Industry Education and Stakeholder Perspectives

Following the Spring 2019 National Structured Settlement Trade Association Annual Conference, The Chronicle promised a series of articles to evaluate whether NSSTA needed to re-think and re-design its educational programming and educational marketing to strategically position structured settlement annuities as the core product within personal injury settlement planning.

This article asks: “whether, how and to what extent does NSSTA educate its members about the perspectives of various personal injury settlement planning stakeholders? ”  

Significantly, with few exceptions, stakeholders for structured settlements and personal injury settlement planning are ultimately the same - although that realization, and more importantly its strategic significance, may not have occurred until relatively recently to some NSSTA members.

Most NSSTA members probably do acknowledge the structured settlement market has entered an historic period of change and transition. They may not agree, however, about what the future market will look like and/or what will be most critical for the survival and growth of structured settlement annuities.

Getting the User Experience Right

In an article titled “Why Ford Hired a Furniture Maker as CEO”, which appeared in the March 2019 edition of The Atlantic, Jim Hackett, CEO of Ford Motor Company opined that: “If you look at business history, the winners are almost always those that get their user experience right.”

Whether NSSTA members have “gotten their user experience right” might be a specific question worthy of a NSSTA educational program discussion – especially if the discussion considers both the history of the secondary market to date and potential improvements going forward such as Independent Life’s Payee Protection Policy.

What is not subject to debate is that, beginning with Kyle Walsh and his parents, NSSTA has continuously featured settlement recipients as part of their educational programs to tell their stories and explain how structured settlements have assisted their recovery.  

And structured settlement recipients, of course, are without question the most important structured settlement stakeholders – even if not every personal injury settlement recipient receives a structured settlement.

Annuitant Stories

Consistent with this priority, NSSTA highlighted an “Annuitant’s Story” during each of its three 2019 NSSTA educational programs – its Annual Conference; its Fall Conference; and its Certified Structured Settlement Consultant (CSSC) Program co-sponsored with the University of Notre Dame. The CSSC Program also featured a complimentary session titled “Psychology of Grief and Building Resiliency”.

What about other personal injury settlement planning stakeholders?

Historically, although they have typically focused on structured settlement related issues, NSSTA’s educational programs have always featured diversified stakeholder perspectives. 2019 was no exception to this heterogeneous mix of professional presenters.

In addition to “traditional” NSSTA member speakers (who are themselves increasingly multi-professional), other 2019 NSSTA conference speakers included: tax attorneys; special needs attorneys; plaintiff attorneys; claims executives; judges; secondary payer experts; life care planners; care managers; settlement planners; with a congressional speaker unable to show at the last minute.

Market Surveys

In addition to the various stakeholder perspectives of its program speakers, NSSTA has also previously sponsored in-depth surveys of key structured settlement decision makers: specifically, senior claims executives; claims professionals; and plaintiff attorneys.

NSSTA members American General and Prudential have likewise conducted comprehensive structured settlement surveys of personal injury award recipients.

Bottom line: diversified, structured settlement stakeholder perspectives represent one of the highest priorities among NSSTA’s educational objectives. And, as already noted, for the most part, structured settlement stakeholders also represent personal injury settlement planning stakeholders. The primary exception being those settlement recipients who receive lump sum settlements.

The SSP Alternative

In contrast with NSSTA, the Society of Settlement Planners (SSP) appears to take a significantly different approach to educating its members about the perspectives of various personal injury settlement planning stakeholders.

With the exception of Josephine Grillo Sullivan, who discussed her daughter Christina’s Story - and its impact on structured settlements, this author cannot remember any other settlement recipients appearing as SSP conference speakers.

Instead, SSP’s educational programs (including webinars) generally feature settlement planners themselves to a much greater extent than other personal injury settlement planning stakeholders and focus on the planning process - rather than specific products.

Because SSP no longer engages in lobbying, SSP conferences (unlike NSSTA) do not feature legislators or regulators as speakers. Also, SSP conferences rarely include as speakers defense representatives, who many SSP members view as unrelated to the settlement planning process, other than the obvious fact that defendants fund settlements.

Some structured settlement advocates might legitimately question SSP’s commitment to structure settlement annuities and/or the more limited participation of stakeholders among SSP conference speakers.

SSP’s rejoinder might be: its educational programs typically feature, and therefore allow a more objective analysis of structured settlement annuities (including their many benefits) in open forums which are product neutral and therefore provide a more valuable educational experience than NSSTA’s single product focus.

Conclusion

In the current transitional market which impacts members of both NSSTA and SSP, each association may be able to learn and benefit from the other's educational programs, priorities and perspectives.