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Insurance agents hit the books; new Indiana law requires continuing education.

Note to insurance agents who thought they had left the halls of ivy for good the day they received their sheepskin: Think again.

A 1990 Indiana law that recently went into effect requires insurance agents in the state to go back to school every two years as a requisite for getting relicensed by the state. That's in addition to the 40 hours of classroom training required to get an initial license from the state.

"Agents are now required to have 30 hours of continuing education to renew their license," says Susan Andrews, assistant vice president for Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Co., Indianapolis. "And you have to renew your license every two years."

Andrews, who also serves as executive vice president of the Mutual Insurance Companies Association of Indiana, notes that all continuing-education classes have to be certified by the Indiana Department of Insurance.

"It's not possible for an instructor to offer a class without certification," she says. "The course material is reviewed, as are the course instructor's credentials."

Most of the courses are offered through either the insurance trade associations like the mutual association, the Professional Insurance Agents of Indiana or the Independent Insurance Agents Association of Indiana. Other courses are offered through the home offices of the insurance companies the agents represent, or by companies set up specifically to offer continuing education and training.

Mike Kiley is the director of education and training for State Farm Insurance's Indiana regional office in West Lafayette. He's responsible for overseeing continuing education and training for State Farm's 540 agents in the state.

"We work real close with the state insurance department," Kiley says. "We go out and find the instructors, coordinate meeting sites and what have you."

Kiley's office is providing 25 hours of continuing education this year, including a 16-hour college-level program at Purdue University and nine hours of other training at sites across the state.

"We're very proactive and very supportive of the continuing-education law," Kiley says. "We see a lot of benefit for our agents to be up to speed."

Most agencies in the state are complying enthusiastically with the new law, which went into effect this past summer.

"The agency is education-minded," says Floyd Schneider, manager of office administration at O'Rourke, Andrews & Maroney, a Fort Wayne agency with 14 agents. "Every agent has more credits than they'd ever need for their licensing requirement."

Schneider makes sure that the agents get 50 to 60 credits during their first year through the company's training program and through a graded self-study program. The first six agents at O'Rourke, Andrews & Maroney renewing their licenses since July had taken more than 60 continuing-education hours in 18 months.

"For some, the training is superfluous," Schneider says. "They know more than the instructor. For others, it's good for them. They get back on track, get to know things better than they did before."

The human-resources department at the Fort Wayne agency keeps track of continuing-education hours for its agents and sends reminders to agents within four months of license expiration if they are lacking credits for relicensing. O'Rourke, Andrews & Maroney allows its agents to take seminars during the day on company time. It also foots the bill for its agents to take the courses.

That's similar to the policy at Citizens Realty & Insurance in Evansville. Citizens pays all costs for agents and support personnel to take continuing-education courses, Citizens' Madeline Whitmore says.

Citizens encourages its entire staff of 40 agents, customer-service representatives and claims representatives to take outside seminars on company time or on their own time.

"Agents are free to work around their own schedule" in selecting classes, Whitmore says. "Each agent responsible for getting their own continuing education monitors him or herself. But the agency feels strongly that the people should be licensed."

The selection of courses for insurance agents is large and getting larger. State Farm's Kiley said his office has put on four different classes recently. The typical attendance for the courses, which are held around the state during the day, is typically about 25 agents. Most of the classes are three hours in length.

"Most of the courses we are seeing involve education on different types of insurance coverage," Andrews says. "We're seeing things like classes on homeowner's insurance, automobile insurance."

In December, Andrews' association offered 11 hours of continuing education for the association's member agents around the state. One popular 11-hour seminar at the Holiday Inn North in Indianapolis focused on farm coverage for rural agents. Course work acquainted the 150 agents in attendance with things like conducting loss control surveys, solvency, and rural arson and fraud.
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Author:Beck, Bill
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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