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The 7 Most Respected Insurance Agent Designations (And Why It Matters To You)

By September 9, 2020April 20th, 2021Business Insurance, Personal Insurance

Last month, my son had a motorcycle accident. Thankfully, he wasn’t badly injured, though he did suffer a broken wrist. 

After being seen at urgent care, we scheduled an appointment with an osteopathic specialist. And, to make sure our son received expert care, we met with the specialist that worked specifically with hands and wrists. We didn’t want just any doctor…we wanted an expert!

Why should it be any different with insurance?

Your business is incredibly important to you! Why would you settle for anything less than an insurance expert?

In Pennsylvania, the process to become an insurance agent is lengthy. Hours of classes and tedious examinations are part of the licensing process. 

And, while newly licensed agents can legally sell insurance, they are in no way insurance experts. I liked to say at this point in my career, I knew enough to be dangerous! 

So what makes an insurance agent an expert?

When I started working with Baily Insurance Agency in 2001, I set out immediately on my journey to become an insurance expert. This journey took several years, rigorous classwork, and hours of study.  

And even today, keeping my expertise requires a commitment to stay current in the ever-evolving insurance landscape. Every year, I am required to continue my education with challenging insurance courses that help me stay at the top of my field.

Because expertise is something our company values, I was willing to commit to becoming a CIC – Certified Insurance Counselor. This designation is broad in that it covers all areas of insurance – personal, commercial, and life. 

And since that time, I’ve worked on becoming an expert in both Workers’ Compensation Insurance and Risk Management practices. As an owner at Baily Insurance, we encourage our team to invest in additional education to ensure that they are experts within our industry.

In this article, I will outline the 7 most respected designations in the insurance industry and explain what sets these experts apart from their peers. If you see these designations listed after your insurance agent’s name, you can be assured that your agent has spent extra time and effort becoming an insurance expert!

  • CIC – Certified Insurance Counselor
  • CRM – Certified Risk Manager
  • CWCA – Certified WorkComp Advisor
  • AAI – Accredited Advisor in Insurance
  • CISR – Certified Insurance Service Representative
  • CWCS – Certified WorkComp Specialist
  • CPCU – Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter

The 7 Most Respected Insurance Designations

In the U.S., three institutions provide the coursework to earn insurance designations. They are The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research (The National Alliance), The Institute of WorkComp Professionals (IWCP), and The Institutes Risk and Insurance Knowledge Group (The Institutes). 

These organizations provide additional education to insurance agents to help them achieve expert status in their industry and provide their clients with exceptional service.

Here are the most popular and respected designations these organizations offer:

#1 Certified Insurance Counselor – CIC

This designation has been around for over 40 years through The National Alliance. Agents with this expertise study five different areas within their industry: 

  • Agency management
  • Commercial casualty (essentially liability, or damage to others – people or property)
  • Commercial property
  • Life and health insurance
  • Personal insurance 

Being that there are less than 32,000 CIC’s in the United States, this designation is considered prestigious. With the continued education to maintain this designation, you can rest assured that a CIC has very current knowledge of the insurance industry. 

#2 Certified Risk Manager – CRM

If your insurance agent is a Certified Risk Manager, he has spent over 120 hours to earn this designation and has completed the five advanced courses to receive this designation. 

A certified risk manager is trained in preventing, reducing, avoiding, and eliminating risk. These individuals help their clients analyze their businesses and determine where their businesses are exposed to risks. 

One of the most significant benefits of working with a Certified Risk Manager is their in-depth knowledge of insurance language. CRMs are able to read through your policy and understand exactly what is and what is not covered by your policy.

#3 Certified WorkComp Advisor – CWCA

Workers’ compensation insurance is a large expense for many businesses – sometimes the 2nd or 3rd largest expense after payroll. Your CWCA will be very knowledgeable in helping you lower your workers’ compensation costs.

Certified WorkComp Advisors take classes with The Institute of WorkComp Professionals. Insurance agents who work on this designation learn from other professionals in the insurance industry. 

They gain expertise on experience modifiers, managing employee injuries, and preparing for the premium audit that your insurance company may want to conduct.  

A Certified WorkComp Advisor will also have increased knowledge in helping you establish an effective safety committee, timely claims management, and human resource advice to help you lower your workers’ compensation costs.

#4 Accredited Advisor in Insurance – AAI

This designation is offered through The Institutes. An agent must complete four classes to achieve this designation. The AAI designation is a comprehensive commercial insurance designation equipping the agent in property and casualty lines while also covering underwriting and customer service in their classwork.

#5 Certified Insurance Service Representative – CISR

CISR’s are highly-trained service representatives who manage commercial, personal, and life insurance accounts. This designation gives the manager a comprehensive understanding of the risks that companies and individuals have. 

The coursework ensures that the manager keeps current with the insurance industry so that they can help their clients with important coverage decisions.  

#6 Certified WorkComp Specialist – CWCS

Similar to the CISR designation, Certified WorkComp Specialists manage commercial accounts and have expertise in Workers’ Compensation insurance. CWCSs have expertise in working with experience modifiers, audits, and claims management.  

Because CWCS experts work in-depth with workers’ compensation insurance, these experts can provide workers’ compensation education for you and your employees. They are also trained to be experts in managing your workers’ compensation claims. 

CWCS experts focus intently on workers’ compensation, while CISRs work have a much broader focus in multiple insurance industries. 

#7 Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter – CPCU

While you might run into an insurance agent with their CPCU, mostly this designation is held by individuals who work for insurance companies. Insurance agents with their CPCU most likely worked at an insurance company before being employed as an insurance agent. 

The CPCU designation not only gives an agent expertise in the underwriting process, but it also gives understanding of insurance company accounting, how insurance companies determine how they will insure certain risks and knowledge of legal issues in the insurance industry.

What can these experts offer you that other agents can’t?

While it is true that your insurance agent had to go through a lengthy process to get his license, without the extra work on a designation, you can’t be sure the agent is on top of industry changes.  

When you work with an insurance agent who has invested the time and money into getting a specific designation, you can expect these benefits:

#1 Better understanding of what can and, at some point, will go wrong with your insurance program

I cannot overemphasize this, it is not an issue of what coverages you DO have, the real issue is what you DO NOT have!  

When you begin working with a new agent, unfortunately it is not uncommon for the new agent to simply copy your limits from your previous policy.  

Far too many times, agents just duplicate the prior agent’s mistakes!

The true measure of your policy is “What is Excluded.”  That is the loopholes, definitions, limitations, exceptions, and the other fine print. Most agents do not dig into this level of detail by themselves, let alone, with their clients.

And as a result, there are often “landmines” hidden in your policy that could cripple your business financially or wipe out your net worth.  You may think I am exaggerating, but your insurance agent needs to scrutinize your policy to ensure that you understand what is and what is not covered in your insurance policy.

Examining the fine print of your insurance policy

One time when quoting the insurance for a large municipality, the manager handed us “all the limits and information you’ll need to quote our insurance.” My face must have shown my confusion.

The manager asked why I was giving her that puzzled look.  So I told her that I was not able to obtain accurate quotes, let alone properly advise the municipality, without first seeing the entirety of their policies and then spending the necessary time making sure it lined up with their actual needs.  

Her reply left me dumbfounded: “None of the other agents quoting our insurance said they needed that.” 

Needless to say, when we came in to present our proposal, ours was the only proposal that aligned with their real insurance needs. All the others merely duplicated the mistakes of the prior agent, so we ended up with a new client.  

I wish I could say this was the only time that happened in my career but unfortunately it is a far too frequent occurrence. 

Insurance designations prepare your agent to wade through more than your policy’s “declarations pages” (the summary pages that outline your limits). These designations equip your agent to know how your policy will respond, or more importantly, not respond when you file a claim.

Insurance policies are very nuanced. You deserve to be informed about what your policy will cover when you need it most!

#2 Deeper knowledge of the insurance industry

To achieve these designations, insurance agents have to spend incredible amounts of time in the classroom in addition to study and preparation for comprehensive essay exams. 

For example, to become a CIC, an agent will spend at least 120 hours in the classroom – that doesn’t even include all the extra preparation to study for and pass the exam! (Full disclosure: I did fail one section of the CIC course and had to retake the course and the test! These tests are rigorous! I had to give hours to studying to pass the test and receive my designation.)

These designations provide graduate-level courses that only those in the certification programs have access to. These classes dive deep into material that will increase your agents’ knowledge and effectiveness. 

These classes also present claim scenarios and case studies that will prepare your agent to deal with your insurance issues and needs as they arise.

For example, I once met with a beautiful church that had about $25,000,000 in building and stained glass values.  The church had a building value of $25,000,000 on the “declarations page” of their current policy, so naturally, they thought they were covered.   

However, I had just finished my CIC class three months prior so I was equipped to dig into the fine print.  When I reviewed their coverages, I found a limitation that dropped their coverage down to only $300,000 in certain claim scenarios, which means they had a $24.7 MILLION gap in their insurance policy.  

And neither they nor their agent (hopefully no agent would knowingly leave that gap in place) had any idea. 

And for those of you who might be thinking this oversight was just because the church was covered by a “fly by night” insurance company, the company was one of the top writers of churches in the country.

#3 National network of peers 

By taking required insurance classes to maintain their designation, your insurance expert can establish a network of peers to consult with as they deal with your insurance program.

This network is indispensable when working on difficult insurance matters or complicated claims. Having other “experts” to consult with is an added benefit of working with an agent who has maintained their designation.

For instance, one time we were working on a complicated multi-state contractor who had a very unusual exposure in a highly regulated state where the number of our standard insurance companies was pretty limited.  

As a result, of my involvement with the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research, I was able to reach out to one of my past instructors, and he was able to introduce me to another CIC who was able to quickly resolve the issue and get coverage placed with local expertise so our client could have peace of mind. 

Insurance Expertise at Baily Insurance Agency

At Baily Insurance Agency, we are committed to being the best in our industry. Our core values include:

  • Desire to be the best
  • Be resourceful 
  • Be prepared 
  • Have a servant’s heart

Our team’s efforts in attaining various designations have prepared our team to be top-notch professionals in the insurance industry. Our significant experience with commercial property and casualty insurance and workers’ compensation insurance along with our designations attest to our expertise in those areas.

Our designations have also given us the skills to be resourceful when navigating our clients’ insurance problems. The classwork we have completed has added to the skills needed to help our clients when they most need us.

Our commitment to advanced training has also prepared us to more effectively serve our clients with confidence backed by expertise.  

With 75% of our commercial team holding designations, I can confidently say that we are a team of experts.  

And I am extremely grateful that that mindset has been modeled for generations.  One of my father’s favorite mottos was “settle the claim before it happens.”  He was also a CIC, and has passed that on to my generation, and I look forward to passing it on to the next…along with the advice to be A LOT MORE CAREFUL on a motorcycle!  

If you are looking for an experienced insurance agent to help you or your business “settle the claim BEFORE it happens,” our team is looking forward to meeting with you.