Dwindling interest in classroom continuing education raises concerns

Dave Patriarche says he was shocked when he realized there are a number of financial advisors out there who simply have no desire to share how they reach their sales and personal financial goals.

Undaunted, Patriarche, owner of Mainstay Insurance, founded the Canadian Group Insurance Brokers (CGIB), and about a decade ago started gathering together like-minded advisors to discuss issues, new trends and developments in the industry at morning breakfast seminars. He believed then and still does now that financial advisors, like other professionals, absorb more when they’re in a group setting.

About 40 advisors showed up at first, growing to about 180 – that is, until a couple of years ago when the numbers trickled down to 60-90 a meeting.

When it all started, there were Ontario meetings in Markham, Ottawa, Ajax, Oakville, Cambridge and Newmarket as well as Halifax, but then many of the groups shut down for lack of attendance.

It was when he received the go-ahead for CE credits that the crowds started coming to his breakfasts in an atmosphere where Patriarche wanted advisors to not just listen to an expert, but discuss, disagree and be interactive with the speakers.

“It’s advisors’ responsibility to educate themselves, their responsibility to specialize and become a professional,” says Patriarche. “They can’t blame an insurance company or anyone else for not learning about a product or a theme. A lot of advisors think it’s not their job to learn more than what the product information tells them.”

Starting this March-April, CGIB is moving away from its five half-day courses to three full-day seminars.

Fewer specialists

He gives a number of reasons why numbers have fallen so dramatically. First, he believes there are fewer specialists out there, unlike the group insurance advisors he draws to his meetings. Now, he says, the industry is pushing toward generalists – selling everything from insurance to all kinds of investments.

“I think people are a little lackadaisical about [educating themselves],” he says. “They don’t think they need to invest anything into their own development… Everything they learned to get their licence – that was when their learning stopped.  But when you think about other professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, if you’re not keeping up you are putting your clients and your own business at risk.”

There’s also ongoing amalgamation, with firms like Winnipeg-based People Corp., MGAs like HUB and consulting firms such as Gallagher buying up many of their smaller competitors.

On top of that, the median age of life insurance advisors in Canada is 60, closer to the end of their career than they are at the beginning. Many, suggests Patriarche, are just coasting now until they retire….

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