Sustainability + Risk Management = Resiliency

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I recently read a Forbes article of risk management and sustainability I thought made much sense.

It was an interview with Dr. Leo S. Mackay, senior vice president at Lockheed Martin, and he was describing a reorg at Lockheed that puts enterprise risk and sustainability under common reporting, since ERM and sustainability are both principally focused on the identification and prioritization of risk.

Considering risk and sustainability together is part and parcel of the same thing because sustainability in strategic terms is about building in resilience and efficiency into the business.  “Rather than have separate silos where discussions or disaggregated thinking around what are the existing and emerging risks, that now is a coordinated effort,” Dr. Mackay says “Those things are tantamount to risk mitigation and the control of risk.”

To me what Lockheed is building in their business is resiliency – perhaps an over-used word these days, but as good a descriptor as any. With organizations facing increased risks from cyber security to climate change, captives can lead the way to help create that resiliency, especially as many captives already work across silos if they cover diverse risks such as property and employee benefits. So as captive practitioners you can get the process started – by coming to VCIA’s Annual Conference to get some good education with sessions such as Expanding Your Captive Business Plan and Optimizing Your Captive’s Risk Profile and Reinventing Your Captive for Maximum Results.

Check it out: http://conta.cc/2vDCNrG

And a quick follow-up to last week’s blog: I reported about my concerns with the proposal to add a border adjustment tax (BAT) to any tax reform that Congress might attempt this summer, as it might cause additional costs to the captive insurance industry utilizing offshore reinsurers. Jim McIntyre just reported to me that the White House and congressional GOP leaders said that they are no longer looking at a border-adjustment tax as they work to get tax-reform legislation enacted this year. Good news as it eliminates one uncertainty in Washington!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Border Patrol

taxes__illustrationWith Republican control of the Executive and Congressional branches of government enactment of tax reform in 2017 is highly possible.  Various proposals are being considered during the 2017 Congressional session and insurers have a lot at stake as Congress considers comprehensive tax reform.   Such legislation aims to lower individual and corporate tax rates, eliminate or limit most tax deductions, credits and exclusions, and dramatically restructure how the US taxes earnings of U.S. companies that sell goods and services outside the US.

Probably the biggest issue right now is a border adjustment tax proposed by Speaker Ryan. Taxes would apply based on the destination of where goods and services are consumed, rather than where they are produced or where the business has its headquarters.   This tax would make it virtually impossible for US insurers to buy global reinsurance, which they commonly use to spread risk and keep insurance rates affordable. It is still uncertain whether financial services transactions will be taxable if this proceeds, but the impact to reinsurance costs are estimated to be in the billions. In most other countries that have a similar value-added tax, or VAT, financial services transactions because the actual “destination” of such cash flows is difficult to discern.

Under current tax law, US insurers can write off the costs of international reinsurance just like any other cost of doing business, helping them to keep policies affordable. They cede about 20 percent of direct written premiums to reinsurers annually.  If insurers are not able to buy reinsurance to spread their risk, all the risk would be concentrated in the US rather than spread globally. This would make the insurance market less competitive, and result in higher premiums. The Brattle Group estimated that the impact of the tax is anywhere from $8B to $34B – a large range due to the fact that there is limited information on the proposal as of yet.

A border-adjustment tax is one of the ideas that has been floated in Washington as part of a major tax reform effort expected this year. To date, specific legislative proposals have not yet been put forward by Congress or the White House.  VCIA is working with the same coalition that opposes the Neal Bill on this issue to request a similar exemption.

Whatever road Washington takes on tax reform, it must act carefully and avoid the unintended consequences of a proposal like a border-adjustment tax.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

You’re Getting Warmer

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Jamie Brache, 2017 VCIA Conference General Session Industry Keynote 

Some of you might have heard recently that a giant iceberg about the size of the State of Delaware (or twice the size of Luxembourg to our more Eurocentric friends) has broken off an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula and is now adrift in the Weddell Sea.

At 5,800 sq km the new iceberg, expected to be dubbed A68, is half as big as the record-holding iceberg B-15 which split off from the Ross Ice Shelf in the year 2000, but it is nonetheless believed to be among the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded.  According to experts, this event will not itself result in sea level rises.  As one cool scientist described it “it’s like your ice cube in your gin and tonic – it is already floating and if it melts it doesn’t change the volume of water in the glass by very much at all.”

That being said, it is a reminder that climate change is upon us, whether you believe it is a natural occurrence, anthropocentric, or a little bit of both.  While climate change is accepted to have played a role in the wholesale disintegration of the Antarctic ice shelves, there is no evidence that the calving of this giant iceberg is linked to such processes.  However, climate change could have made the situation more likely, according to scientists.

The insurance industry is starting to play a role (indeed, must play a role) in mitigation strategies and resiliency when it comes to climate change. At the VCIA Annual Conference this August, Jamie Brache, Deputy Managing Director of Credit & Political Risk at Zurich North America, will provide his thoughts on the impact of climate change on the broader insurance marketplace and, drawing on his background, discuss some of the potential implications of climate change on risk management and the global political risk environment.  I hope I will see you there!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

 

Two Sides of the Same Coin

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Talk to most business people anywhere and the thought of “regulation” can make them bristle. And with good reason. Often times overzealous regulators help create overzealous regulations that are intended to protect citizens or the environment or fair markets but can instead create sweeping mandates that do more harm than good. To wit, the Trump administration’s proposal reducing regulations for American businesses by requiring that for every new rule proposed, two should be repealed.

This has reminded me of my old friend and former CICA President Dennis Harwick’s dictum he called the ‘regulatory imperative’: First and foremost, regulators live in terror of being accused of failing to protect consumers in whatever industry they are regulating. Second, they want everything and everybody they regulate to fit into a single template.

Captives—by nature and definition—tend not to fit within that regulatory dynamic. As Vermont’s chief captive regulator, Dave Provost, is fond of saying, ‘When you’ve seen one captive, you’ve seen one captive.’ Captives don’t usually fit into a template, due to the uniqueness of the risks and plans of their specific owners. Also, the consumer protection element is vastly reduced by the fact that the ‘consumers’ actually build and own the captive.

I think the anti-regulatory wave could be a double-edged sword for captives. On the one hand, rolling back regulations does open the door for more opportunity for American businesses.  And certainly for captives there have been numerous instances where regulations have had a deleterious impact on our industry, primarily at the federal level, but also in states with little or no understanding of captive insurance concepts.

But deregulation could introduce some uncertainty for underwriters as regulations often are created to reduce risk for businesses. In an article in Risk & Insurance by Katie Siegel this past April, she writes that if regulation goes away, some risk comes back. Maybe not right away, but with a lack of oversight in some key areas of safety and loss prevention, those risks may start to creep up again and result in unintended losses. And underwriters also rely on federal regulations to provide a reliable risk management framework by creating a reliable compliance framework for all companies to follow.

Good, strong regulation is consistent with the mission of the parent organizations that license their captives in Vermont. The best risk managers understand that adhering to high standards is as much about good business as it is about compliance.  After all, it’s their money at risk!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President