AASC President Joanna Wynes Interview


Founded in 2021, the American Association of Settlement Consultants (AASC) is a relatively new organization compared with the National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA), founded in 1985, and the Society of Settlement Planners (SSP), founded in 2000.

During the AASC 2024 Annual Conference, Joanna Wynes was introduced as the new AASC President succeeding Tory Owens.

In this Independent Life Insurance Company (ILIC) interview, Joanna discusses: 1) her personal and professional background including why she became a settlement planner; 2) the status of AASC including her priorities and goals as President; and 3) her views of the structured settlement and settlement planning markets more generally.

ILIC: Welcome, Joanna, and thank you for participating in this interview. Congratulations also for your recent election as AASC President.

JOANNA: Pat, I’m happy to participate. Thank you for having me and for the well wishes regarding my AASC presidency.

Personal and Professional Background

ILIC: Both your personal and professional background provide you with a unique perspective on settlement planning. As one example, you grew up with a disabled parent. How has that experience impacted your life and your professional career?

JOANNA: My dad, who has since passed, became disabled during my early teen years due to a degenerative condition causing him significant pain and the inability to work. As a result, our family lost our home, financial security and quality of life.  However, on a more positive note, I started working from a very young age and became motivated to do whatever was needed to create security for myself, to help my parents and to create opportunities for myself and my future children that I did not have during my own childhood.

In addition to the motivation and determination I derived, my early life experience has allowed me to empathize and connect on a unique level with personal injury victims and their families. I strive to help them create security and hope, where it may not have previously existed.

ILIC: You graduated near the top of your class in law school and appear to have been headed toward a successful legal career. What caused you to leave the practice of law to become a settlement planner?

JOANNA: Every settlement planner seems to have an interesting background story. My story began in Philadelphia where I was fortunate to practice law with some of the most talented litigators in the country on many significant and complex medical malpractice, pharmaceutical and other product liability cases. Although I served as second chair and co-counsel for several eight figure verdicts and settlements, I never enjoyed practicing law (discovery, motions, appellate briefs and trials). Early on, I realized I needed to change careers once I figured out what I really wanted to do.

In 2014, having relocated to Maryland, I began working for a Medicare Set Aside (MSA) provider alongside a structured settlement consultant who prepared indemnity and MSA quotes for workers’ compensation settlements. This experience added to positive interactions I had experienced previously with various settlement planners and structured settlements while practicing law.

Because business development and sales have always appealed to me, I finally reached out to one particular settlement consultant with whom I had done a lot of work while practicing in Philadelphia, asked a lot of questions, did a lot of soul searching and eventually decided settlement planning was the right profession for me.

The first few years of building my business from scratch while learning the industry were very difficult, and frankly, a bit terrifying. However, the motivation and determination I learned growing up and the passion I soon developed for settlement planning fueled me to keep going. It has turned out to be the best possible career decision for me. I truly feel fulfilled every day. I have wonderful and supportive colleagues (both in the settlement industry and legal community) and have made some of my best friends through this career.

American Association of Settlement Consultants (AASC)

ILIC: Let’s talk about AASC and your new role as President. What have been AASC’s most important accomplishments since it was formed in 2021?

JOANNA: AASC is the first industry association run entirely by settlement consultants that provides both education and legislative advocacy. We have made significant progress in Washington, D.C., educating members of Congress on the structured settlement industry. We are working towards legislative initiatives that will help personal injury victims and their families.

As an organization, AASC also has done an excellent job educating our members on traditional structured settlements, as well as on other options and solutions to best help our clients. These other options and solutions include various types of settlement trusts, Medicare compliance, retail annuities, market-based solutions, non-qualified structures, qualified settlement plans (QSFs), life insurance products and tax-savings solutions.

AASC has fostered an environment where consultant members feel comfortable sharing their work product ideas, asking questions, and educating one another in ways that help grow our practices and the settlement planning industry overall.

We started a program called War Room Wednesday (WRW) last year, which has been fantastic. With WRW, we host a monthly roundtable zoom for producers to share with one another tools and strategies that have helped our clients, to strategize on complex cases, to connect and feel a sense of community in the settlement industry.

Instead of fighting over the same pieces of the pie, AASC is dedicated to growing the pie of potential opportunities.

ILIC: What are your biggest challenges as you begin your AASC Presidency?

JOANNA: AASC is still a relatively new organization. We have wonderful members, but I would like to see more settlement consultants join our organization, participate in leadership opportunities, and attend our conferences. We gain valuable information from one another, and it’s great to have new faces and new ideas. I also think there are some misconceptions about AASC and about what we stand for. It is important for us to improve our messaging about AASC.

ILIC: What are your top AASC priorities? Or to phrase this question slightly differently, 12 months from now what three or four developments need to occur for your AASC Presidency to be successful?

JOANNA: My first priority is to have more consultants across the country join AASC and/or attend some of our events. Second, we need to continue making progress with respect to our legislative initiatives. Third, we would like to plan an all-day CE webinar for later this year plus an industry event focusing less on education and more on collegiality and connecting with one another in person.

ILIC: The AASC website proclaims “[t]he AASC is not just a trade association. We are a movement. Modernizing and protecting the settlement planning profession.”  What does that mean?

JOANNA: I think that statement ties into what I mentioned above about AASC accomplishments.

ILIC: AASC Mission Statement reads: “[AASC] is an industry advocacy group committed to a vibrant, strong, and modern settlement planning industry. We promote collaboration within the structured settlement industry, actively encourage balanced settlement planning on behalf of our clients, and believe in integrated, common-sense solutions that protect the needs of injured people and their families.  Together, we work for public policies that strengthen our essential industry and provide benefits to the consumer.” How does that Mission relate to AASC members?

JOANNA:  Our members are prolific producers in the structured settlement industry who also bring in depth knowledge through education and experience of government benefit preservation, Medicare compliance, trust planning, financial planning, market-based and indexed products. AASC strives to ensure our members are educated on the above matters and that they are aware as new options and tools become available to help their clients and their practices.

One of our newer board members, Josh Farmer, said while hosting our most recent War Room Wednesday, “we are an organization filled with and surrounded by settlement consultants who want to help one another, and build relationships to be the best possible consultants for our clients.” I wanted to highlight Josh’s statement because it truly represents the culture of AASC.

ILIC: What types of collaboration, if any, do you anticipate among AASC, NSSTA and/or SSP during your term as AASC President?

JOANNA: NSSTA has a robust Women’s Caucus, and AASC has many active female settlement consultants. It’s exciting that both groups now have women serving as President. We have talked about organizing a comprehensive event for women in the settlement industry, which could be co-sponsored by AASC, NSSTA and SSP.

We are encouraging AASC producers to attend SSP and NSSTA events when the opportunities present and would encourage members of their associations to attend AASC events as well. There may also be other collaboration opportunities we can explore. I do believe that many people in the industry, on both sides, would like to see one another in person, and reconnect, so it is nice when those opportunities arise.

Views about Structured Settlements and Settlement Planning

ILIC: Following up on your last comment: one change in our industry has been the growing number of successful women in various leadership and mentorship roles including association leadership. What lessons have you learned and/or advice can you offer to professional women who, like yourself, must balance multiple personal, family and professional responsibilities?

JOANNA: Finding the right work life balance is incredibly important for all professionals – perhaps more difficult for many women. Our industry poses certain unique challenges for women but also offers opportunities: to advance professionally, often to work from anywhere, to develop fulfilling personal and professional relationships, to have flexibility with scheduling, plus the opportunity to meet the economic needs of our families.

Day-to-day life can be hectic, especially with children. I might have a field trip or parent-teacher conference for my children, but if my clients need me to accommodate a meeting for them at a specific time, I’m running into a private and quiet area to jump on a call. I might be working on five catastrophic settlements in a week, but my daughter is laying on my office floor asking me to play Barbies. Achieving the elusive work life balance is not easy, but to some extent, it is possible.

In my case, I delegate all household tasks that can be done by people other than myself (cooking, cleaning, landscaping, home repairs). It helps to have a wonderful au pair plus family members available to assist. Yes, I am fortunate (and grateful) to have these resources. To fulfill my responsibilities to my children, family, clients, friends and the industry, I simply do the best I can every day!

I also have a supportive network of friends and colleagues. We do our best to help one another in our respective businesses and personal lives. Surrounding yourself with good people whose purpose, values and goals are in alignment with your own is life-changing and makes so many challenges easier.

ILIC: In a recent presentation to the 2024 NSSTA Annual Conference, Bob Lee and Peter Jachym identified “building new consultants” as one of three industry challenges for sustaining record structured settlement growth. Based on your experience, what is the ideal background for the next generation of settlement planners?

JOANNA: I agree there is opportunity for industry growth and a need for new consultants in our industry. I don’t know whether there is one specific ideal background for settlement planners. Many of my colleagues at Sage and many AASC members are attorneys and financial advisors/planners by way of education and background. Both professions have rigorous standards for licensing and professional responsibility that serve the settlement industry well. There are also many successful consultants without these backgrounds.

Overall, the next generation of settlement consultants, whatever their background, will need to have an advanced knowledge of trusts, government benefit preservation, traditional structured settlement annuities, indexed products and market-based options and other tools unique to the settlement industry to best serve our clients. AASC helps its members develop this type of expertise.

ILIC: What new market segments, if any, do you see as important for the future of settlement planning?

JOANNA: We need to continue to evolve as an industry as the needs of our respective clients change. As settlement consultants, we need to stay competitive with the financial services industry by educating our member consultants on non-traditional products and solutions which complement traditional fixed structured settlement annuities. We also need to look for new opportunities to provide guaranteed and market-based periodic payments to clients outside of the physical personal injury space.

ILIC: What, in your opinion, are the greatest current challenges to the future growth of settlement planning?

JOANNA: Restrictive approved life company lists remain one of the biggest hurdles in settlement planning. As already noted, I agree with Bob Lee and Peter Jachym regarding the challenge and importance of finding and educating new consultants who can grow the industry for decades to come.

Thank you, Joanna, and best wishes for success during your term as AASC President.