What do these terms have in common?
Settlement consultants, settlement brokers, structured settlement consultants, structured settlement brokers, settlement planners, structured settlement planners, settlement adviser, settlement advisor, structured settlement adviser, structured settlement advisor, structured settlement agent, structured settlement expert.
All appear to be used today by individuals and/or firms in the structured settlement and settlement planning industry. Is there a difference of identity worthy of such segmentation, or are the use of these names and/or terms marketing hype?
Here are some general definitions:
A broker is a party that mediates between a buyer and a seller. A broker who also acts as a seller or as a buyer becomes a principal party to the deal.
An agent is someone who acts on behalf of a principal.
A consultant provides expertise to clients who require a particular type of knowledge or service for a specific period of time, thus providing an economy to the client. In some situations, companies implementing a major project may need additional experienced staff to assist with increased work during that period and therefore may hire consultants.
A settlement planner is a financial professional who helps to design the optimal plan for distribution of a claimant's settlement proceeds and to guide the individuals and/or their attorneys through the settlement plan and its implementation
The word adviser has a securities connotation
In different settlement cases an individual or settlement firm may be acting in a different role or may be acting in multiple roles. It's safe to assume that most individuals that are part of a large structured settlement firm or network of firms have access to the major structured annuity markets
In the early days of the structured settlement industry virtually everyone referred to themselves as a structured settlement broker. Very often there was only one structured settlement broker who prepared and supplied the structured settlement annuity quote to both parties and handled the placement of the structured settlement annuity or annuities.
The other names have sprung up within the last decade or so as financial professionals guiding plaintiffs and their counsel not only came on the scene but have become a standard part of most structured settlement transactions.
The backgrounds of settlement professionals with either plaintiff, defense or general consultancy is as varied as there are flavors of ice cream. Some have legal backgrounds, others have insurance backgrounds, claims adjusting backgrounds, banking backgrounds, securities backgrounds and life company backgrounds. While not minimizing the roles that any one individual might play in any given settlement case, at the end of the day virtually all settlement professionals, however they choose to position themselves are paid by a commission earned by placing, as a broker or agent, or co-brokering a structured settlement annuity or annuities or some other financial product or service.
Some may offer other services such as placement of certain types of trusts (may be fee or percentage-"commission" based). Others offer other paid a la carte services such as lien resolution. A few settlement planners" unfortunately participate in referrals to "cash now" factoring companies for a percentage commission or fee.
I am all for true segmentation but, as usual, consumers should check on the credentials and experience of those whose services they are comtemplating to engage to assure that it's not just all in the name.