More Headwinds Than Tailwinds

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Swiss Re’s 2018 SONAR report was just released which annually examines the emerging risks that the re/insurance industry and society are facing today. There have been shifts since last year and some things are not too surprising, but some that came to the forefront are more so.  Many of these emerging risks will be addressed at VCIA’s Annual Conference this August 7th–9th.

Of the top five Swiss Re highlighted, emerging geopolitical risk is a growing concern. Risk managers must be ready to adapt to the possible turmoil in financial markets as power drifts to Asia, democratic influences decline and the relevance of global governance institutions erodes. Additionally, the possible erosion of legal rules could threaten the ability to run global businesses.  Combined with the loss of risk diversification and the free flow of capital key to running a global re/insurance business, awareness and flexibility in our industry is paramount. Growing national protectionism and regulatory fragmentation jeopardize the benefits of the international diversification that our industry, and economy, has been built on over the past 50 years.

In the education session at our conference called Economic Headwinds and Tailwinds Impacting Captives, participants will learn about the health of the economy, macroeconomic themes, global monetary policy, the path of central bank policy and the overall direction of interest rates. Special panelist Jeff Carr, President & Senior Economist at Economic & Policy Resources, will lead the discussion. Jeff has more than 35 years of experience in economic analysis, economic and fiscal impact assessment analysis, and economic forecasting. He has served as the consulting State Economist and Principal Tax Revenues Analyst-Forecaster for the past six Governors of Vermont including the current Governor Philip B. Scott.

Also in the Swiss Re report, was the emerging threat of an increasing number of business processes driven by algorithms. Algorithmic applications are not infallible since they base their actions on human judgement as well. Discriminatory bias may also translate into defective modelling and prediction, bringing a two-fold risk to insurance and other industries.

A panel of consultants who work in this space will discuss the growing role of machine learning and analytics in all aspects of insurance business: underwriting, claims, and importantly, displacement and relocation of the risks themselves at our session entitled The Cognitive Captive: Artificial Intelligence for Smarter Insurance.  Questions discussed include: How does this affect insurable risks? How have insurance products changed to cope with these emerging technologies? How are insurance companies using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to improve underwriting results or create a safer workplace? What coverage gaps are being created by the dislocation of risks, or a growing ambiguity about liability for losses caused by software? And how might your captive serve as a problem solver for these market failures? It will be a mind-bendingly fun hour of discussion on topics ranging from self-driving cars to bankruptcy predictions and more.

We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

South Pacific…A Captive Story (Not the Musical)

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I read a news story back a few months which I thought was pretty cool. The government of the Pacific Island country Tonga had received a $3.5 million pay-out from a captive, the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Company (PCRIC), following Cyclone Gita that struck the islands on February 12, 2018.

The PCRIC offers member countries parametric insurance which is designed to payout within 10 days after a triggering event, providing those in need with valuable funds very soon after an event occurs. Something this vital for vulnerable regions when addressing the impacts of natural disasters and climate-related events.  The PCRIC purchased reinsurance from four international reinsurers, with additional capital contributions from the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, which includes contributions from Germany, Japan, the U.S., and the UK, and is managed by the World Bank. Sure enough, funds from the program were transferred after seven days of the cyclone event, providing the Tongan government with appropriate financing to support disaster-relief efforts and effective service delivery to the affected areas.

Gita reached its peak intensity as a Category 4 cyclone before making landfall on Tonga on February 12, where its destructive wind strength caused wide spread damage.  PCRIC chief executive David Traill said, “It is clear that the increased level of coverage provided to Pacific Island countries through the establishment and capitalization of PCRIC by our donor partners has made a positive impact on the support we are able to deliver to the Pacific Island region.”

To me, this story reinforces the growing recognition of climate change and related severe weather events to the insurance world. I believe captives can and will play a more important role as the world confronts this problem.  At the upcoming VCIA Annual Conference August 7-9 there will be a terrific session called Natural Catastrophes and their Impact on Risk Management, which will feature the following experts sharing information on the potential impact of natural catastrophes on risk management:

  • Gillian Galford, an Earth Systems Scientist at the University of Vermont and lead author of the Vermont Climate Assessment
  • Howard Kunst, Senior Modeler and Chief Actuary, at CoreLogic
  • Jason Shafer, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Lyndon State Colleges, who focuses on the valuation of weather information within the private sector
  • John Ferrara, FCAS, MAAA, senior manager at Ernst & Young

Register soon at www.vcia.com to get the best rates! Early rates expire June 30th. We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Vermont has built an ARC (Affiliated Reinsurance Company)

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At a cyber security roundtable hosted by Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation on May 17, Vermont’s Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill creating a new reinsurance option for U.S. companies affected by a key provision of the U.S. tax overhaul.

The half-day roundtable provided a discussion of emerging cybersecurity regulatory regimes of the banking, insurance and securities industries.  VCIA board member, Anne Marie Towle, Executive Vice President for JLT Insurance Management and the Captive Practice Leader, served on a panel that explored Innovation and Developments in the Cybersecurity Insurance Market and Risk Management Alternatives with a number of other experts, including Fred Eslami, Associate Director with the alternative risk transfer group at A.M. Best. It was an excellent presentation in the inaugural DFR series seeking to provide the insurance and financial services industry in Vermont with education and resources.

The bill the Governor signed (H.719) offers an onshore affiliated reinsurance alternative to insurance companies affected by the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax on reinsurance ceded to offshore affiliates.  The BEAT provision included in the tax reform package adopted in December aims to circumvent profit movement overseas by imposing a minimum tax on certain deductible payments made to a foreign affiliate, including payments such as management fees and royalties, but excluding costs of goods sold, beginning in tax years after Dec. 31, 2017. It applies a minimum tax of 10% of taxable income.

It started when Ed Koral, Specialist Leader at Deloitte Consulting (and recent VCIA board member – see, we are all over the place…) approached the State of Vermont with a need for an onshore alternative for those reinsurers offshore that will be impacted by BEAT.  The concept is very similar to the Special Purpose Financial Captive, without the requirement for a securitization transaction. One of the key provisions of the law is the investment flexibility it provides companies. Unlike more prescriptive investment rules, these new affiliated reinsurance companies will develop an investment policy that addresses diversity and liquidity concerns, and the Department of Financial Regulation will work with the company to approve it.

This new law once again represents Vermont’s ability to adapt quickly to regulatory changes in support of the financial services industry.

At the upcoming VCIA Annual Conference August 7-9 there will be terrific education for captive professionals, including Hot Topics with Dave Provost, who will undoubtedly talk about this new legislation. Other sessions include Innovative Spotlight: Financing Unique Risk, Economic Headwinds and Tailwinds Impacting Captives, Owner Lessons Learned in Establishing a Captive, and The Cognitive Captive: Artificial Intelligence for Smarter Insurance. Register soon at http://www.vcia.com to get the best rates! Early rates expire June 30th.

We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

You Bet Your CPA!

Today, it’s a given that captive insurance professionals are some of the top people in their fields of expertise. However, it wasn’t that long ago that VCIA and the Vermont captive industry had to fight to prove that experience in captive management should count toward earning the Certified Public Accountancy (CPA) designation.

Back in 2005, the Vermont Board of Public Accountancy questioned the value of work experience in a captive management firm towards achieving a CPA designation.  Through hard work and smart advocacy, VCIA and its members were able to turn the tide and get that recognition.

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Christopher Plumpton, SRS

Today, two of the most important CPA organizations in Vermont are chaired by  captive professionals.  Christopher Plumpton, Senior Account Manager at SRS, is the Chair of the Vermont Society of CPAs, whose mission is to promote, protect, and represent the interests of their members and the profession while fostering the highest ethical standards.

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Josh Partlow, Johnson Lambert

And Josh Partlow, Partner at Johnson Lambert, who recently stepped down as Chair of the Vermont Board of Public Accountancy and is a member of AICPA, where he served on their national Auditing Standards Board.  The Board was created by the legislature whose members are appointed by the governor to administer the laws for this profession in the state of Vermont.

 

 

At the VCIA Annual Conference in August there will be terrific education for accountants, including Update on Federal & State Tax Issues Involving Captives, Financial Statements 101, and looking to the future Blockchain & Distributed Ledgers. Make sure to register soon at www.vcia.com to get our early bird rates that expire June 1st.

We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

VCIA Spring Fling – Thank you Johnson Lambert!

 

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It was a beautiful evening in Burlington, Vermont for the VCIA Spring Mixer! From left to right: Christine Brown and Sandy Bigglestone from the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, VCIA Board Chair Jan Klodowski and Dawne Ware from Marcum LLP

One of my favorite VCIA events of the year is our annual Spring Mixer in Burlington, where 100 or so of our members join us for a little education, a little networking and a lot of fun! This year’s event on May 16 was no exception.

At the VCIA Board of Directors open meeting, an overview of the upcoming VCIA Annual Conference was presented to members. The conference, taking place August 7 – 9, is our 33rd annual conference and the theme is “VCIA: Where the Captive World Comes to Meet!” This is an apt description of our annual event, which highlights the power of collaboration among people from all sectors of the captive industry.  This year, special focus has been placed on professional development as well, with sessions such as Presenting to Board/Management, Building Better Relationships and a new young professionals forum.

Ian Davis, Director of Financial Services for the State of Vermont, then gave an update on the State’s captive insurance activities, including the fact that Vermont has already licensed 11 new captives in 2018 with more in the pipeline. Dave Provost, Sandy Bigglestone and Christine Brown from Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) gave a report on their ever attentive zeal on making the regulatory process for captives in Vermont efficient and cost effective.  Dave also announced the Governor signing the DFR bill this week, which includes a change to the captive statute that will offer an onshore affiliated reinsurance alternative to insurance companies affected by the recent imposition of the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax on reinsurance ceded to offshore affiliates. An affiliated reinsurance company is an insurance or reinsurance company that reinsures risks only from its parent or affiliates, and is subject to a financial solvency regulatory system separate from that generally applicable to traditional insurers and/or reinsurers in the ceding entity’s domestic jurisdiction.

And finally, the part of the day we all wait for (and deserve!): the cocktail mixer under beautiful blue skies on the patio of the Hotel Vermont/Marriott Courtyard. Our thanks to our great friends at Johnson Lambert for sponsoring this wonderful event!  Not only do our Vermont members show up en masse, but friends from New York, Connecticut and even South Carolina joined us for a great evening of friendship and comraderie.

We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

I Kind of Like the Swamp…

rich-swamp-2I am down in Washington for a couple of days meeting with various Congressional staff people about moving the Captive Clarity Bill forward, slowly but surely.

The Captive Clarity Bill is seeking to clarify (hence the name!) an issue passed in legislation a number of years ago.  Within the Dodd-Frank Act was passed the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA), which was intended to streamline the regulation and taxation of surplus lines insurance. However, some of the definitions in the Act are so broad that questions have been raised about its effect on captive insurance. If captive insurance is considered “nonadmitted insurance” under the NRRA, captive insureds may be required to pay a premium tax to their home state in addition to their captives paying domiciliary state premium taxes, and be partially regulated by the insured’s “home state.”

Currently, captives are taxed and regulated in the state that they are domiciled regardless of where their corporate owners’ headquarters may be located. Under NRRA, the home state could assert the right to tax the self-procured insurance premiums written within the captive entity even though the state of domicile already charges the captive a premium tax.  It would suddenly penalize many companies by double taxing them for being domiciled in a state that is not their home state.  Although the Act does not give states any additional taxing authority, the prospect of nondomiciliary states accessing additional insurance transactions to tax has increased the risk of states attempting to impose new taxes on captive insurance. On the other side of that coin, domiciliary states may be at risk of losing their ability to collect premium taxes and regulate certain aspects of captive insurance.

Ian Davis, Director of Financial Services for the State of Vermont, and I will be meeting with our Vermont contingent, Patrick Satalin with Rep. Welch (D-VT), and Erica Chabot and JP Dowd with Senator Leahy’s Office. We will also be meeting with key Congressional staffers, including John Hair with Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) – Chairman of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee, Saat Altey with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) – Member of the Senate Banking and Insurance Subcommittee, Brandon Beall, Professional Staff for Insurance, Senate Banking Committee, and Amanda Fischer, Director of the Democrat/Minority Policy for the House Financial Services Committee. Finally, I will be meeting with Richard Ifft in the Federal Insurance Office at the Treasury Department. Phew… I need a break just looking at the list!

Jim McIntyre and I will be providing a full legislative report during the VCIA Annual Conference to VCIA Members attending the  Annual Meeting, so come on by and find out more!

We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

We are Open for the Season – the VCIA Conference Season!

reg-openIt’s hard to believe, but May is here and that means only one thing: VCIA has opened registration for our captive insurance conference taking place this August in Burlington, Vermont.  The VCIA staff have been working furiously the past number of weeks to ready for our first day of registration for VCIA’s 33rd Annual Conference, and it is shaping up to be a good one.

Thirty-three years ago this August, VCIA held its 1st Annual Conference in a small hotel meeting room in downtown Burlington with only a dozen or so attendees. After a morning of meetings, it was off to the golf course and later a small reception. Today the VCIA conference covers three full days and is the premier captive insurance gathering for education and networking for over 1100 attendees and 100 exhibitors.  Make sure to join us August 7th through the 9th for this valuable program.

The conference,  aptly named “VCIA: Where the Captive World Comes to Meet!” will bring together over 1100 industry participants to learn about the many aspects, trends and innovations of captive insurance while connecting with industry participants from all over the world.  Leading industry experts will teach over 20 educational sessions, many of them using interactive technology to engage the audience. This year we have placed focus on professional development sessions as well, with sessions such as Presenting to Board/Management, Building Better Relationships and a new young professionals forum.

Two renowned keynote speakers will be joining us as well. Jack Uldrich, a Global Futurist and award winning author, will speak on trends transforming the insurance sector tomorrow; and Joel Cohen, an Emmy award winning writer and producer for “The Simpsons”, will discuss the Simpsons, creative process, group dynamics and innovation.  Register today at www.vcia.com.

gadbois siri photoOn a very sad note, we learned this week of the passing of former VCIA board member, Siri Gadbois. Siri’s time on our board will be remembered by her thoughtfulness, leadership, and an infectious laugh that could lighten a whole room. Siri served as president and CEO of Educational & Institutional Insurance Administrators (EIIA) from 2002 to her retirement in 2017, where her duties included president and board chair of College Insurance Company and board chair of College Risk Retention Group.  We will miss Siri, and our hearts go out to her family and her amazing colleagues at EIIA who were like family to her.

We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Rich Smith
VCIA President