Hosted earlier this month in Las Vegas for the second consecutive year by the National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA), the Structures 202 conference represents an important addition to NSSTA's growing educational curriculum and also provides valuable strategic insights into some of the challenges and opportunities currently facing the structured settlement industry.
Primarily targeting "Next Generation" structured settlement participants, Structures 202 offers attendees a day and one half program explaining case management fundamentals and identifying business development opportunities. This educational offering replaces and expands upon NSSTA's previous Structures 101 program which was directed more narrowly toward structured settlement case analysts and administrators.
Most of the following 2016 presentations, and many of the 2016 speakers, replicated NSSTA's inaugural 2015 Structures 202 Conference:
Case Management Fundamentals
- Settlement Documents and Qualified Assignments - Toni Warbington
- Group Exercise - Review and Fixing Settlement Documents
- Payees and Best Practices - Betty Gregware
- Long Term Obligation Risk - Geoff Kissel and Ravi Vaswani
- Workers Compensation Documentation - David Korch
- Medical Underwriting - Ken Kiefer
- Structured Settlement Protection Act Update - Eric Vaughn
- Technology and Productivity - Nolan Robinson
- Post Issuance Services - Harry Coleman; Dan Goodmann; Patrick Kelly
- Resolving "Problem Cases" and Dealing with Foreign Nationals - Daniel Caldwell; Trish Fairhurst; and Amy Sisson
- QSF Best Practices - Christi Fried
Business Development Opportunities
- IRC Section 104(a) Grey Areas - Trish Fairhurst
- Working with Financial Planners - Michael Goodman
- MSA Professional Administration - Joe Anderson and Marques Torbert
- Quoting ACA Plans - Mike Zea
The primary topical differences from NSSTA's 2015 Structures 202 Conference:
- Medical Underwriting - NEW
- Working with Financial Planners - REPLACED "Comprehensive Settlement Designs"
- Special Needs Trusts - DROPPED
- Marketing Plaintiff Attorneys - DROPPED
Former NSSTA Presidents and current NSSTA Directors Mal Deener and Len Blonder also spoke this year about the history of NSSTA and the structured settlement industry. Blonder is scheduled to become NSSTA President for the third time when he succeeds current NSSTA President Michael Goodman in May during the NSSTA 2016 Annual Meeting.
S2KM Comments and Recommendations
Strategic Context for Structures 202
- Growth Initiative - From a strategic perspective, NSSTA's expanded educational program generally, and its Structures 202 program more specifically, can be viewed, and should be considered, as complementary to NSSTA's current "Growth Initiative" - as described in S2KM's review of the NSSTA 2015 Fall Conference. One way to measure growth is annual structured settlement annuity premium - which increased approximately 2% in 2015. Other possible growth measurements: annual increases in NSSTA membership and/or attendance at NSSTA conferences including Structures 202. Approximately 110 NSSTA members attended the 2016 Structures 202 Conference, including approximately 40 life company representatives and 60 broker representatives - compared with approximately 150 attendees in 2015.
- Generational Transition - Recent NSSTA conferences have highlighted the ongoing "Generational Transition" as a primary industry challenge. Related presentations have addressed the need for succession planning and greater diversity. Because Structures 202 targets NSSTA's "Next Generation" structured settlement participants, the following (not necessarily consistent) speaker comments from the NSSTA 2015 Fall Conference seem relevant when evaluating Structures 202:
- "From a demographic perspective, our industry should mirror the people we serve."
- "Our industry suffers from a lack of diversity of thinking. Where do we find new voices and perspectives?"
- "A lack of capital has prevented the primary market from bringing in and training new people."
- "Nepotism works in the structured settlement industry."
- Industry Unity -During 2015, the leaders of NSSTA, the National Association of Settlement Purchasers (NASP) and the Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) expanded their shared educational dialogue. NSSTA and NASP announced a collaborative legislative strategy to add five consumer protection amendments to targeted state structured settlement protection statutes. During the 2016 Structures 202 Conference, NSSTA Executive Director Eric Vaughn reported continuing state legislative progress in Florida, among other states. These actions help mitigate the historic acrimony which has divided plaintiff and defense structured settlement brokers, as well as the primary and secondary markets, and also has arguably hurt the structured settlement industry and limited primary market growth.
- Special Needs and Personal Injury Settlement Planning - Despite its strong public commitment to persons with disabilities, NSSTA has never fully committed itself to analyzing and/or marketing its structured settlement annuity product within the larger and more complex special needs planning and personal injury settlement planning markets. Among other results, and despite shared interests, limited collaborative membership and/or educational/lobbying interaction currently exists between NSSTA and professional associations such as the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the Special Needs Alliance (SNA), the Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP), the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals (NAMSAP) or the American Association of Nurse Life Care Planners (AANLCP).
Case Management Curriculum
- With two exceptions, all of this year's Case Management presentations repeated presentations made at the inaugural 2015 NSSTA Structures 202 Conference - although some of the speakers were different. The two exceptions: 1) the Medical Underwriting presentation was new; 2) the Structured Settlement Protection Act Update replaced last year's Structured Settlement Litigation and Factoring Issues.
- Overall, these presentations were excellent and represent NSSTA and structured settlement industry core competencies and best practices. The issues for NSSTA are: 1) whether repeating core elements of Structures 202 will attract new and/or repeat attendees - especially given NSSTA's decision to prospectively feature some Structures 202 presentations on its website; 2) what additional case management fundamentals, if any, should Structures 202 address; and/or 3) should NSSTA rotate and spend more time on fewer issues annually. For example, although the Group Exercise (Review and Fixing Settlement Documents) represented an excellent program feature it would have benefited from more allocated time.
- Additional observations: the selected case management topics 1) omitted key issues that would interest "Next Generation" structured settlement participants such as "needs analysis" and factoring; 2) were not presented sequentially as they actually occur in case management; and 3) could be improved from a learning perspective with the addition of one or more visual maps - process maps, concept maps, etc.
Business Development Curriculum
- Structures 202 evolved from Structures 101 which focused exclusively on case management issues. As one result, the Structures 202 Business Development presentations are less well-defined and/or developed.
- To date, for example, NSSTA's Structures 202 Business Development curriculum has not provided "New Generation" attendees with any overview of the current or potential structured settlement market.
- Among other objectives, such an overview could: 1) identify important structured settlement submarkets; 2) highlight current NSSTA "Growth Initiative" priorities; 3) discuss business opportunities and challenges created by recent legislation; 4) analyze the personal injury settlement planning market; and 5) promote the structured settlement annuity as a core strategic product within the personal injury settlement planning market.
Structures 202 and Industry Growth
- NSSTA's Structures 202 already represents an important component of a developing educational curriculum for structured settlement and personal injury settlement professionals. To help generate industry growth, NSSTA should consider marketing Structures 202 beyond current NSSTA members to include: 1) prospective NSSTA members and potential "Next Generation" structured settlement participants; 2) non-NSSTA personal injury settlement planning professionals interested in learning more about NSSTA and structured settlements.
- Otherwise, assuming NSSTA: 1) continues to repeat annually core elements of its Structures 202 curriculum; and 2) continues to restrict attendance to current NSSTA members; Structures 202 will likely (inevitably) have a declining audience - unless NSSTA has an alternative or complementary strategy for increasing its membership.
- As one alternative, NSSTA could simply open Structures 202 to non-NSSTA members (targeting, for example: financial planners, special needs attorneys, life care planners; annuity providers; trust companies) who, if sufficiently interested, could then apply for NSSTA membership. One negative political consideration for NSSTA with open attendance might be an anticipated and unwanted flood of secondary market attendees.
- As an alternative, NSSTA could open Structures 202 attendance selectively to members of other specific professional associations whose members engage in personal injury settlement planning - and/or invite those professional associations to serve as one-time co-sponsors. Among the advantages of this alternative: it would encourage NSSTA and the Structures 202 program to analyze how structured settlement professionals and their work product increasingly interact with other settlement planning professionals and their work product. Two of this year's Structures 202 Business Development presentations ("Working with Financial Planners" and "MSA Professional Administration") addressed these types of evolving professional interaction issues and opportunities.
- During various stages of its history NSSTA has selectively "vetted" various types of professionals and product providers, thereby preventing them from joining NSSTA and/or attending its educational programs. Opening Structures 202 attendance to a broader audience could help NSSTA diversify its institutional thinking as well as expand the structured settlement market.
For S2KM reports of prior educational conferences sponsored by NSSTA and other professional associations whose members participate in personal injury settlement planning, see the structured settlement wiki .