Give Peace (Church) a Chance

 

boatsMy thanks to Phil Leaman and his board of directors at Peace Church Risk Retention Group (a reciprocal) for inviting me to join them for their meeting in Vermont last week. Phil is COO of Peace Church RRG, and spoke at VCIA’s recent Road Show in Philly.  Peace Church is part of a larger umbrella organization that provides services to approximately 140 organizations with programs for aging, disability and behavioral health.  Phil is also an active member of VCIA’s Legislative Committee and participates first hand in VCIA’s legislative and regulatory efforts.

I was on the panel with two absolute pros from Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation captive insurance examination office, Dan Petterson and Heidi Rabtoy. We gave an overview of DFR’s regulatory regime, VCIA’s activities on behalf of our members, and how both organizations work cooperatively for the industry.  What a great opportunity for the State and VCIA to get directly in front of a captive board to report on our activities and take their questions! I think they left with an even better feeling of being domiciled in Vermont and being a member of VCIA than when they arrived – at least I know I did!

In speaking with Dan and Heidi afterward (and Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost), we all agreed we would welcome other opportunities to get before captive boards of directors.  So, keep us in mind for your next captive board meeting in Vermont. Having us there makes Vermont look good and can make you look good, too!

On another note, thanks to everyone who came out Wednesday afternoon and evening for VCIA’s Board Meeting and Annual Spring Mixer. The evening on the deck of the Burlington Sailing Center overlooking Lake Champlain was absolutely gorgeous. Add in good food and drink, and great friends, and it was a super event! Thank you to Johnson Lambert LLP for sponsoring the mixer.

 

Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Registration Open

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May 1st means only one thing around Vermont (well, maybe our particular piece of Vermont): registration for VCIA’s Annual Conference is now open!

With 1100 attendees joining us last year, the VCIA conference is the largest and most comprehensive captive insurance conference in the United States. Nearly 30 educational sessions will cover topics from those new to captive insurance and industry veterans.

A couple of new features this year include Captive Immersion which takes place on Monday, August 5th.  Captive Immersion will educate those new to the industry on the key services of captives, in a condensed time frame. Includes lunch, an afternoon of education, and a cocktail networking reception.

Also new this year are Learning Circles. Sign up for a Learning Circle to connect with 6 – 8 other attendees and a conference ambassador, where you’ll make connections, get acclimated to the event, and learn from each other!

Our two keynote speakers are NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino and Laura Drabik, Group Vice President of Business Innovation at Guidewire Software.  Mike will share his firsthand account of his missions to the Hubble Space Telescope and tell incredible stories of what it’s like to have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.  And Laura will provide keen insight on disruption, tech and innovation in the insurance industry. Her passion for insurance is rooted in purpose and her inspiring talk on August 6th is not to be missed!

Come join us this August to learn about captive insurance from the industry experts. Explore trends and strategies to use in your organization, collaborate with others, and earn credit from our thought-provoking sessions!

Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Connection to Purpose

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Captive insurance has had a bit of a rough ride lately. Whether it’s the news about 831(b)s or the “extra-judicial” tax grabs by non-domicile states, it seems that we are in a continuous rearguard action regarding the efficacy of our industry.

That’s why, now more than ever, the captive industry needs to start telling OUR story. The true story of the many ways that the existence of captive insurance creates good in the world. Of course, we know that captive insurance provides a risk financing mechanism for organizations to save money; but lesser told is often what good is done with the money saved. These cost savings have a direct impact on saving lives in hospitals; helping prevent life-altering accidents for farmers, truckers and construction workers; allowing low-income housing authorities to provide safe living spaces for their clients; and helping college protect their students and provide more support for their educational mission.

There is a great article right now in Risk & Insurance exemplifying this connection to purpose. The article is focused on the lives saved at The University of Oklahoma Hospital System, where VCIA board member Heather McClure is interviewed about its captive insurance company, Academic Physicians Insurance Company.  Heather is the Chief Operating Officer at APIC, and she gives terrific and moving examples of how the captive has played such an important role to the university and community. You can read the article by clicking here.

You will be hearing more about the industry’s connection to purpose from VCIA and other captive organizations in the near future.  It’s imperative that our story get out there and be told. What’s your story?

Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Captive Immersion

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Every year VCIA looks for new ways to provide content and updated information to our members at our annual conference. This year we are trying something new: we have scheduled a half-day on Monday afternoon, August 5th, right before the conference gets started for what we are calling Captive Immersion.

VCIA’s Captive Immersion is designed to familiarize individuals who are new to the captive industry (or who just want to understand captive roles more fully) on the key services that are needed during captive feasibility study, formation and management. These services include legal, auditing, management, actuarial, investments, and captive regulation. Industry experts will give newcomers a complete sense of the various components and their importance in the overall captive picture. The afternoon begins with lunch and concludes with a cocktail networking reception for participants of Captive Immersion, the session speakers, VCIA board members, Platinum sponsors and invited captive owners.

Upon completion, participants will be able to better understand key stakeholdings in the captive insurance industry; obtain a higher-level understanding of the captive insurance industry; learn how and when to engage the services of a particular service provider; understand the roles and responsibilities of each service provider group.  A lifetime’s worth of knowledge all in one afternoon (with drinks at the end to boot)!  So, keep a lookout for more information, including our official May 1st conference kick-off day.

Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

That’s NOT the Spirit

regulationThe big news at the CICA conference in Tucson (other than my travails in getting home) was the placement of Nevada-based Spirit Commercial Auto Risk Retention Group (RRG) into permanent receivership and how it might impact the alternative risk transfer market. A story broken by Christopher Diemel of the Risk Retention Reporter examined the problems of Spirit dating back to 2013, where there were clear warning signs that the company was not living up to its obligations. On February 27, 2019, the Eighth Judicial District Court of Nevada entered its permanent injunction and order appointing the Nevada commissioner of insurance as permanent receiver of Spirit Commercial Auto Risk Retention Group, Inc.

Chris’s report outlined developments at Spirit in 2018 including an auditor’s letter alleging material misstatements, the restatement of the company’s 2017 annual statement, and a loss portfolio transfer deal in excess of $100 million.  However, it was the response (or lack thereof) by Nevada regulators that is most troubling to me – and a warning to the industry as a whole.

The concern that the NAIC might again put RRGs under the microscope is real, however, the industry overall is solid. By all measures, captive insurance companies, including RRGs, have far better metrics than traditional insurance companies.  A 2018 report by rating agency Demotech revealed that RRGs remained financially stable, as cash, assets, and liabilities all increased since 2017 Q2. According to Demotech, the results suggest RRGs are adequately capitalized and are able to remain solvent if faced with adverse economic conditions or increased losses.

The Spirit case is a prime example of the differing levels of regulation by states. Chris’s report provided examples of RRGs that ran into trouble but were quickly and efficiently handled by state regulators in other domiciles. I don’t know what exactly happened in Nevada, but to me the issue isn’t rogue captives or RRGs, or less than scrupulous service providers. It is state regulators failing to do the right thing – and that’s not good for any of us.

Thank you all very much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Buckle Up – Turbulence Ahead

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Unlike 2016 when all the polls were wrong, the 2018 midterms turned out mostly as predicted—the House of Representatives flipped to Democratic control, and the Senate remained in Republican hands, with the Republicans likely expanding their majority. Though it is too soon to tell exactly what the divided Congress will mean on every issue and for every committee, with the help of VCIA’s Washington advisors, Capitol Counsel, here are some thoughts on how this all impacts the captive insurance industry.

November was dominated by party leadership elections and policy negotiations behind closed doors on outstanding issues. The most pressing order of business for the lame duck is appropriations. The Continuing Resolution (CR) funding many government functions is set to expire on December 7. After leadership elections, negotiations on government funding should continue; however, these negotiations will be contentious since President Trump has said he will not sign an appropriations bill without funding for “the wall,” and Democrats have adamantly opposed significant wall funding. Several authorizations are set to expire during the lame duck session and require action from Congress. Given the flip of House control, clean, short-term extensions may be the most likely path as the new House Democratic majority may choose to fight on more favorable ground next year.

With the leadership elections in November, and after some handwringing, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) retained her position and looks set to take the gavel as Speaker in January. In the Senate, though the Republicans retain the majority, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will likely remain on the Banking Committee and will remain a voice on the left on all issues financial services. Though they may not be able to pass any bills on these issues in a Republican-controlled House, we expect their messages to be echoed by future-Chair of the Financial Services Committee Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) in the House, meaning a continued spotlight on these issues.

Although Rep. Waters does not have a stated position on the captive insurance industry one way or the other, it is most likely she will defer to the NAIC on most issues that impact insurance.  She is the polar opposite of the current Chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). She is active on financial consumer issues and has been highly critical of the Trump administration for rolling back consumer protection, however, she is also seen as a dealmaker, and so it is unclear if she will govern the committee to the left, or if she will moderate and move to the center as Chairman.

There are a number of insurance-related issues that may see action next Congress.  The captive insurance industry is hopeful that Congress will ultimately pass the Captive Insurers Clarification Act, originally introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to amend the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA), which was intended to streamline the regulation and taxation of surplus lines insurance. 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.”

As Congress comes back to town, it is clear that there will be significant action in both the lame duck and in the next Congress on many areas of importance to the captive insurance industry. Even with divided government, there are issues that must be addressed such as government funding and expiring authorizations, and there are areas where there could be bipartisan agreement.  So, while much has changed as a result of the election, the work of Congress and the administration will continue. As we have learned over the past two years, Washington, D.C. is full of surprises. There will likely be issues that arise that we could not predict, and how President Trump positions himself and the administration in the next two years will be important. If the President chooses to work with House Democrats on areas of interest, following the populist tone he has sometimes taken, we could see more compromise and agreement than expected – let’s hope so.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

The Great Wall and Beyond

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As I mentioned in my last blog, I traveled to China right before the Thanksgiving holiday to speak before the 2018 Jing-Jin-Ji International Insurance Forum in Tianjin. My presentation focused on the introduction of Vermont’s captive market, development and supervision. I also participated on a panel that discussed the captive rules in Asia, U.S. and Europe, best practice and the latest innovation, with insurance supervisors from Hong Kong, Singapore and Guernsey as well.  I focused on how Vermont regulators create a “partnership” with the captive insurance companies while keeping a strong regulatory hand on the tiller. I emphasized the support from Vermont’s political leadership as well. This message was well received by my Chinese captive insurance colleagues.

IMG_1613It was a great trip, especially to see and hear how the China captive market is emerging. As I mentioned last time, there is a relatively small number of captives in China right now – and mostly held by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) like COSCO shipping, Sinopec and China Railway. However, there is a growing interest in captive insurance for private enterprises and other SOEs looking to better manage their risk.

The Chinese captive industry is very limited in scope right now. Like most regulators when presented with a new-fangled way of doing business, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission is taking a go-slow approach to captive insurance. The industry in China is looking to pick up steam and get interested parties from privately owned businesses to consider captives. They are also interested in helping move Chinese regulators to broaden the limits on captives currently in place.  And while it may be a long-shot to get a Chinese captive to domicile in Vermont, the fact that they are looking at VCIA as a place to learn illustrates the continued leadership of Vermont in the growing worldwide industry.  I look forward to continuing this dialogue and seeing how the Chinese captive industry evolves.

IMG_1614I want to thank in particular my colleague Geoffrey Cao, President of the Chinese Captive Insurance Association, who invited me over and played gracious host while I was in China. And a HUGE thank you to Christina Kindstedt, Senior Vice President of Advantage Insurance Management (USA), who provided a go-between with me and my Chinese counterparts, as well as helping with my trip every step of the way.  Thank you both so much!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President