Charles Schell, incoming President of the Society of Settlement Planners (SSP), concluded the SSP 2012 Annual Meeting by communicating his thoughts for improving the settlement planning market and expanding its core structured settlement annuity product. In his remarks, Schell addressed alternative business models and challenged participants in both models to collaborate to improve business standards and practices.
What follows is a summary of Schell's SSP comments.
Alternative business models
"Structure brokers under the traditional Claims Management model have the advantage of access to claims adjusters. However, their single-product sale is frequently dismissed by injury victims and their families for many reasons including low interest rates, lack of liquidity and the defense brokers' ties to the defendant. As a result, many injury victims and their families make uninformed decisions or resent the limited financial options presented at the time of settlement.
"In contrast, injury victims and their families generally welcome Settlement Planners into their homes as trusted advisers because they are recommended by plaintiffs' attorneys. By introducing a menu of insurance and financial products and providers, Settlement Planners promote education and information sharing. They encourage the injury victim and his/her family to actively participate in the planning process. From my personal experience, more information equals more structured settlement annuities because the product is generally right in every case at some level of participation as one asset class.
"The Claims Management model benefits the settlement planning industry and Settlement Planners should acknowledge the benefits which include product marketing and continued protection of IRC sections 104(a)(2) and 130. Concurrently, defense brokers should recognize the benefits of collaborating, rather than competing, with Settlement Planners. These benefits include access to and trust of the customer, an awareness of financial needs and family issues plus multi-product financial solutions that feature structured settlements and enhance their sale.
Business standards and practices
"To grow the structured settlement market, both Settlement Planners and traditional Claim Management structured settlement practitioners must improve their business standards and practices. To do so, we must understand, embrace and promote full disclosure, product suitability standards and written, informed consent. Our disclosure practices should include compensation and conflicts of interest. Our product suitability standards should satisfy a fiduciary and/or "best interest" test. We should insist that our customers understand, and acknowledge their understanding of, our proposed products and settlement plans by signing a written informed consent form.
"Rather than complain about secondary market business practices, primary market stakeholders should take direct actions to improve the secondary market. First, by adopting our own "best interest" or fiduciary suitability standards, the primary structured settlement market can improve settlement planning. The result will be fewer cases that are "over-structured" and subsequently require structured settlement recipients to sell payment rights to obtain needed liquidity.
"Second, we can improve the secondary market by promoting one simple, best practice from the primary market - multiple quotes. Unfortunately, single quote transfers remain a common practice within the structured settlement secondary market resulting in unnecessarily high discount rates. By educating and encouraging judges to require multiple quotes as a necessary condition for meeting the "best interest" test, the primary market can help produce an important and immediate secondary market improvement.
"To summarize: my proposed strategy to improve and grow both the structured settlement and settlement planning markets:
- "Study and improve our business standards and practices.
- "Develop "customer centric" solutions that help injury victims.
- "Build collaborative business models by focusing on shared interests."
Acknowledgement: In addition to serving as SSP's President, Charles Schell is a founding partner of Forge Consulting. Forge is also an owner of The Settlement Service Group (TSSG) for which Patrick Hindert, S2KM's blog author, serves as Managing Director.
For additional S2KM reporting about the Society of Settlement Planners, see the structured settlement wiki.