A Market Analysis of Structured Settlement Educational Programs

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 launches that series and asks: “Whether and how does NSSTA educate its members about the settlement planning market?

As recently as 2015, NSSTA’s number one priority was an Industry Growth Initiative which one of its leaders described as “changing the focus of our future.” NSSTA’s website description of the Industry Growth Initiative in 2015 announced "this year we want all NSSTA members to focus their time, energy and resources on new opportunities to expand the use of structured settlements to grow our industry."

Key questions that might be asked about NSSTA’s Industry Growth Initiative:

  • Was the Growth Initiative successful? Arguably yes. Annual industry premium increased from $5.2 billion in 2014 to $6.0 billion in 2018.
  • Did it change the focus of NSSTA’s future? Perhaps. Since 2015, a significant minority of NSSTA’s “broker members” have rebranded themselves as “settlement planners.”
  • What new opportunities to expand the use of structured settlements did it produce? Per industry sources, an increasing percentage of structured settlement business continues to integrate structured settlement annuities with other government benefits – especially Medicare set-asides (MSAs), but also special needs trusts (SNTs) and ABLE accounts.

However, for purposes of this article the key questions are what market analysis and/or market analysis education resulted from (or should have resulted from) NSSTA’s Industry Growth Initiative?

NSSTA certainly has provided its members with education about government benefits such as MSAs, SNTs and ABLE accounts. NSSTA has also provided its members with market surveys – most recently the excellent surveys of claims executives, claims professionals and plaintiff attorneys conducted by CLM Advisors.

However, NSSTA does not appear to have invested in evaluating or shepherding the transitional market analysis that has resulted in:

  • A significant number of NSSTA’s broker members rebranding themselves as “settlement planners
  • The marketing shift from a binary “structure or cash” negotiated structured settlement to an integrated settlement planning process wherein structured settlement annuities represents a (the) core, strategic product.

Consider again the opportunities for real industry innovation created by the concerns of $5.2 billion of annual premium in 2014: The opportunity (which still exists) to really “change the focus of our future.”  The opportunity (which still exists) “to focus time, energy and resources on new opportunities.” The opportunity (arguably in an educational context) to ask some basic questions about structured settlements:

  • What business are we really in?
  • What happens to the claim dollars that aren’t structured?
  • What is personal injury settlement planning  – a market? A process? A business model? A profession?
  • How large is the personal injury settlement planning market?
  • Who are the most important stakeholders and structured settlement competitors?
  • What are the most important laws, regulations and business standards?
  • What are the primary submarkets within the personal injury settlement planning market?
  • Who are the knowledge leaders and primary professional associations within each of those submarkets?
  • How large are each of those submarkets – and what is the current and potential premium for structured settlements?
  • Where/how can we obtain that information?
  • What are the benefits and obstacles for structured settlements to key stakeholders within each of those submarkets?

Some NSSTA members may argue that “market analysis” is not an appropriate topic for industry education - either because of antitrust concerns or because the subject more appropriately belongs within the domain of individual member companies. Antitrust concerns, of course, must be observed as part of any industry discussion. How can NSSTA, however, continue to effectively discuss industry growth without also addressing market analysis? The questions listed above, therefore, are provided to help generate industry discussion and improve industry education.

What is the current status of industry educational related to “market analysis” of personal injury settlement planning? Here are the most recent (2019), most relevant in person conferences and certifications offered by NSSTA and Society of Settlement Planners:

  • NSSTA 2019 CSSC – “The Structured Settlement Market – Evolution and Future
  • NSSTA 2019 Annual – no presentation or discussion
  • NSSTA 2019 Fall Education – no presentation or discussion
  • SSP 2019 Annual
    • How the Structured Settlement Market is Helping to Define and Grow Settlement Planning

Conclusion: Among the various structured settlement educational topics to be discussed in this series, “market analysis” represents one of the best opportunities for NSSTA to help its members understand a changing market, transition their business models and grow their structured settlement annuity premium.