The Society of Settlement Planners enters its second decade with a return to its roots as a professional fraternity. This welcome change has been underway for several years and in my opinion, it is good for the business.
One of the founding members of the organization, I resigned in September 2005, because I was not happy with the direction the organization was going. Thereafter I was an outspoken critic of the SSP for many years. In my opinion the things that the SSP did well, such as professional education, interactive learning and information sharing and the creation of a niche specific settlement professional designation, were over shadowed by the personae of certain members, the perception of the extent of factoring involvement in the organization and the perception of over utilization and promotion by its members of single claimant qualified settlement funds. Now, for the first time in 8 years I have accepted an invitation to speak at the Society of Settlement Planners educational conference in Las Vegas in May , on the subject of Long Term Care Insurance and Long Term Care planning, a subject that is important to me on both a personal and professional level.
In the run up to the 2013 SSP Conference, which will be taking place May 5-7 at the Vdara Hotel, I spent some time visiting with current SSP President Charly Schell to validate why that it may be time to take a fresh look at the Society of Settlement Planners.
John Darer: Charly, thanks for taking my call and allowing me to ask you a few questions about the SSP in light of the upcoming educational meeting in May. How do you see that the direction of the SSP has changed in the last few years?
Charly Schell We both know that the SSP has taken a bit of a new direction over the last, roughly 3 years, changing our membership and mission statement and announced a more open membership platform. We are doing our best to bring in experts for our members to partner with, learn from or integrate into their overall product offerings, enlarging the scope of issue spotting and settlement planning in the minds of our members and meeting participants and highlighting the importance of building a team. Planning is not a threat to structured settlements. This organization will always recognize the appropriate and suitable use of periodic payments or structured settlements but understand that a plan is just that ---- a plan ------ and not the use or promotion of a single product.
Quoting from the SSP membership application Schell went on to say:
"Membership is open to all individuals with a genuine interest in the settlement planning profession. Candidates for membership must attest to their substantial devotion of time, through professional employment or educational effort, to the field of settlement planning; practicing and continuously learning within the discipline and striving to ensure plans are consummated to a fiduciary standard. …………………..”
John Darer: Have you seen results?
Charly Schell : We believe the repositioning and standard we promote, the Registered Settlement Planner (RSP), is important as we reach out to the numerous “stakeholders in these complex transactions”, to quote one of the event’s speakers, Karen Meyers, and include them in the educational process and hopefully as members. We have a core of devoted settlement planners as a base for the organization and they help and coach me every day. We are now actively reaching out to all stakeholders, Defendants’ Structured Settlement Consultants, Trustees, Registered Reps, Mediators, Insurance wholesalers, Judges, Conservators and niche product providers to the settlement planning industry. The answer to growing is to include- not to exclude. Unfortunately, what we hear from some in the industry is that they must limit their participation due to factions inside NSSTA that see the SSP as competition or certain members being on the wrong side of in issue in the past and we do see measured growth specific to Structured settlement professionals as a result. I am a member of both NSSTA and SSP and last year when I took over as president, as part of addressing the membership, I challenged everyone to join and promote the very important mission of NSSTA and the work they do every day to preserve the structured settlement product offering and important tax codes.
John Darer: How Will an Attendee Benefit from Attending the SSP Education Meeting May 5-7 in Las Vegas?
Charly Schell: The education of attorneys that represent the injured, about the vast array of complementary solutions is the key to dealing with the common objections in today’s economic landscape and ultimately gets the settlement planner access ” into the living room”, where key decisions are made. This education is the focus of the May 5-7 SSP educational meeting at the Vdara in Las Vegas. In the new world of the Affordable Care Act, Smart Act, Dodd Frank, NAIC suitability standards and others, broadening your knowledge base and ability to further differentiate yourself from retail advisors, arguably makes the phone ring more, which means injured parties may be better represented and arguably more structures are put into place as part of a more holistic plan. I cannot speak to industry numbers but I know that in the family of Companies I am affiliated with we are seeing record growth in trust business, assets under management, life insurance, Long Term Care and more structures…. and I hear the same from our members.
John Darer: What would you want to highlight to those that have not looked at an SSP membership in some time?
Charly Schell: The SSP does not promote factoring and that is and has been a part of our bylaws for more than a decade! We are actively working to find ways to reduce the number of 5891 transactions that occur but we are not ignoring the fact that it is out there and therefore seek out experts to help us understand the issues. The fact that Issues such as; how the planner got involved, through the plaintiff or the defendant is no longer a part of our focus and that support or lack thereof of for issues of the past, such as single claimant QSFs (468B), are not the focus of the SSP as an organization. Taking care of those injured to a fiduciary standard is and will continue to be at the core of what we as an organization develop and promote.
In closing, I would like to say that I am optimistic about the positive information exchange that I anticipate will happen at this year's conference. Read the meeting agenda for the 2013 SSP education conference. I look forward to seeing readers in Las Vegas!