Encapsulating the dream of Dr. Solomon S. Huebner, who founded what is known today as The American College of Financial Services, could be done in one word: professionalism.
It was professionalism that led Dr. Huebner to establish The College in 1927 as a training ground for elite life insurance salespeople, and today, 90 years later, professionalism remains at the core of The College’s mission as a leader in the world of financial services, providing groundbreaking education in retirement income planning, wealth management, financial planning, and more.
With an estimated 21 percent of the financial advisors in the U.S. having received an education from The College, our graduates represent a wide swath of financial services practitioners, including retirement income planners, wealth managers, financial advisors and consultants, broker/dealers, estate planners, corporate executives and life insurance professionals.
While our more than 175,000 designees and degree holders have come from all corners of the financial services profession, they all share a common commitment to being exceptionally knowledgeable, credible, ethical and trustworthy professionals.
The College has been forever committed to protecting the financial security of American families by equipping financial services practitioners with the knowledge and resources to serve clients well. We have a rich history as a nonprofit educational institution that began with the Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) designation and continues today with seven professional designations, two master’s degrees and a doctoral program available to students from across the financial services profession.
As we celebrate The College’s 90th anniversary, let us briefly look back on how we got to where we are now.
Huebner and the Legacy of The College
“Life insurance salesmanship,” Dr. Huebner once opined, “must be given the status of a profession – a high calling” not unlike the professions of law and medicine.
Dr. Huebner imagined a world where the person selling insurance was not an unscrupulous and uneducated peddler, but a credentialed professional with an astute understanding of the economics and philosophies of life insurance and what he dubbed the “human life value concept.”
The preeminent thinker in the life insurance world of his time, Dr. Huebner’s ideas sparked a pioneering academic movement, one that led him to teach the world’s first courses on the economics of insurance at the University of Pennsylvania in 1904, and ultimately earned him the reputation as “the father of insurance education.”
As Dr. Huebner made waves in the academic world with his work on life insurance education, his philosophy became institutionalized in 1927 upon the creation of The American College of Life Underwriters, which awarded the prestigious Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) designation to life insurance sales practitioners.
At a time when a growing American middle class had to manage increasingly complex financial plans, the CLU® designation served as a standard of professionalism that equipped life insurance salespeople with the skills needed to make a positive impact on their clients’ lives.
While The College’s origins are with the CLU®, the institution has continued to grow over the decades into not only the standard bearer for excellence in life insurance education, but as an organization that champions thought leadership, ethical best practices and the pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of society across the financial services profession.
The College Today
In 1963, Dr. Huebner’s biographer, Mildred Stone, published “A College and its Calling: A History of The American College of Life Underwriters,” which chronicles the rise of The College through the decades after World War II.
Although Stone’s work came at a time before The College expanded from insurance education into the broader arena of financial services, many of her prescient insights encapsulated what The College is today.
“One great strength of the American College lies in its purposeful development. Many institutions grow with little direction, merely carried along by the forces of circumstance,” Stone writes. “The American College seeks with conscious effort to know the needs of tomorrow and to be ready to serve the public and the industry in meeting new demands and opportunities.”
That direction was indeed not lost on the leaders of The College. The ambition to raise the level of professionalism in financial services at large has long been at the core of our mission.
Yes, The College’s history is built upon life insurance, but that's just the beginning of our story.
From 21 graduates in the inaugural CLU® program to 110 CLU® designations awarded in 1930, The College sowed the seeds for a long tradition of excellence. By 1970, nearly 15,000 individuals had earned the CLU®, and today that number exceeds 106,000.
While the CLU® designation remains the insurance profession’s highest standard of trust and credibility, The College has undergone myriad transformations these past 90 years. Recognizing the need to expand professional education to the broader financial services community, The College went on to introduce a number of noteworthy professional designations, including the Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®) and the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®). In 1978, The College attained the highest level of academic accredition from The Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
In 2012, the groundbreaking Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) designation was introduced to address the growing demand for quality retirement income planning education. RICP® quickly became the most popular designation available at The College. The College's PhD program in financial and retirement planning is the only one of its kind, and a testament to the innovative academic research and thought leadership that takes place here.
We’ve come a long way from those first 21 CLU® graduates. In 2016, The College awarded more than 2,300 students with professional designations including the CLU®, ChFC®, RICP®, CAP®, FSCP®, ChSNC® and CLF®, and Master of Science in Management (MSM) and Master of Science in Financial Services (MSFS) graduate degrees.
Stone saw, even in 1963, that College credentials are just icing on the proverbial cake. “The American College does not exist merely to award designations. Even its classes and publications are secondary. It has grown through the years because it has given the industry a vision of its own potential,” she writes. “It … has helped men and women to self-fulfillment and the accomplishment of their highest ideals for themselves in their chosen vocation and in service to their fellow man.”
What is Past is Prologue: The College in 2017 and Beyond
The legacy of Solomon S. Huebner is alive and well. We continue to raise the level of professionalism across a broad array of the financial services sector. Whether it’s preparing advisors to serve clients well in retirement with the RICP® designation, ensuring that financial planners have the most comprehensive and applicable knowledge available with the ChFC® designation, or providing a place for the best and brightest minds in the profession to research and explore the next big pioneering concept in financial services, The College is proud to continue to serve as a leader and innovator in its space.
While an anniversary serves as a perfect opportunity to look back on what was, it’s also a time to look to the future. For The College, there are great things to come in 2017 and beyond, including the introduction of a new professional designation and redoubled efforts to continue to spread the word about our existing programs.
As 2016 came to an end, The College’s former President and CEO, Robert Johnson, wrote a note reflecting on all the good that came in 2016, and questioning what will come in the new year. “What is your most important thing in 2017?” he asked.
As you enter 2017, please take a moment to consider how your experiences with The American College of Financial Services have had an impact on you and your profession. Ask yourself what your most important thing will be this year, and if you’d like to let us know, please do.
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