reviewed if your firm is going to create its own materials.

Annual Compliance Questionnaire

A second common component is an annual compliance questionnaire.  Some firms conduct these in person, and others will send out an electronic questionnaire.  The questionnaire typically serves multiple purposes.  First, it is a training vehicle in which firms ask their representatives to confirm their understanding of specific firm policies and procedures.  Second, the questionnaire serves as a data gathering tool to obtain information on a variety of topics, such as what designations a rep holds, a list of social media sites they are using, and so on.  Some firms also do a separate questionnaire at the branch level, to be completed by the “person-in-charge” on Form BR or otherwise.  RegEd has deep questionnaire functionality that can not only affirm policy understanding, but can gather information, and create and route tasks for follow-up by Compliance staff.

Annual Compliance Session

The third common component of a firm’s training program is the annual compliance session.  Many firms develop their own content, which is important because so much of the training needs to be focused on the specific needs of that firm’s representatives.  Based on firm specific needs, RegEd offers presentation content modules on investments, suitability, outside business activities, etc. that can be combined into an online compliance session.  Also, keep in mind however that the annual compliance session is required under Rule 3010(a)(7), and the expectation is that the Firm Element training should not be limited to compliance topics from the compliance session if there are product training needs. 

Many firms present the session in person, but given the current pandemic and representatives being geographic dispersed, the session is done online.  RegEd’s Annual Compliance Meeting On-Demand product meets all of the requirements outlined by FINRA in its Interpretive Letter regarding the use of on-demand webcasts for annual compliance meetings.

The “When” should not just include the date the training will first be made available and the due dates for each component, but an explanation of the ramifications for failure to complete the requirements.  Make sure to look at your firm’s calendar of events, as you’ll want to avoid due dates that coincide with your national conference or other events.  Also, consider the particular date that you will use as the due date and how firm you will be.  For example, if your firm uses a Friday as a due date, but you’re willing to give your reps a last warning on the due date, you’ll still give them the weekend to finish completion.  You’ll want to give your reps as long as possible to complete the training, but balance that with giving your compliance staff enough time at the end of the year to contact any ‘stragglers’ to get them to complete the training.

The plan will also need to explain who is in charge of not just creating and implementing the training plan, but who is responsible for tracking completion (and/or who it is delegated to).  RegEd can help drive reps toward completion through a landing page dashboard that highlights completion status and due dates, along with automated email reminders and on-demand completion reports.

Also, as part of the FINRA Interpretive Letter on webcast training, you need to provide your representatives with a mechanism to ask questions.  RegEd’s ACM On-Demand product has this functionality, which not only allows them to ask questions but to also provide feedback.  Feedback is the final area that FINRA expects firms to capture, in order to determine the program’s effectiveness and make any modifications as needed.  You can also capture feedback within your annual compliance questionnaire.

One last item to note, is to make sure your training plan has a discussion of what you did last year.  This is not just important in order to provide context to FINRA about this year’s plan, but also allows anyone reading the document to understand the continuity or changes in the plan from year-to-year.  Also, doing this and using the above framework will allow you to standardize your process and documentation, making it easier on you or whomever puts together your firm’s training plan in subsequent years.

Click here to view the full list, including descriptions, of RegEd’s new Firm Element Courses for 2021.

Meet the Author

Adam Schaub

Vice President, Platform Product Management

Adam has over 20 years of direct experience in financial services compliance. Prior to joining RegEd, Adam was Chief Compliance Officer leading the Compliance Services team at Avantax, formerly known as 1st Global, where he was responsible for overseeing CE, branch inspections, advertising, outside business activities, outside brokerage accounts, regulatory requests, licensing, and many other compliance areas.

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

Preparing your 2021 Firm Element Training Program – Step One: the Needs Analysis

Adam Schaub

Vice President, Platform Product Management

RegEd, Inc.

It is that time of year again when firms have wrapped up their 2020 CE programs and are ready to reflect and plan their 2021 programs.  For many firms, this entails dusting off of the 2020 Needs Analysis and Written Training Plan, and adjusting for the current year.  If planning Firm Element is a new task for you, it is recommended that you create a framework that can be reused in subsequent years.  FINRA’s Guide to Continuing Education Requirements has a basic outline of the expected areas that should be reviewed and considered by your firm.    In either scenario, this article and the resources available from RegEd can help you.  This article covers the first step, which is to prepare your Needs Analysis, which is an annual requirement under FINRA Rule 1240.

Updating Your Firm’s Background Information

The first area that needs to be covered in your Needs Analysis is (per FINRA’s Guide) “a description of your firm’s business, especially its size, organizational structure, and scope of business including the types of investment products or strategies offered (or planned to be offered) by the firm”.  This is one section that you will be able to reuse each year with minor modifications, such as inserting your current rep and branch office count.  A good starting point is to take content from your firm’s website, internal resources, recruiting materials, and FINRA membership agreement in order to describe the firm, its structure, its rep bases, the products it sells, and services it offers.  No need to start from scratch when the background info is likely already written and just needs to be customized and put in regulatory-friendly terms.

On that point, keep in mind that when writing the Needs Analysis you are writing to multiple audiences.  One key audience is FINRA, which will look to your Needs Analysis as the source document for your Written Training Plan (which is step 2 in the annual Firm Element process).  FINRA will look to make sure your plan incorporates the areas it has indicated are important, and so constructing your Needs Analysis document to clearly highlight the items in FINRA’s Guide can help make that part of a FINRA examination flow smoothly.

Describing Your Rep Base

With regard to writing the document in a regulatory-friendly manner, you will want to highlight any strengths of your reps, which can ultimately help you justify the specific training you assign to reps in the Written Training Plan.  The goal here is to give context to your Needs Analysis and plan.  For example, if you have data on the designations held by your reps, include that information as part of the background.  Indicating that 25% of your rep base holds the CFP designation, or that 75% of your reps hold one or more designations, will only help to demonstrate to FINRA the depth of the knowledge of your rep base.  You can include a breakdown of the number of reps that hold the Series 6 vs. the Series 7.  Also, FINRA expects firms to include feedback received from the Regulatory Element, and if your reps’ scores exceed those of the industry, be sure to include that information as well (and conversely, if your reps’ scores fall short of the industry, FINRA will expect you to address that point in your plan). If you have easy access to data, then it makes the process of adjusting this section of your Needs Analysis simple from year to year.

One other consideration for the background section is looking ahead to the training plan.  FINRA expects the training plan to consider the classifications of individuals to receive training, and so your background section should explain your business structure and the types of reps you have in your organization.  That may include Series 6 vs. 7, but may also have more nuanced distinctions such as whether your firm has reps that fully engage in the business vs. those that simply refer customers to other reps.  While both groups need to be trained, there may be different levels of training needs for each.  The same considerations may come into play if you have different business models at your firm, or internally, different departments that have different training needs.  Any or all of these groups may be subject to other training by the firm, and so this should also be highlighted because it provides good context to your overall training plan.

Market and Economic Environment Considerations

The next area in FINRA’s Guide pertains to a review and consideration of the market and economic environment.  Is the market experiencing large fluctuations on a day-to-day basis or a prolonged downturn?  If so, you may highlight this fact and denote the need for training on guiding clients through difficult market conditions.  Is the market going through the roof as part of an extended rally?  Then you may need to train on client communications in order to avoid exaggerated or promissory statements.  What is the interest rate environment and how might this affect the types of products your reps may sell and therefore need to be trained upon?  Beginning with this area and the ones that follow, you will want to keep a running list of potential topics, which you’ll find useful when we discuss the need to conduct a survey.

Legal and Regulatory Developments

One area where information is readily-available through external resources is with regard to current legal and regulatory developments.  The starting point here will be to review your primary regulators’ publications, including the SEC Exam Priorities Letter and the Report from FINRA on its Examination and Risk Monitoring Program, along with recent and relevant Notices and Investor Alerts.  These publications will give you a clear indication of the areas that the regulators are focusing on.  The association of state securities regulators (NASAA) has resources on its website, www.nasaa.org.  Also, review the Firm Element Advisory from the CE Council.  Review these sources and incorporate all areas of regulatory focus which pertain to your firm’s business and products.

Internal Trends and Considerations

FINRA expects that firms will review or consider trends of customer complaints, regulatory inquiries, arbitrations, litigations, or other forms of disciplinary proceedings involving anyone at the firm.   While FINRA expects firms to collect feedback and input from compliance, internal audit and legal personnel, this is one area where those groups will be reluctant to provide such information in a written format.  This information is best collected verbally from such personnel.  Furthermore, CCO’s will want to avoid putting detailed information on such trends and patterns in the formal Needs Analysis document, so instead you should include high level bullets of the types of items encountered, or just general (summary) information.  There is no need to place such information on a ‘silver platter’ for the regulators; rather, a determination of trends is legwork which they should undertake themselves.

In addition to getting feedback and input on critical training issues from legal and compliance, FINRA expects firms to also get feedback from trading, operations, management, and sales personnel.  This is where your list of market, economic, regulatory, and internal topics can be put to use by sending out a survey to all such parties, to request they provide insight as to which areas they believe need to be trained upon, along with any other areas they think need to be included.  It is helpful to provide lists of general industry topics, product types, financial planning topics, ethics, and other regulatory issues in order to gain an aggregated view of the training areas to be considered for training.  RegEd offers a turnkey Needs Analysis Questionnaire that can be rolled out to your internal stakeholders and reps to gather all of this information and more, which can also be customized to meet your firm’s specific needs.

Depending upon the size of your firm, it may not be practicable to survey your entire sales personnel population.  You might instead focus on surveying branch managers or sales supervisors.  If your firm does an Annual Compliance Questionnaire of your sales representatives, you may be able to use this as your proxy for a “survey”, as you can use the results of the ACQ to find areas where training needs reside.  For example, does your survey ask if the reps are aware that they must consider breakpoints and whether they understand how to calculate them and if so, what percentage of your reps answered “no”?

There is an expectation for a review or consideration of sales and marketing strategies for products and services, with attention to related potential suitability issues, product risk, and other regulatory concerns.  To gather this information, look through your firm’s internal website regarding communications to reps over the past year, where new products, new business lines, new procedures, or changes to any of the aforementioned items may be included.  New products and new business lines will likely have resulted in new sales and marketing strategies, which gets to the root of FINRA’s concern here.  You may also want to talk to or survey management, supervision, sales and sales support for this information, and to see if there has been a shift in product sales over the past year (if you don’t have access to easily-understandable data).

Finally, FINRA expects the use of performance reviews and business plans to identify development needs of individuals or groups of persons within your firm.  The former may be difficult to obtain (if it’s even accessible to you), but the latter can be a sourced from management or other parties which can give you insight into any future considerations (e.g., does the firm plan to offer a new product mid-year, such that you should include it in your training plan now?)

Once you’ve gathered this information, you can begin to fill in the sections of your Needs Analysis to demonstrate to FINRA that you’ve touched on all the areas that have been identified as part of the FINRA Guide.  You won’t want to stick purely to their framework, but doing so at a minimum gives you a good, comprehensive look at the areas that can drive your firm’s training needs.

Final Thoughts

A few final notes on constructing your Needs Analysis and training plan:  Make sure that you’re reviewing for changes in the rules related to CE.  It’s worth revisiting FINRA Rule 1240 to see if there have been any changes or new Notices that relate to CE.  Take a look at the overall regulatory framework to see if any other changes are forthcoming – a great example of this is that NASAA has issued a model rule related to IAR CE in November, 2020.  Depending upon your rep base, you may need to incorporate IAR training as part of your annual training plan.

Once your Needs Analysis is complete, you’ll have a better picture of the types of training your rep base needs.  For example, are there broad topics that were highly ranked in the survey and brought up in verbal feedback (e.g., dealing with senior investors), or are there concerns that your firm is seeing a pattern of complaints on particular product types therefore necessitating specific product training?  The Needs Analysis will be the source document for constructing your Written Training Plan, and by following the above steps, you will have a repeatable process and template to create continuity and consistency from year-to-year.

RegEd has the products and support that can help you collect the information for your Needs Analysis, and for the implementation of your training program.  We offer a Needs Analysis Questionnaire with hierarchy-based reporting, an extensive course catalog that can be tailored to the needs of each specific type, classification, rep or employee you have, an On-Demand Annual Compliance Session, and Annual Questionnaires.  RegEd understands that training programs for firms will vary in structure, timing, content, and audience, and offers the flexibility to help you successfully implement your training plan, no matter where your firm is on this spectrum.

Click here to view the full list, including descriptions, of RegEd’s new Firm Element Courses for 2021.

Meet the Author

Adam Schaub

Vice President, Platform Product Management

Adam has over 20 years of direct experience in financial services compliance. Prior to joining RegEd, Adam was Chief Compliance Officer leading the Compliance Services team at Avantax, formerly known as 1st Global, where he was responsible for overseeing CE, branch inspections, advertising, outside business activities, outside brokerage accounts, regulatory requests, licensing, and many other compliance areas.

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

L&R Operations and the Shift Toward Automation: Key Drivers

The Drivers of Automation

Managing licensing and registration operations means providing a high level of exceptional service to agents and producers against a challenging backdrop of fluctuating volumes, complex transactions, ever-changing regulations, and rigorous data and reporting demands. It requires extraordinary levels of efficiency and continuous assimilation of best practices. We take a look at the biggest drivers that propel insurers and distributors to implement advanced technology into their licensing operations.

Time to Market, User Satisfaction, and Reduced Risk

There are many drivers of automation in licensing and registration operations, but the most significant are the need for increased staff productivity and, as always, lower costs. Given the fierce competition for top talent within the industry, recruiting and retaining leading agents and registered reps and providing them with a positive, seamless onboarding and credentialing process that speeds their time to market is key. This can influence their choice to do business with a carrier. Also, with significant consolidation, insurers and distributors continue to expand their distribution channels, and they need a dependable way to scale their operations as they acquire new advisers.

As compliance grows more complex, automation can help to ensure successful processes. Proper agent and adviser credentialing and compliance goes well beyond licensing and appointments. It includes FINRA data and completion of mandated state training, such as long-term care, annuity best interest, and product training. This all must be done efficiently so that new accounts can open on time, orders can be placed, trades can happen, and compensation can be paid—compliantly. In addition, market conduct exams have become vastly more thorough. Gone are the days when states looked at just a few files; they now request data on policies written during an entire audit period for an appointed agent and examine closely for exceptions. Licensing has remained one of the top six findings in each of the last 10 years.

Building, Buying, and the Total Cost of Ownership

The largest insurers, brokers, and broker-dealers can easily build internal systems that manage licensing, registrations, and much more, and the cost of an in-house solution can be lower than a commercially built system. However, commercial systems tend to have a substantially lower total cost of ownership when calculated over time.

Commercial systems come fully featured with regulatory rules that are integrated and actively maintained by a team of experienced experts. Also, commercial systems regularly incorporate new capabilities, enable continuous optimization, and take full advantage of the industry’s latest best practices. In-house systems require tremendous maintenance and expertise to accommodate regulatory and business rules that change often and have far-reaching effects on multiple transaction types within the firm. Any IT resources efficiently focused on customer experience and innovation will deliver a real competitive advantage. With best-in-class commercial solutions available in the market, there is a decreasing appetite to build compliance and credentialing applications in-house.

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

Trends in L&R Operations: A Changing Industry and New Ways to Work

An Evolving Industry and a New Way to Work

The insurance industry and the technology that supports it continue to evolve. Licensing and registration operations must remain at the forefront by providing extraordinary levels of efficiency and continuous assimilation of best practices. In recent years, important trends have emerged, and currently, the industry is responding to a pandemic crisis with grit and ingenuity.

The Growth of Call Centers, Evolving Role of Technology

First, call centers, both internal and outsourced, have grown, a result of the insurance industry’s increased digitization and the popularity of robo-advisers. This, in turn, is driven by a new generation rising higher through the business and overall evolving expectations of what technology should provide. In addition, there are products that are conducive to online purchases, such as term life. When a call center is a part of the distribution model, the ability to onboard and offboard agents rapidly is absolutely critical. This includes credentialing for multiple jurisdictions: licensure, appointment, and completion of mandated product and industry training.

Once a Liability, Now an Asset

Another trend is strategic and has to do with recruiting and retaining top talent. The C-suite has begun to view onboarding, licensing, and registration operations as a vital element of revenue generation rather than a necessary cost center. Top agents and advisers want to be associated with tech-savvy firms that provide them with a seamless experience, and insurance companies acknowledge that such first impressions of themselves are paramount. These producers, many part of an emerging younger generation, expect a firm to know who they are, they expect to know what their credentials are and where they are held, and they expect a frictionless process for onboarding, being affiliated and appointed, and placing business day-to-day. This is especially relevant to insurers, for which independent agents sell products for a dozen or more carriers. The ability to earn and maintain agent loyalty is key—chief distribution, revenue, and sales officers depend on the allegiance of their agents at achieve sales and revenue goals.

Consolidation’s Far-Reaching Effects

Consolidation in the financial services industry has been significant, with more than 649 transactions in 2019, compared with 362 transactions in 2014, and it continues. Even in a pandemic crisis, 2020 is set to meet or exceed last year’s level. In general, companies seek to gain market share, leverage their scale, and increase profit margins.

As broker-dealers consolidate the separate systems and operations they inherit from recent acquisitions, the most innovative firms have consolidated disparate operating functions into unified centers of excellence. To enable such a high level of continuous growth, they depend on highly efficient onboarding, licensing, and registration operations. This means employing for-purpose technology that automates licensing, CE, and renewal processes, and outsourced solutions provide scalability over numerous acquisitions—in some cases, 30 or 40 in a year.

Scaling and Streamlining

A more exacting and demanding regulatory landscape has been an unwitting contributor to the industry’s consolidation. To achieve a scale that supports more stringent compliance requirements and the necessary technological infrastructure, many firms have had to consolidate, divest, reclassify their products, or otherwise regroup. For example, Many fewer carriers sell variable annuity products, and many have divested their broker-dealer businesses. There is consolidation among vendors as well. Many firms are mitigating vendor risk by relying on fewer trusted partners with the ability to fulfill the more exacting requirements traditionally provided by niche participants. This is often a C-suite decision to gain economies of scale and lower the lifetime cost of ownership.

The COVID-19 Crisis and Working from Home

The coronavirus pandemic has created a new reality, affecting licensing and registration operations as we adapt to working from home. In every way, we have become even more dependent on IT, including organizations adapting their single sign-on processes. Transaction volumes fell in the early stages of the pandemic, but as of November 2020, they have risen back to previous levels, and in some cases, transaction counts are higher. Many companies used some of the early downtime to bring new products to market. Others have seen a rise in term life policies, streamlining underwriting processes in response. RegEd’s clients have relied more on its Xchange functionality, using operating and productivity reports as a useful basis of comparison to pre-pandemic metrics and facilitating all aspects of working from home.

Most licensing and registration requirements can be executed from a remote working environment, but there are exceptions. Paper checks still need to be issued for state insurance commissioners, which requires new processes and procedures for compliant close-out. Continuing education for call center agents has also been affected by the new work-from-home transition. Typically, they attend brick-and-mortar classes where their paperwork is collected. Firms dependent on call centers have had to adapt quickly to electronic education and document management to ensure health and safety.

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

Licensing Technology and Evolving Expectations

Less That Does More

The financial services industry expects dramatically more from the technology that supports it. Once paper-based, systems are now a single application with a frictionless experience for users. The best licensing and registration operations have the ability to aggregate real-time data from multiple sources, provide straight-through processing for a host of functions, and support multiple channels. 

Intuitive and Interactive

Just five years ago, firms said agents were resistant to technology and still preferred paper. Today, that has completely changed. Agents and advisers want interactive systems that have to be online, intuitive, and completely frictionless. They have a magnitude of compliance obligations, and the more time it takes to fulfill them, the less time the agent has to engage with clients and develop business. When they look to associate themselves with insurance companies, broker-dealers and brokers that have invested in compliance technology and have well-honed operational processes so that compliance doesn’t present a hurdle to their success.

They also want everything in one place. Gone are the days of going into LIMRA for AML training, carrier sites for product training, and taking CE for state-mandated training. Everything, including training and education, must be through a single point of access. Firms now expect extremely high levels of efficiency. They look to reduce data-entry points, eliminate human interactions, and embed compliant automation as much as possible in every part of credentialing and licensing today.

Multi-Channel Complexity

Insurance distribution channels have broadened considerably, especially in the past few years. As a result, the industry’s requirements for licensing technology has become vastly more complex, especially for multi- and omni-channel distribution. The ability to accommodate multiple data sources to support the company’s distribution channels fully has become critical. These include third-party appointment aggregators, such as DTCC for life and health carriers; RegEd’s own Xchange, a data source in itself; company websites; and inevitable manual inputs.

Those That Do It Best: Data Sourcing and STP

The most efficient licensing operations are able to source and aggregate data from other sources in real time. For onboarding and building agent profiles, FINRA and PDB are the key resources, combined with internal HR and recruiting systems. The less manual keying in, the more efficient, comprehensive, and reliable the entire process will be. They also employ smart capabilities that reduce human intervention. Automatic transactions based on key events such as license renewals, name changes, or address changes are good examples.

Especially important is straight-through processing, enabling transactions that are in good order never having to be touched by a staff member. Some firms still use manual, paper-based processes, and these tend to have high error and noncompliance rates. Smart technology largely corrects this. For example, a group of RegEd clients was able to reach over 90% straight-through processing for appointments and PDB updates and over 70% for license renewals with our smart appointments and NIPR alerts. These actions all went straight to state systems without having to be touched. Another important feature is management by exception. For example, if during the onboarding process a rep has a questionable record, the technology should be able to route the information directly to compliance for review. It should also be able to document any exceptions. A single such closed system can provide a complete audit trail—avoiding manual combing through emails and retrieving documents—in one place.

Also, insurers and broker-dealers that sell variable products look for a unified solution is capable of supporting insurance and securities transactions and provides a seamless user experience. Bottom line, the best systems are based on a single platform that shares data across the application to identify and manage outliers and improve compliance decision-making.

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

Business Process Automation (BPA) v. Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Which is best for L&R Operations?

BPA Drives L&R Efficiency

For many the financial services industry, there can be confusion between BPA and RPA. Business process automation, known as BPA, has proven most effective at driving efficiency for licensing and registration operations. Robotic process automation, or RPA, is often seen as the ultimate enabler of efficiency, which is true in other applications. Here, we explain the difference.

Process Management v. Saving Keystrokes

Robotic process automation (RPA) replicates human keystrokes in a repeatable process, such that a bot enters data in fields on a screen to create records, and in some cases, completes a transaction. In short, RPA simply takes over what the licensing person is doing today. Business process automation (BPA), by contrast, actually triggers a transaction based on a time-based requirement, an event, or a business rule. Such automated transaction creation, along with management by exception, enables considerably higher efficiency than simply saving keystrokes.

With BPA and straight-through processing, a system can automatically identify an obligation and execute the process to meet it. For example, a system can be programmed to generate license renewals 45 days in advance of their expiration date. This ensures that agents don’t lose their licenses, which avoids the problems and expenses—additional fees—of license reinstatement. When an exception appears, say an aberration in an agent’s background, the system can route it to appropriate departments for review before the renewal is officially submitted.

When licensing management is integrated with a compensation system, it can use an agent’s production data to measure performance. If performance falls short, say against a particular metric, the system could generate that agent’s termination and appointment termination correspondence automatically and hold all actions related to the termination through any mandated notice periods.

BPA manages transactions that are triggered by events on a different system as well. A good example is address and name changes—one of the top reasons that producers are flagged with a regulatory action. Usually an agent will make any such changes in the HR system. When the systems are integrated, say feeding data through RegEd’s Xchange, licensing management automatically generates the required new form amendments and the CCR filing with NIPR. In short, a feed from HR triggers a transaction in licensing, and pushes it out for regulatory action. Data used from different system keeps a firm compliant and reduces the potential for a fine or headache over a simple task.

Rule maintenance is another area supported by BPA. Usually a developer must manually change any rule parameters within a system. With BPA, a system can be configured to allow an administrator to make changes in real times through a simple user interface. A good example is P&C insurers having to manage underwriting company changes for a particular state. With robotic processing (RPA), a carrier would have to make those changes manually or bring in a developer. With BPA, administrator access rights allow changes as needed and the system automatically generates the new appointments and, if necessary, terminates the old ones.

Significant Cost Savings

Just-in-time appointments and straight-through processing are other efficiency drivers. Some large carriers can spend upwards of $50 million a year in appointment fees—a significant sum. The most efficient licensing operations generate appoints on demand at the time new business is placed, avoiding the significant expense to support nonproductive producers. Agents are usually appointed in multiple states during the onboarding process, anticipating they will place business in each. Most carriers can save considerable costs when they enter agents in their systems, issue the writing codes, and automatically generate an appointment, sending it to the state, with no intervention, only at the time it’s required.

More Compliant with Less Interaction

Straight-through processing is a type of BPA that removes human contact in transactions. For example, in licensing, if all conditions and business rules are met, a transaction goes straight through to the NIPR gateway. Renewals are a good use case. The system notifies agents of their CE obligations and asks for background information to be updated. Once completed, renewals are generated and pushed to the state automatically. Say an agent in the northeast obtains a new P&C license in New York. That agent would be appointed automatically once that system receives the information, downloaded through NIPR alerts to the appropriate carriers. Based on the state and that customer’s business rules, there could be multiple appointments. Or, if that same agent were to get another license independently, say to sell health insurance on the side. That agent’s information would likely come in from the PDB, but the carrier’s system wouldn’t generate the appointment, although it may notify compliance about the agent getting a license outside the company’s selling agreement.

To summarize, BPA integrates the front end and enables insurers to update business rules in real time, with no need for development, and the cost savings is significant. RegEd’s Xchange solution leverages BPA to drive such efficiency, speed time to markets, ensure transactions are always in good order, and enables management by exception.

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

RegEd Appoints Adam Schaub as Vice President of Platform Product Management

RegEd, the market-leading provider of enterprise regulatory compliance solutions to banks, broker-dealers, insurance companies and brokers, is pleased to announce its appointment of Adam Schaub to the role of Vice President, Platform Product Management. In this role, Schaub will direct RegEd’s platform product management team and lead the strategy and vision for the continuous evolution of RegEd’s enterprise platform.

“Adam comes to RegEd with deep industry, regulatory and compliance subject matter expertise. He has over 20 years of direct experience in the financial services compliance industry, and was a RegEd client leading the compliance services team at his last role, “ said Ethan Floyd, Chief Product Officer at RegEd. “We are very excited to have Adam join our team, he has strong knowledge of our platform solutions and the industry which make him invaluable to RegEd in our growth initiatives.”

Adam joins RegEd from Avantax, formerly known as 1st Global, where he led the Compliance Services team, which was responsible for CE, branch inspections, advertising, outside business activities, outside brokerage accounts, regulatory requests, licensing, and many other compliance areas. As Vice President of Product Management Platform, Adam will collaborate cross-functionally to identify opportunities for new products and lead strategic initiatives.

John M. Schobel, CEO & Founder of RegEd, commented on the appointment, “Adam’s extensive knowledge of our software and the financial services industry as a whole makes him an exceptional addition to our team. His decision to join RegEd at this point in our growth speaks volumes about the exciting trajectory that we’re on.”

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

RegEd Appoints Chris Heggelund as Chief Client Officer

RegEd, the market-leading provider of enterprise regulatory compliance solutions to banks, broker-dealers, insurance companies and brokers, is pleased to announce its appointment of Chris Heggelund to the role of Chief Client Officer (CCO). In this role, Heggelund will direct RegEd’s Implementation, Customer Success and ongoing Customer Support functions to drive continuous client satisfaction, and meet and exceed growth objectives.

“Chris is an industry veteran who has spent the last twenty years in the InsureTech space, with the last decade building world-class services organizations.  He brings a deep understanding of insurance licensing and securities regulation, technology and customer success best practices to RegEd,” said John M. Schobel, RegEd CEO and Founder. “His proven ability to execute strategies that deliver best-in-class customer service will help ensure RegEd’s continued success.”

Heggelund is a highly accomplished business leader with significant experience in leading client services organizations through transformation focused on client onboarding, relationship management and customer success to deliver consistent revenue growth and client satisfaction. In his prior career Chris held senior leadership positions in large U.S. and multi-national corporations focused on software solutions for the insurance vertical, responsible for leading and maturing their professional services, customer support, solution architecture, managed services and customer success functions.

“I’m thrilled that Chris has joined RegEd at this exciting point in our growth,” continued Schobel. “He’s a strong addition to our executive team and I’m confident that he’ll make material contributions to RegEd’s future.”

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

RegEd Completes Acquisition of ComplianceMAX and FIRE Continuing Education businesses from National Regulatory Services (NRS)

Acquisition expands RegEd’s market presence with broker-dealers, insurance companies and investment advisors.

RegEd, the leading provider of compliance, education, training and regulatory management solutions and services for insurance companies, broker-dealers, banks, and other financial services companies, today announced that it has completed the acquisition of ComplianceMAX and FIRE Continuing Education businesses from National Regulatory Services (NRS), a provider of compliance and registration products and services for investment advisers, broker-dealers, hedge funds, investment companies and insurance institutions. These additions will expand RegEd’s capabilities and meet the needs of the broker-dealer industry so they can be compliant with FINRA and SEC rules and regulations. NRS is owned by Accuity, part of RELX. The acquisition is expected to close on January 8, 2021.

RegEd’s enterprise technology solutions, representing the broadest compliance management and credentialing portfolio in the industry, have evolved across hundreds of implementations to deliver the most robust functional capabilities, a singular user experience and the ready ability to scale to meet client needs as they evolve.  With the acquisition of ComplianceMAX and FIRE Continuing Education, RegEd strengthens its position in compliance management solutions that serve the financial services industry and further builds on its market and compliance expertise.

“We are very excited to welcome the employees of ComplianceMAX and FIRE Continuing Education to RegEd,” said John M. Schobel, CEO and Founder of RegEd. “This acquisition combines the strengths of these two businesses in a unique, strategic fit with RegEd and further enables RegEd in its mission to provide market-leading compliance, education and training solutions to the industry.”  Schobel continued, “ComplianceMAX and FIRE Continuing Education have served financial services firms, including some of the nation’s largest broker-dealers, for more than 20 years, and we are confident that their customers and the market will benefit from the combination with RegEd.”

John Gebauer, NRS President commented, “I am confident that the ComplianceMax and FIRE Continuing Education customers, employees and products will flourish under RegEd and NRS will be in a position to sharpen its focus on the Investment Adviser and Investment Company customer segments.”

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

# # #

MEDIA CONTACT:

Debra Freitag

Debra.Freitag@reged.com

919-653-5200

About RegEd

RegEd is a leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk. Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

About National Regulatory Services

Owned by RELXNational Regulatory Services (NRS) is part of Accuity, the leading global provider of financial crime screening, payments and counterparty know your customer (KYC) solutions. NRS is the US leader in compliance and registration products and services for investment advisers, broker-dealers, hedge funds, investment companies and insurance institutions. NRS has the practical expertise, proven capability and unparalleled reach to deliver integrated and effective compliance solutions to a wide range of users within the financial services industry. NRS delivers these solutions through three interrelated offerings – comprehensive education, best-in-class technology and expert consulting services – enabling our clients to meet their regulatory requirements and minimize risk.

About Accuity

Accuity powers compliant and assured client transactions to help build an interconnected and trusted financial ecosystem. Our financial crime screening, payment services, and benefits compliance solutions help enable financial inclusion while identifying criminal activity and fraudulent players. With deep expertise and industry-leading data and analytics solutions from the Firco and Bankers Almanac brands, Accuity provides unmatched confidence, efficiency and compliance for customers around the world. Part of RELX, a global provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries, Accuity has been delivering solutions to banks and businesses worldwide for 180 years.

About RELX

RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX. The market capitalisation is approximately £35.3bn | €39bn | $47.9bn.

RegEd and AICP Host Joint Webinar on Best Practices in Regulatory Change Management

The session provided a snapshot of regulation in the financial services industry, including the impact of COVID-19, and outlined hands-on best practices for ensuring effective compliance.

RegEd, the leading provider of compliance technology solutions for the financial services industry, recently presented a webinar Regulatory Change Management: The State of Insurance Regulation and Compliance Best Practices in a Pandemic World. The webinar was co-hosted with The Association of Insurance Compliance Professionals (AICP), an organization offering the insurance industry compliance and ethics education, training, and opportunities to engage with industry experts and regulatory authorities.

Regulatory Change Management: The State of Insurance Regulation and Compliance Best Practices in a Pandemic World

Regulation of the insurance industry has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in an escalating rate of new and changed rules and regulations, building on the trajectory of recent years. Regulators, including state and federal entities, continue to expect insurers to administer effective programs for monitoring, tracking and implementing new and changed regulations amid the pandemic.

This presentation featured an expert panel including Merlinda Johnson, FLMI, ACS, Director of Insurance Regulatory Compliance at RegEd; Margie Webber, Director of Regulatory Compliance BD/IA at RegEd; De Keimach, ALMI, ACS, AAPA, AIRC, Director of Compliance at Delaware Life Insurance Company; and Debra Freitag, Chief Strategy Officer at RegEd. Panelists provided an overview of the regulatory landscape, including the influence that the pandemic has had on the volume and nature of regulation, and delivered a case study on the ways one leading insurer is applying technology and process best practices to streamline regulatory compliance.

“The pandemic has exacerbated trends that have been ongoing for years, as the avalanche of regulatory information that inundates insurers has continued to grow. As a result, a workflow-enabled, closed loop process for managing regulatory change has become more important than ever,” stated Debra Freitag, Chief Strategy Officer at RegEd. “As a longtime supporter, we value the important work that AICP does for the industry, and we appreciated the opportunity to present this session to their membership.”

A recording of the webinar is available to view here.

About RegEd

RegEd is the market-leading provider of RegTech enterprise solutions with relationships with more than 200 enterprise clients, including 80% of the top 25 financial services firms.

Established in 2000 by former regulators, the company is recognized for continuous regulatory technology innovation with solutions hallmarked by workflow-directed processes, data integration, regulatory intelligence, automated validations, business process automation and compliance dashboards. The aggregate drives the highest levels of operational efficiency and enables our clients to cost-effectively comply with regulations and continuously mitigate risk.

Trusted by the nation’s top financial services firms, RegEd’s proven, holistic approach to RegTech meets firms where they are on the compliance and risk management continuum, scaling as their needs evolve and amplifying the value proposition delivered to clients. For more information, please visit www.reged.com.

About The Association of Insurance Compliance Professionals® (AICP)

The Association of Insurance Compliance Professionals® (AICP) offers the insurance industry exceptional compliance and ethics education, training, and opportunities to engage with industry experts and regulatory authorities. AICP has earned a reputation for some of the best educational programming available to novice and experienced compliance individuals. With 9 Association Chapters supplementing the work of the national organization, our members are comprised of personnel from property, casualty, life, annuities and health insurers, regulatory agencies, consultants and product & service providers.

Posts navigation

1 2 3 4 8 9 10
Scroll to top