Professional Designations are not Created Equal

Continuing education is a critical part of a producer’s practice and a great way to maximize your potential. It is also important to communicate your credentials to clients and prospects through the use of professional designations.

But not all industry education programs are created equal. While many of the well-known designations (CLU, CFP, ChFC, REBC) require months and even years of study, others can be “earned” through short webinars, self-study or membership fees.

The general public may consider a producer more qualified because of a line of initials following his or her name, but often cannot distinguish between reputable designations and those that do not require substantial knowledge.

To combat this trend, regulators and carriers have adopted rules and guidelines on which designations producers can use in their advertising and during the process of selling annuities, life insurance and securities. The National Association of Fixed Annuities (NAFA) has developed principles for the use of professional designations. In summary, designations used by producers should always:

  • Be current and verifiable.
  • Represent significant achievement of knowledge relevant to the advertised insurance and of benefit to the client or prospect.
  • Be awarded by a reputable, accredited organization within the insurance and financial industry.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has adopted a model regulation (Model 278) on the use of senior-specific certifications and professional designations in the sale of life insurance and annuities. The regulation calls the use of such designations “an unfair and deceptive act or practice” because they mislead clients and prospects that the producer has special certification or training in advising and providing service to seniors.

Other best practices offered by NAIC include:

  • Do not use designations that can be earned by paying a membership fee without any meaningful credentialing or testing process.
  • Do not use “nonexistent or self-conferred” designations.
  • Do not use designations offered by certifying organizations when there is minimal oversight to affirm completion, nonexistent measures for monitoring designees, lack of emphasis on ethics or an inadequate overall curriculum.
  • Choose to purse only those designations and credentials that provide “a robust curriculum and credentialing process, including examinations.”

Before you pursue or use a designation, talk to your CreativeOne sales consultant or contact our Compliance department and we’ll be happy to you answer your questions. Many insurance carriers have market conduct guides or bulletins that address the use of professional designations as well as having a list of approved and unapproved designations. The CreativeOne Compliance Resource Center on is an excellent resource to access the top insurance carrier compliance bulletins and guidelines – conveniently located in one place.

For more information on professional designations, download this guide provided by the National Association of Fixed Annuities (NAFA).

The bottom line is to take a common-sense approach to how you identify yourself. Make sure that prospects and clients understand you are a licensed insurance professional and use only professional designations that regulators and carriers deem credible.

For Agent Use Only. Not for Use with the General Public. 13149 – 2014/2/5


  1. Ralph says:

    Does this mean I can no longer use my FIM (Famous Insurance Man) designation after my name?

  2. DON says:


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