Captive Insurance and Rugby: Staff Spotlight on President Kevin Mead

Captive Insurance is a bit like rugby. Let me tell you why.

Just three weeks in, and I have quickly learned some truths about the captive insurance industry. Truth number one: how badly it is understood by those outside. Even those that have a knowledge of risk or insurance sometimes seem to shake their heads and mutter darkly when the subject is raised. Truth number two: that external lack of knowledge (or potentially confusion) means that the industry itself is tight knit, cooperative, and friendly.

Over 25 years ago, authors Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff co-authored a book called Co-Opetition in which they used game theory to suggest that businesses should cooperate to “grow the size of the pie,” and then compete for a larger slice of that enlarged pie.  Seeing the way in which board members and other VCIA volunteers are working together for the benefit of the association and for the industry is almost a case study in what the authors refer to.

“Real success comes from actively shaping the game you play—from making the game you want, not taking the game you find.”

― Barry J. Nalebuff, Co-Opetition

A second thing that has struck me is the number of rugby people there are in the captive industry. And there are similarities! To the uninitiated, rugby looks dangerous, risky, and somewhat unmanaged. To those that know the game, it is subtle, nuanced, athletic, and referred to as “the game they play in heaven.” On the field, rugby players are intensely competitive, but once the final whistle blows the bruises and battles are forgotten and a spirit of camaraderie and mutual support comes to the fore.

So, rugby as a metaphor for captive insurance? Perhaps that is too much of a reach! But my predecessor, Rich Smith, commented to me multiple times that the essence of the VCIA was built around mutual respect, understanding, and a sense of all being in the same league—if not all on the same team.

For me, rugby season is about to start up. This Saturday, the 19th, I will be refereeing at a tournament put on by the University of Vermont women in Burlington. Feel free to check this out or any rugby game in your location and see if my comments on the similarities hold any water! 

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