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Navigating The Now: A Conversation with AALU/GAMA

Navigating The Now: A Conversation with AALU/GAMA

AALU GAMA The American College of Financial Services Webcast
Navigating The Now: A Conversation with AALU/GAMA
George Nichols III
May 14, 2020

Earlier this week, I sat down with Marc Cadin, chief executive officer at AALU. Marc has been a friend and an industry leader for nearly two decades. I’m excited about the potential partnerships we can forge to best support the financial services community and strengthen the financial security of millions of Americans.

This webcast was part of AALU/GAMA’s #NavigatingTheNow Webcast Series – conversations with the profession’s top executives and thought leaders in response to today’s COVID-19 crisis. If you have an hour, watch the webcast or read the transcript below. It was an engaging discussion on how The American College of Financial Services is leading through innovation, ethics, and new learning opportunities for today’s financial services professional.

Marc Cadin: Good morning everyone. This is Marc Cadin, CEO of AALU/GAMA. We're going to just give it a minute for folks to load, so just hang in there with us for another 30 seconds and we'll get started with our discussion with the President of the American College, George Nichols. 30 seconds please.

Well, good morning everyone. Happy post Monday after Mother's Day. Hope everyone had a wonderful, wonderful Mother's Day and mothers around the world were celebrated in your house and via zoom and everywhere else. My name is Marc Cadin, CEO of AALU/GAMA. I'm particularly pleased today to be joined by a good friend and industry thought leader, George Nichols. Many of you know George has spent more than two decades in and around the profession, in or around the industry. George is the 10th president of the American College. We are delighted to hear from him on what he's doing at the American College and innovating. We're going to have a good discussion about that.

Prior to that, George spent 17 years with New York Life, was also the insurance commissioner of Kentucky and was also the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. In those latter two roles, he was the first African American insurance commissioner of Kentucky and president of the NAIC. We're delighted to have George joined our Thought Leaders series.

We're going to have a robust discussion on a couple different topics today. Number one, we want to talk about specifically what the American College is doing to help advance the profession. As we've talked about on a number of these calls, a central tenant of AALU/GAMA is to be a unifying force within the profession and within the industry. As we look around the other industry organizations, the opportunity to partner with the American College is certainly at the forefront of our mind. We want to talk and share with you what George is doing with his colleagues at the American College to innovate, to prepare The College, to help advance the profession.

What we thought we would do secondly is really dive into some specific markets. We know the American College is the accredited educational institution for the profession. We want to hear from George about what he's seeing and what they're working on within a number of very specific markets.

Then third, perhaps the most interesting for many of us, is really looking at how we can partner to elevate the profession. The American College, you're not just in technology but in being a thought leader around public policy, continuing to provide practical education that advances the profession. Those are all necessary. We also want to look around the corner and see what are the things that we can do together and what is the American College doing that will help us elevate this profession? We close the gap between the nobility of the work that you do and how it's perceived by the general public. With that, George, thank you for being here. We are going to take questions, so enter the chat box, enter the Q&A. We will take your questions as we go. George, how was Mother's Day? Did your three children treat their mother well? How did it go?

George Nichols: Well, first of all, Marc, thanks for having me. Good morning to everyone. I appreciate always collaborating with you and I’m excited about the things that you also have going on. Mother's Day was wonderful. It was amazing that she said it was the best Mother’s Day she ever had and everything that we ordered from Amazon did not come in. We ordered dinner from Capital Grille. She said that was the best. Obviously, I've not been that smart. I could have been doing that over the last 30-plus years. I would have probably been Husband of the Year. Anyway, it worked yesterday.

Marc Cadin: Well good, good, good, good. I'm glad that you and your family both are safe and glad to have you here. George, maybe we can just set the top line to start. Obviously, you're doing a lot of innovating at the American College and really looking at technology, looking at the people within various departments. Maybe you can just set the frame at a high level on where you found the American College and what are some of the priorities from an innovation agenda that you are doing to bring the American College to where you feel like it needs to be today.

George Nichols: Yes. Marc, I think that's a great question. Thank you for allowing me to set it up. If you think about the American College, we started out as a correspondence College years ago. We'd send the exam and all the material through the mail. You'd take it. You'd send it back. We’d grade it. Then you went about your merry way. Then we shifted, and we went online, which was an innovative idea years ago for the College to do, to go online and say, "Now instead of mailing you, we're going to do all of that online." Basically it was, we sent you the book. We'd send you the exams for you to take. You send it back and then we'd grade it. That was about it. There really wasn't a lot of interaction when it came to professional designations.

What we have shifted to is I think it's great again that we were innovative to go online, but how do we become a truly e-learning institution, and I say, one of the best and not just we're out there like everyone else. I really wanted us to be one of the outstanding centers of excellence around e-learning. It is a three-part process.

The first one is technology, as you mentioned. It was fortuitous that last year we made a decision to move to a new learning management system. It's called Brightspace by D2L. What it does is it allows us to offer our content in a student-friendly mobile environment that everyone, given the complicated lives that we have, everyone wants to work on mobile devices. We weren't able to do that prior to now. We just so happened to launch that program in April of this year. Even in the midst of the pandemic, everything went very smoothly.

The technology is great. Now this new environment, it's friendly for the student, it's mobile, it can be customized. One of the exciting things about it is the big data on the back end of this thing. There’s already built-in data analytics that allow us actually to determine, based on the system, when a student may be having trouble so we can intercede at that point in time and help them along. What are the issues that they're dealing with? If we see that across the spectrum of all students, we can actually put new videos or webinars out there to help the student get through the process. That's the first thing. Very, very exciting.

The second piece is that now that we're moving away from just sending you materials and then you do all your work at home and send it back to us, we actually want to engage with students. We want to take this opportunity to help them work through the process as they customize it for themselves. We have restructured The College around this whole student experience and looking at every touchpoint that a student has from the time they called in or they're on the website all the way through until they graduate or get their designation and then for them as an alumni. When you think about connecting all of that together and making sure that every piece is consistent and that every experience that you have at the American College is the same, that's really important.

The third thing is we're not moving away. We're actually doubling down on the things that have made us so great over the last 93 years. It's really financial planning and then the things that build off of financial planning. We're excited about a new ChFC®/CFP® initiative that will be launched in June that actually gives people an opportunity to really dig into the competencies necessary around financial planning, so we have that. Then we'll build on top of that trying to make sure that our educational content is keeping up with what's happening in the marketplace. For example, when you think about us coming out of this, there's a great need for small business advice. How do we help financial advisors get really good knowledge and education so they can use that and be more actionable with their clients? It's that. We are going to have to deal with student loans. How do we help the student or the parent as they are pre or post going through that process? That is important. Again, the basics around financial planning, because it's changing as you have robo-advisors and all of the other technologies. We want to pull all that together so that we are right lockstep with financial advisors about what's happening in the marketplace today.

Marc Cadin: Well certainly no shortage of things to do. We've already received a number of questions, so thank you for entering those questions in. We're going to come back to specifically what are you doing in small business in terms of curriculum that people can look to or specifically where, how are you attacking the student loan education, so that we're positioning the profession to be in a better position to help advise parents and students alike. George, I wonder from a real practical standpoint, as we think about this learning environment that we now find ourselves in, how are you finding students engaging with taking exams or getting CE, as you think about this, they're obviously not showing up to classrooms anymore. You mentioned the investments in technology, but how are you handling some of these practical day-to-day issues to just make sure that, again, whether it's proctoring an exam or getting CE, how are you executing against that?

George Nichols: Sure. Good question. Well as soon as the pandemic started and we realized that many places were going to be shut down, we started immediately working with Pearson VUE, who is our partner for our examinations. Actually, again, it's technology. Pearson VUE has been working very closely with us. The first thing we did was we said anybody that had exams in March, April, May, we're going to move those to September. We wanted people not to worry about it. We're going to move them. We recognize we're in a different environment.

We also decided, "Let's go work with Pearson VUE and see if there's a way that we can actually do a virtual, online examination that's proctored by them." They have the technology. We actually had been on a system that was more advanced than what most states are doing. We have now been able to launch an online examination process through Pearson VUE where people can start taking their tests. We had some of testing programs come on at the end of April. We should have three or four more that will come on by the end of May. We feel like coming into June, almost all of our examinations that people would have to take, they will actually be available virtually through Pearson VUE. You've got to get in line for that, because we can't do it in the bulk that we used to do it when everybody comes into a room. Being able to have that solution, and to me, that's exactly what we should be doing. If we're saying that technology and online and this advancement of what we're doing in terms of helping people with their education, this is a logical step.

That's the first thing, I think, that was exciting us. We actually wanted to think about it as something that we can incorporate in as we go forward in the future. You know, Marc, it's really going to be interesting what happens after this is over. None of us thought that we'd be having conversations through Zoom and Microsoft Teams. I think a lot of people are saying like, "Oh, you mean I don't have to go all the time, that maybe I can do this a little different?" We're actually talking with Pearson VUE and others and saying, "Okay, if state governments were able to move in that direction, not all of them will, but if they were able to move in that direction, how would we assist in that process?"

For us, we would like to offer all of our course tests online to make it more convenient for the very, very busy financial advisors that we provide education and knowledge to. I think that is one of the big things that we're doing in terms of technology and trying to help people meet these challenging needs right now where they can't get out of the house. We'd love to see that again, move on to the state agencies. I think it would really be helpful for firms and for advisors if we could do more testing online so they could be closer to the markets that they're working in and still be able to get their license, be able to get their educational needs met so that they can be a better advisor for their clients.

Marc Cadin: Well, there's no question that's a huge step in the right direction. We had, on this Thought Leaders series, we had Susan Neely, who I know you know very, very well at the ACLI. What we were talking about with Susan is the tremendous advancements that have been made, temporary state licensing and the ability for online notaries. There's been a number of gains that have been made through the regulatory process that when you couple the innovation, particularly from an accredited educational institution that's designed to provide the profession with the education they need to serve the greater consuming public with an effective advocacy, there's no reason that we can't continue to move forward through the work that you're doing, the work from an advocacy standpoint dealing with the ACLI. As we think about putting the profession at the center of everything we do rather than any individual organization at the center of everything.

What's exciting to me is we have so many new leaders at all of the rights spots. We think about it in terms of, "Hey, how can I advance the cause of the American College or ACLI or AALU/GAMA or NAPFA or anybody else.” I think more and more of us are thinking about how we can advance the cause of the profession and how can the profession work more effectively with companies so that together we can serve more people and provide more financial security. Having been around like you for a number of years, that's certainly very exciting for me as a leader in a vertical that's critically important. George, I wonder, picking up on that line, we got one question about the general public I'm going to come to next. As you think about, before we dive into specific areas of curriculum, I wonder if you can talk as a general matter where you're making adjustments and evolving the curriculum at the American College to the modern day advisor.

George Nichols: Sure. Let me first step back on your comment about the new leadership across our industry. Obviously you're a part of that, myself, Susan Neely, David Levenson over at LL Global. It really is a recognition of how do we leverage all of our skill sets that differ, to some extent, but how do we leverage it so that we do advance our industry. I commend you. I know you've been reaching out not only to me, but to everyone else, bringing us all together and even a recognition of how do we work together, but also, let me not get in another lane that I really shouldn't be in. I do commend all of the new leadership that's around us. It is very exciting that we're all working together. It is for the common good of the industry. The fact is, as the industry succeeds, so do we. That's really what it is. It's all about the industry. Then we will get the benefits of that. That's the first thing I'm going to say.

The second thing I would say is the American College of Financial Services is not getting into the advocacy space. However, I do want to see the College and the thought leaders that we have involved in the public policy debates. When I think about what is the CARES Act that came through and the impact it's having on small businesses and things of that nature, what we're talking about related to retirement, I think it's important. We've got Wade Pfau and Michael Finke. We really have some really bright minds that are involved in that, looking at research, looking at thought leadership, very engaged in the marketplace.

I'd like to see The College take more of a role as a subject matter expert in the public policy debate. We're not picking sides, but because we do have that knowledge, we do have that expertise, we should be a part of the discussion because we really have looked at this and tried to be agnostic about one thing or another, but just saying these are the right things. I think as we position ourselves as a public policy expert, then we can talk about if you don't have a pension, you don't have Social Security, what's the best way to get guaranteed income? Well, it's an annuity. It's life insurance. I think those are the things that we can do down the road. I'm hoping that we'll be able to leverage and work through the relationships that you all established across, for a number of years, in order for us to do them. Again, purely as just an expert.

Now, to this curriculum thing. The College has done an outstanding job. I think, when you think about if you want to do holistic planning, okay, that’s CHFC® or CFP®. That's something you can get through the College. The College has also done a tremendous job of actually focusing on the specialties. That is, "Okay, now I have my financial planning down. I'm really good at that, but what are the things that my clients really need?" Well for us, it's, we know they need retirement. You look at the number of Baby Boomers retiring. We know that retirement is a very important phase. We've invested a lot in our retirement center to make sure. Again, Wade Pfau and Michael Finke are involved in that process. We are seeing many folks that are really now wanting to build legacy.

We have a designation for philanthropy. What we have found is that every client we're working with is saying, "You know what? I'm not going to be here forever. What do I, how can I make a difference in my community? How can I make a difference, whether it's a family foundation or a trust?" Now being able to bring that philanthropic approach to help them and their offspring, to build that legacy for their family. Very, very exciting.

Another thing that we're seeing, and it's amazing that The College put these things in place well before I was here, but how we're able to leverage it. We have a designation for special needs. Think about what's happening today. Think about so much of the pandemic we're dealing with, I know that we think about the economic implications, the financial implications. This is a healthcare issue. It’s a healthcare issue. Until we're able to deal with that, we're going to have a hard time dealing with the financial and the economic aspects of it. Well, there are going to be people who will be fine, but we're recognizing that special needs is not just a child. Special needs is Alzheimer's. It's my sister. It's my father. Trying to be able to bring that component to a financial advisor so they can help their clients in that regard, another outstanding aspect.

The last I'll mentioned is wealth management. Obviously, we found many young people are coming into our business. They're saying like, "I don't want to just be a life insurance agent. I want to be able to move into wealth management." For us, it's how do we help you move into wealth management, but still understand the importance of life insurance as part of the overall portfolio that you're looking at and how do you bring that, whether it's a team concept that you're working with, a particular client or just something that you're bringing to the table. We're really trying to look at what's happening, dig a little deeper in and try to make sure that, again, I always, I think The College is at the intersection of academic standards and truly applied knowledge. I say to our faculty all the time, "Whatever we do, you have to be able to use it and apply it for the benefit of your clients." That's just a little overview in terms of the exciting programs going on. I'd be more than happy to get into more detail.

Marc Cadin: Well, I think we absolutely need to get into more detail around the public policy piece and where we can take that discussion. Before we go in what are the resources in retirement and for business owners, I do want to take one question we have here from an audience member. We talk a lot about educating the profession. The American College does a great job with that. Companies have resources. The question here is, does the American College anticipate providing online courses for the general public to build its brand and expand their talents and offerings beyond the profession itself?

George Nichols: Excellent question. The answer is yes, over time. I believe that we have to do better at what we deliver to advisors first. It’s our intent to move, to offer more information, more educational content, even maybe a possible certificate for consumers. Let me give you probably the best example of where I say that we're beginning to dabble our toe into this. Everybody always says to me like, "The American College would be great at doing something related to financial literacy." I think we would too. The fact that we have these relationships with a huge alumni group across the country that we could create content, offer it to our advisors and then they could take it to their clients. I also think we can go direct. We already have a couple of faculty members that are writing pieces for various financial magazines and consumer pieces that are actually designed specific for the consumer.

I'll tell you, I actually believe that years ago, we ran The American College like a life insurance company that was a mutual. We said that the only person that could talk to the client or the consumer was the agent or the advisor. We never, we like, "Whatever we do, actually goes through them." Well, the fact is we believe that if we can figure out the content and simplify it down for consumers, that the smarter your client is, the easier your job is. We're moving in the financial literacy space. We believe that in our special needs space, because we'll be working with a lot of parents who are telling us about what it is I need from my advisor, we're going to be able to make those connections. We think in philanthropy, how do we help the next generation understand what the current generation wants to do in legacy. We are trying to take natural steps in the consumer space.

Then once we’re able to do that and do it well, then I think you'll be able to see us take a much more broader approach about going direct to consumers with the information that we have, the knowledge that we have, and then offering them information that they actually could take advantage of themselves. So, that’s coming.

Marc Cadin: Well, and I think about that it's really, really smart to take a phased approach. As I think about, some of the policy debates back in your previous job that you and I were in the middle of for the last couple of decades. The reality is we have to engage the American people in the fight for their financial security. Too often as a profession, as an industry, we enter into these debates and discussions divided either among districts, between distribution, between distribution and carriers, between carriers. We've have to be more unified in that approach. We also, ultimately, this is not about a life insurance carrier or an advisor or a product. This is about the outcomes that we deliver for people. We need to have those people who receive the outcome, receive the guarantees to be able to engage directly on their behalf.

I think it's really, really smart and it dovetails pretty closely to how we're thinking about advocacy in particular. First, we have to organize the 345,000 advisors, 90% of which are members of no advocacy organization. We simply don't have anyone who is capturing the hearts and minds of advisors across the distribution segments. We have to be better at bringing them in, but then we have to then go to the next step and leverage the 90 plus million American families and engage them directly as well. I think we do both of those, both from an education standpoint and an advocacy standpoint, then we should be really debating what are the kinds of policies that we need to do more of that, because, again, the American people need more of what we're providing. It’s a really important topic. Before we transition into retirement, small business and other markets, any last comments on that George?

George Nichols: Yeah, and I want to add to what you just said. First of all, I totally agree. I think you made all the right points. In fact, I'm thinking about just hiring you to be a spokesperson for the American College. There's another piece of this that I think is really important. As I talk about technology and I talk about how we want to enhance the student experience, let's talk about how people learn. That's something we've spent a lot of time on over the last year, trying to get a better sense of how people learn. Now again, my typical student is a financial advisor, so they're busy. You can do self-study.

One of the things that research has shown is that people are getting to the point where they like it in small bites. Now, I'll take more small bites, depending on how much time I have. People are moving to a modular format. This is what you’ll see from the American College is. What we used to do was, just like everyone else, we bundled courses together and offered you one price and said, "If you buy it, you have to buy the whole thing." That was great marketing, okay? The reality is that for some coming into the business, for some who are already in the business, the College always was a designation school.

Well, I want us to be viewed as a financial knowledge institution, an accredited financial knowledge institution. What we're doing is, I'm asking them to unpack every one of our designations and put them in a modular format. Then repackage them back so that you can still get your designation. What we're finding is that I am a life insurance agent and I now want to move into estate planning, but I don't necessarily want to go and get a CLU® or ChFC®. Well, there are pieces of knowledge that I want to take that the College has to offer. We believe by creating it in modular format and micro-learning bites that people can come and get the information that they need. Our objective is if you have a great experience in doing that, you're going to keep coming back for the knowledge that you want. Again, if you think of us as a knowledge institution and not as a designation college, that’s going to be important.

In order to do that, we put in this modular format, but it also does something else, which is, maybe you don't want to designation, but there's something you're building about your practice, then you should be able to customize what we offer based on what your needs are as opposed to what we're dictating to you.

George Nichols: One of the other things that we're excited about is actually now going in to companies, and offering ourselves as a partner, a lifelong learning partner within the company. One, looking at can we give you credit for what you already do for all your producers or agents. Then, saying, "Okay, how do we take the modular pieces and put it together where they can get a designation, where they can get the type of learning or knowledge base the companies want them to get, but also the practices which they choose." I'm pretty excited that with the technology, with innovation, we are really thinking about how to push forward. Our job is to make sure that we're ready for competition, but even when we deal with it, there's no one that offers a more comprehensive suite of financial knowledge that's actionable, that you can truly use, than the American College of Financial Services.

Marc Cadin: I think that's where a lot of our conversations have gone so far. As AALU/GAMA thinks about our innovation trajectory and changing the nature of the membership model and looking at the relationship between the producer groups and the career agency systems and the brokerage market and how to lower the barriers to entry and then what are the products and services that we provide in addition to the advocacy function. One of the exciting points is this notion of breaking these pieces off. Can we create a platform for a study group with a collection of founding firms? Can we do agency specific where they may join because the managing partner general agent says, "We need everyone to participate in this advocacy function because of the profession?” AALU/GAMA is the leading advocate for the entirety of the profession.

They will then stay because we will provide a community that's connected with education. As we think about it, it's not just the breakout sessions that we would do traditionally at the annual meeting. How can we leverage the unique resources at the American College so that we're not duplicating efforts and are being efficient, and how are taking the whole concept and raising it up? I think that's the opportunity. As we break it down, we dive in and we actually have a question that I'm going to turn to now from the audience, it's really about what are the opportunities in the specific segments of the markets that people are conducting business in. We have a question from one of our audience members. "When will you be doing something on business owner training? I've not found much, if anything in this area." Maybe we can start with business owner training, George and we'll go into the various markets.

George Nichols: Sure, so, first of all, we've been offering a four-part series on dealing with financial planning in the COVID-19 era. We had our first session a couple of weeks ago. We've got another one coming up this Thursday that's focused on what I would call the small business space. We'll have Jeff Levine and Robert Keebler, two of probably the most prominent CPAs, that'll be talking about financial planning and some of the issues related to tax and retirement planning. We hope people will go to the American College website to register.

What we started with is how do we get the experts like a Jeff Levine and a Robert Keebler who work with business owners, whether it be on the estate planning side of it or general financial planning side of it? We try to bring those types of experts into our platform to have those conversations.

What we've said is now we want to look at our content. We want to look across CLU®. We want to look at ChFC® and all of the pieces that we have that relate to how you would advise a business owner, okay? One overlaid in this environment, but truly what are the right things for business owners. Then, how would we take those pieces, I'll go back to this, the value of being modular, put them together and then make an offering? Our goal is that we would like to be able, between end of June and July, to have something that we can present to the marketplace that you can come in and get some quick knowledge and information that is actionable. Again, everything is applied around the business, small business arena that you can get. Now, this is not some designation, but it's really the content. Then we'll try to build it out from there.

We're starting with, we recognize there's going to be a lot of small businesses that are going to go under. There's going to be a lot that are going to teeter on the edge of going under, there'll be some that are ready to launch, and then how do you go in and help assess that for the business owner, put together the right plan, understand how to make connections. I know AALU had a webcast about how the PPP program worked. How do you put all those pieces together, so that you have the right solutions for business owners? That's what we're in the process of doing. The first one was, let's have this webcast that we'll have on Thursday, so we can start having these discussions, just so we're presenting things that we see that are happening today.

George Nichols: Over time, between now and June and July, let's pull all of it together. We always talk to advisors. What are the points that we should be piecing together and say, "Here's an offering for you in the small business space." We believe that's necessary. We believe that retirement is another area that's necessary. Even though the government's still trying to figure out what they're going to do with student loans, we think that's another area. I've asked the faculty and our instructional design experts, "Look across our offerings, pull together what you think is most relevant today, and let's package that together so that we can make an offering to the marketplace in the June/July timeframe.”

Marc Cadin: Well, that’s exciting. I mean, it's tragic in many ways that the economic challenges that small businesses are facing, but the value of advice, the value of financial security in the products and advice that the profession provides is more needed now than ever before. If you think about it, and we'll have the same conversation on retirement, the idea of influencing, unpacking, understanding, providing resources for the profession around the policies coming out of Washington and states around the country that impacts small businesses, and then coupling that with the educational resources and plan design, there's a really nice partnership that we can provide. We'll continue to push towards that.

In similar way, George, there's probably no area where the American College has made more strides, you've mentioned it a couple of times, than in and around retirement. I know the number of people who quote Wade Pfau to me today, it seems like it exponentially grows and work around sequence of returns and the idea of how life insurance and annuities are guaranteed and then invested in a 401(k).. Unfortunately, not enough people are doing it. Maybe you can talk about what you're doing in that space. I know it's received a number of very high marks.

George Nichols: Yeah. Well, thank you. I appreciate you asking that. Yeah, I will give them credit. The retirement center, the New York Life Center for Retirement Income has just been a huge success. I will give credit to Wade Pfau and Michael Finke, David Litell, a former faculty member that still does some work with us. These are all the folks that built this, that helped create the RICP®, professional designation around retirement that I think is second to none. It's the best retirement designation program out there.

What we're trying to do, and what the team is doing, is answering how we drive that down more and more where we’re actually communicating with the consumer. The second piece is that we've asked Wade and Michael and the team, we really do want to get them out more, more than we had our first webinar on retirement. That was conducted by Michael. From that, I mean, the exposure we got with the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, and all of the financial news media were picking it up. That's what we're trying to do is really push more of our thought leadership out and get more people engaged. Steve Parish is a co-director for the Retirement Center. Steve does a podcast. I'll tell you that he's now competing with Wade about how many people want to hear what Steve Parish has to say. I think we are really trying to let people know the expertise that's out there and promote it in new, unique ways.

That is also a reason why we said we wanted to get into this public policy issue; because these are really smart people. They've got a lot of knowledge around this that I think is very, very helpful. Again, this is not the push one product or service over anything else. It is, let us help you figure out the things that are most important to the average American when it comes to retirement. I think that and this overlay of us really trying to think about how does it connect with the average American, how does it connect with consumers, will be very valuable for the advisors who come in and learn from our experts and be a part of the educational experience at The College.

Marc Cadin: Well, there's no doubt we all have to work together on that. Then, you get some tremendous resources. As we turn the corner into the last subject about how we're going to work together to elevate the profession, that's a pretty good way of wrapping up this discussion. We've received a number of questions. For those that we can't get to, we'll certainly, as we've done with our Thought Leader series with members of Congress and other industry thought leaders, George, we'll send you all of the questions so that you have the benefit of them. We could work together to address them.

As we think about where we are, one of the things that perhaps is most exciting to me is this notion of, and it's come up a number of times, about the American College being a thought leader. If we look at where we are as a society today, the reality is the American people simply don't have enough money saved for crises. They simply don't have enough money prepared for retirement. The life insurance ownership as a percentage of the population is at historic lows. The net result of that is that when we get into a crisis, and now we are in the middle of the third crisis, or hopefully the middle, hopefully near the end, but we're in the middle of the third economic crisis that we've seen in 20 years. 9/11 created an economic collapse and a subsequent recession. The 2008 collapse created a massive, massive recession. The one that we're in now, hopefully will be the quickest recovery, but the economic impact is extraordinary. The commonality among all of those is that the American people simply don't have any money, a sufficient amount of money saved. They are not financially secure.

As we think about how these institutions, whether it's LIMRA or the ACLI or AALU/GAMA or the American College, how we're going to attack this, I wonder if you can provide some of your perspective about what's needed and what role the American College will play to make sure that when we get to the next economic collapse, hopefully not anytime soon, but it's bound to be in the next five, 10, 15 years, how can we work together as institutions represented the industry to make sure that the American people are better prepared for the next crisis.

George Nichols: Sure. Great question. We really do have to break down the barriers and the silos that have existed across trade associations, the College and others about what's best for the life insurance industry. I think we really have to stay focused on that. That's an important component. I also believe that if everybody brings their best game, their A game, this is what I'm really good at and puts that together, and then we're working together and saying, "Okay, where do we need knowledge and information and educational content? Where do we need advocacy? Where do we need thought leadership? Where do we pull all this together?” We're doing something that's direct to the public or otherwise, or to the regulators. I think that we really do have to start talking more about what are the issues in front of us.

The fact is that right now we are focused on retirement and small business. How do we take the good things that we do, your relationships, your advocacy on Capitol Hill, our thought leadership, our contacts and relationship with advisors that are even beyond life insurance but are just as concerned about retirement and small business. How do we bring all of that together? You doing this and inviting me and inviting Susan and others is a part of that process. After this, after the show, we've got to be able to sit down and talk about how do we deliver these things.

I also think that we have to invest in technology. We have to be the best of ourselves. You've got to be stronger. I always said that when I was at New York Life, if I had to go into battle, AALU was going with me. That's the respect that people have around what you will do with advocacy. Well, the thing is we want you to be even stronger. ACLI under Susan is getting stronger. It has to be stronger. AALU/GAMA has to be stronger under the you and Bonnie. The American College has to be stronger under George. LL Globe has to be stronger under David Levenson. If we're bringing our best self and we're working together and we identify what are the things that we need to do, then I think we're going to make a difference. We're going to advance the market.

There's one other thing that I think is important, and I know this is something that we've not talked about, but I know it's important to you. We also need to think about what's happening in the future. The advisor of the future is going to look different than the advisor today. Part of that challenge is money and resources. When we think of women, when we think of African Americans, when we think of Latino X, when we think of Asians and others, we need to start bringing them in, because one, they're going to be representative of those families and those communities that we talked about that don't have the things that they need in preparation for retirement.

I think we're going to have to do a better job at preparing the next generation within those communities to be the advisors of the future. We should be getting them now to help them so they can help us do exactly what you said. It's be our best self, bring our best self in a coordinated fashion together around the important issues for this sector and this industry, and then recognizing we're going to have to bring in and invite and make feel welcome the new generation of advisors, because this is a long-term challenge. It’s a generational thing. As you said, we've already been through three crisie. There will be another, and so why don't we bring them in now so we can help them be better prepared to help families across the country in the future?

Marc Cadin: Well, and there's no doubt, we can't talk about financial security unless we're talking about financial security for all. We have to talk about financial security for everyone. As you think about one of the things, and we've got to be honest with ourselves as it relates to the median income is $44,000 and it's great to talk about permanent life insurance products. But the challenge is those permanent life insurance products for a family of four making $44,000 are challenging. How do we harness the collective intellect and think about, okay, so the federal government just spent $2, $3 trillion to send out money, to provide bridge loans for small businesses, to basically help get us through this storm. In the last crisis, again, Cash for Clunkers, direct stimulus payments and the first group after 9/11, same thing.

What are the policies and the ideas and the product innovations that we can apply that leverage the strengths of the existing system, the existing products, but also provides an efficient vehicle that’s accessible for more people across the economic spectrum. Again, we believe strongly in permanent and sustainable state tax reform that enables the profession to help their clients plan with certainty. That's a segment of the population. That's not the population. That's how we're thinking about it and thinking in non-traditional ways about things like agent licensing. Is the academic rigor for that required in the entrance exam, is that sufficient for the nobility of the cause and the purpose of providing financial security for all? George, we'll let you have the last word as we think about how what we're going to do to elevate the profession, but that's how we're thinking about it.

George Nichols: Well, I appreciate that. I think you're asking and raising all the right issues. If you think about Dr. Solomon Huebner, 1927, I'm going to start a college called The American College of Financial Services. The purpose was to make the insurance agent a professional. The key thing around that was ethics, the integrity of the agent. It's interesting that in 1927 Dr. Huebner said that you should put the interest of your client before your own. I think about 1927 and he was 93 years ahead of the best interest standard.

Well, I think that what I look at in the licensing and the process we go through right now for advisors, I don't think it's rigorous enough. I think sometimes we're so focused on a specific knowledge that can you pass the test, can you answer these questions as opposed to the competency required in that. I don't think we're ever really testing to make sure you really know what it is you're doing as opposed to you just go do it.

I also don't think that we put enough thought around the ethics component. One of the things we are very close to announcing is a new leader for our ethics center at the College. We've been talking to the candidates about the culture of ethics. Because, see, so often what we're thinking about is what do you do individually. It's really the culture of your office, the people that you work with, the people that you associate with. It's a culture. Do you create an ethical culture? How do we bring that to bear in terms of how we deal with our clients. I think that's going to be really important. That's another one of those public policy debates that from our perspective, we've actually liked to engage more on talking about what do we think are the pieces that are going to help people have more confidence, more trust, more belief in the integrity of our profession, and what can the College offer in terms of knowledge, applied knowledge that they can use to make the average American feel a whole more confident and trusting in what we do. That's our goal.

Marc Cadin: Well, George, I've enjoyed this conversation like I enjoy all of our conversations through the years and appreciate the opportunity to work with you and the American College as we work together to elevate and enhance this noble profession. On behalf of everyone at AALU/GAMA, thank you for the time, energy, and wisdom. We look forward to working with you in the days, weeks, months ahead. Thanks George.

George Nichols: Thank you very much for having me. Have a great day.