A five star success! Awesome! Amazing! Blown away!
These were some of the immediate reactions to the three-day National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA) virtual Fall Conference hosted last week from Los Angeles by NSSTA President Louis Masry and Executive Director Eric Vaughn.
Beginning with videotaped welcoming vignettes from more than 20 geographically dispersed members, the NSSTA conference seamlessly integrated live education programs with a popular chat feature while also conducting a virtual business meeting with committee reports and Board of Director elections.
During arguably the most challenging year in its history, NSSTA’s virtual conference demonstrated technical excellence and innovation, and also delivered quality programming, thereby establishing a new educational model for the industry.
Among many persons who deserve credit, in addition to Masry and Vaughn and the NSSTA Board of Directors, are Debbie Sink, NSSTA Operations & CE Compliance Director, Lou Anne Reebe, NSSTA Director of Marketing, as well as NSSTA’s Education Committee, chaired by Martha Hunt.
Highlights and Observations:
Professionalism, one of the primary themes of the NSSTA Fall Conference, was highlighted by a panel moderated by NSSTA President Elect Michael Goodman discussing a “Liability Case Study and Fact Pattern” and two sessions addressing ethics.
- Goodman’s panel showcased five professional NSSTA settlement planners (Scott Freeman; Bruce DeBacher; Andy Prindable; Rosa Florentino; Jeff Klugerman) discussing two personal injury fact patterns. By adjusting key facts to modify his questions, Goodman skillfully demonstrated the complexity of settlement planning issues as well as the experience, mental acuity and value of the panelists.
- Former NSSTA President James Early deserves credit for prioritizing ethics among NSSTA’s educational program topics. More recently, Eric Vaughn has added his perspective, including Congressional and Presidential ethics. Attorney Michael Miller’s interview of guest ethics expert and law professor Larry Fox covered multiple topics including those highlighted in a much discussed 2006 ethics opinion by law professor Stephen Saltzburg.
- As a counter-balance to professionalism, NSSTA’s “Law and Order” panel (featuring Stephen Harris, Sandra Jones, Brennan Neville and John Darer) discussed recent case studies demonstrating bad business behavior by factoring companies as well as the factoring process from a life company’s perspective.
Multiple educational programs emphasized the transitioning structured settlement market.
- Lawrence O. Gostin, who directs the World Health Organization Center on National and Global Health Law while also serving as Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University and Professor of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, spoke generally and medically about “The New Realities.” He predicted some return to “normality” by the fourth quarter of 2021 assuming: 1) an effective (third generation) vaccine; 2) high coverage; 3) sensible behavior.
- Audrey Kenney moderated a panel titled “ABLE Accounts, Trusts, and Investment Portfolio Issues,” featuring two trustee NSSTA members, Christi Fried and Cameron Lindahl. This session, which included discussion of securities licenses and referral fees paid to competitors of annuity providers, might never have occurred during a NSSTA educational program as recently as two years ago and demonstrates the more tolerant view of “settlement planning” that now exists within NSSTA.
- NSSTA’s acceptance of multi-product settlement planning was re-confirmed by another panel titled “How To Effectively Promote the Structured Settlement Annuity in Today’s Complex Financial Landscape.” Moderated by Geoff Hunt, this panel featured life company representatives Geoff Kissel, Alexandra Hyten, John Arendt, and Mari Hioki – each of whom offered strong arguments supporting structured settlement annuities even in a low interest rate environment. To successfully sell traditional structured settlement annuities in today’s market, however, Hunt’s conclusion was: “as a broker, you also have to know and be able to push the other products.”
- Another NSSTA transition of note: following more than 25 plus years of a successful certification partnership, the University of Notre Dame has decided to terminate all executive educational programs including NSSTA’s CSSC. However, with last week’s virtual Fall conference representing a new NSSTA educational standard, many NSSTA leaders view Notre Dame’s decision as a timely opportunity to redesign and improve the CSSC program.
- Elections beget transitions. On November 3, NSSTA will be closely following election results involving House Ways and Means and Senate Finance members as those committee are critical to preserving IRC sections 104(a)(2) and 130 as well as elections involving members of the Structured Settlement Caucus. Within its own association, NSSTA members elected four new Directors (Peter Early, Henry Strong, Greg Micoletti, Ravi Vaswani) during their virtual meeting to replace retiring Directors Jordan Bossler; Melissa Baldwin; Ross Duncan; and Geoff Kissel.
A third theme of NSSTA’s virtual Fall Conference was promoting the growth of the traditional structured settlement annuity market which, following a record year in 2019, has faced understandable challenges from Covid-19 as well as historically low interest rates. In addition to its other educational programs plus its various business and committee activities, NSSTA’s Fall program featured three sessions specifically targeting traditional structured settlement growth.
- During her NSSTA Presidency, Immediate Past President Michelle Caine prioritized educational marketing to expand NSSTA’s outreach and structured settlement awareness. Last week, she moderated a panel titled “Allies, Alliances and Accomplishments,” featuring: Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumer League, Susan Neely, President, American Council of Life Insurers, Sarah Rooney, Policy Director, American Association for Justice, and Maria Town, President, American Association of People with Disabilities, which helped to demonstrate the success of that initiative.
- Expanding the IRC section 104(a)(2) exclusion to include Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) injuries was the subject of a panel moderated by John McCulloch and featuring Susan Bowersox and Nina Olson of Taxpayer Rights. Susan introduced medical research in support of such an exclusion. Nina and John added an historical perspective with Nina even suggesting the possibility of eliminating the “physical” requirement from IRC section 104(a)(2).
- Ever since the Patel amendment in 2001, workers’ compensation Medicare set-asides (WCMSA) have represented an important submarket for structured settlements. Angel Viera, Johnny Meyer, and Craig Pawley formed a panel of experts who spoke about “Workers’ Compensation and Professional Administration” emphasizing the continuing opportunities for structured settlement annuities.
NSSTA rose to the challenge providing a great remote meeting that attracted a large number of attendees demonstrating that 1) even in an unfamiliar virtual format, NSSTA has the talent and the resources to execute an event of this scope and scale and 2) we can all use technology to better effect within our own businesses.
In closing, the NSSTA Fall conference confirmed, even in today’s transitional market, and especially in today’s market, the structured settlement annuity remains a unique and remarkable product. Only a structured settlement can provide guaranteed, lifetime, income-tax free, payments for personal injury claimants. Structured settlement annuities therefore represent the ideal foundation product for most personal injury settlement plans.