Risking it all to have “LUTCF” after your name.

Alphabet SoupYou want the acronym “LUTCF” after your name. You want it badly. On your business card. On your website. On your name tag at the annual conference. You’ve got to have it. And you’re willing to work hard, make sacrifices and do anything necessary to get it. It’s just that worth it to you. Unless it requires an exam or studying or something. Forget that. You don’t do exams. Or studying.

So you were upset to learn that a proctored exam is required. It’s a major setback. But you’re no quitter. You briefly consider simply typing LUTCF after your name – easy enough. Freedom of speech right? It looks good in Helvetica, you note. But no, that won’t work. You might be discovered as an impostor, and that would be bad for business. So you’ll have to earn the credential the old-fashioned way – by having someone else take the test for you.

But who? How about one of the moderators overseeing the exam? They probably know their stuff. Luckily you find one willing to do the deed. On the day of the web-based test, you give the moderator your sign-on information, she signs on as you, and viola! You passed with an impressive score. In near record time. You are now a LUTFC, summa cum laude.

Does this sound familiar? If so, you might be the former broker from Farmers Financial Solutions LLC who was recently sanctioned by Finra:

In June 2012 … [the broker] cheated on a Life Underwriter Training Council (“LUTC”) examination by allowing the moderator of the course to take the examination on his behalf. [The broker] also falsely stated on a proctor affirmation that he completed his LUTC examination without assistance. [The broker] then submitted the false affirmation to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to obtain unearned state insurance continuing education credits.

While neither admitting nor denying the facts, the broker consented in a settlement with Finra to a two-month suspension and a $10,000 fine. Painful to be sure.

So what is this LUTCF designation that this broker was risking it all to get?

LUTCF stands for “Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow.” It’s a good designation to have, according to the website of the American College of Financial Services, for those who want to increase their bank:

Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) classes put you on the fast track for success. By combining essential product knowledge with basic planning concepts, the LUTCF has helped thousands of insurance professionals boost their earnings by as much as 40 percent [emphasis original].

About FinanciallyRegulatedBut don’t take the American College’s word for it. They are ending support for this designation. It seems the American College used to administer the LUTCF program on behalf of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (“NAIFA”), but the two have since had a falling out. The American College has ceased offering the LUTCF designation – declared it dead – and started pushing a brand-new designation: the “Financial Services Certified Professional” (“FSCP”). The death of LUTCF was reported on October 9, 2013 on InsuranceNewsNet.com:

You’ve had a great run, Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF). Now step aside, there’s a new designation in town: the Financial Services Certified Professional (FSCP). The demise of the long-standing LUTCF designation for the broader FSCP designation reflects not only lower demand for the LUTCF but a shift in the broadening of what life insurance agents and advisors sell in today’s marketplace, said Dr. Larry Barton, president of The American College of Financial Services…. The LUTCF had become outdated, Barton said. “It (LUTCF) looked like your grandfather’s program and was not considered to be cutting edge,” he said.

Not so fast. The very next day, the CEO of NAIFA, Dr. Susan B. Waters responded:

To the Editors of InsuranceNewsNet, With a nod to Mark Twain, rumors of the LUTCF designation’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The NAIFA Board of Trustees only recently learned of the American College’s decision to no longer provide curriculum support for the Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) program. The board is currently considering what future opportunities may exist for NAIFA’s designation. Therefore, it is very premature to refer to the LUTCF in the past tense.

Since then, NAIFA has announced that it will have a new curriculum for the NAIFA LUTCF in September 2014 (hastening to add: “Course content from The American College will not be transferable to the new NAIFA LUTCF program.”).

Anyway, the American College is moving full-steam ahead with its new FSCP designation. So we get to witness the birth of a new financial designation. You can read more about this designation here. What’s clear is that the American College intends this new designation to compete with, and replace, the LUTCF. So the American College doesn’t hesitate to take jabs at the LUTCF:

The FSCP is designed to be a rigorous program that covers the holistic, comprehensive long-term needs of clients rather than focusing more narrowly on “selling product,” The American College said.

In addition, FSCP designees will be forbidden from sporting both the FSCP and the LUTCF:

Current LUTCF designees – there are approximately 68,000 of them – are welcome to use the letters after their name for as long as they want. Advisors, however, must choose between using either the LUTCF designation or the FSCP designation. They cannot use both, The American College said.

This will be one to watch. Can the American College pull off the introduction of a new credential? Will LUTCF be snuffed out?

Before leaving, a quick comment on the proliferation of designations is in order. There are so many financial designations these days that Finra has undertaken to provide some assistance on how to sort them all out. Finra lists a couple hundred of them here. Some advisors sport so many designations that it’s starting to look rather odd indeed. Remember Gary R. who commented on a Finra rule proposal here? He signed his letter: Gary R., CLU, ChFC, CFP®, LUTCF, AIF®, EA.

It turns out that Gary was not so impressive. More impressive is Assistant Professor Kevin M. Lynch of the American College. Behold:

Kevin M. Lynch, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, RHU®, REBC®, CASL®, CAP®, CLF®, LUTCF, FSS

Kevin M. Lynch, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, RHU®, REBC®, CASL®, CAP®, CLF®, LUTCF, FSS

And Lynch is not done yet! As he explains in a rather charming video, he is currently pursuing additional designations. One wonders if he will achieve the FSCP, and if so, will he sport the LUTCF or the FSCP? Because he can’t sport both! Frankly, I think the American College should make an exception for Mr. Lynch. It would be a shame to cut short that beautiful mane of designations.

Published by Jeremy L. Bartell

Financially Regulated is published by Jeremy L. Bartell, a long-time admirer of Wall Street and its interesting cast of regulators. Jeremy is an attorney with Bartell Law in Washington D.C. He represents financial professionals nationwide in Finra inquiries and investigations, Finra arbitration, securities employment disputes and registration and disclosure matters.

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