Good NRRA; Bad NRRA

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAzPAAAAJDNkYzk4YzczLTZlYzYtNDM3NS05ODUzLTdmNDVjNDM3MDc3NgI just returned from the annual NRRA conference in Chicago last night. I know, NRRA conference? I talk a lot about fixing NRRA in Washington (maybe incessantly) but this the “good NRRA” I am talking about: The National Risk Retention Association; not the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act.

Since Vermont is home to almost half of all RRGs licensed, it is a little like old home week in the Windy City. Many of the panelists are Vermonters or have strong connections to VCIA, such as Dan Labrie, Clare Bello, Stephanie Mapes, Michael Bemi, Nancy Gray, Tina Truex McCuin and Tim Padovese. Yours truly moderated a panel of professors and students from two risk management programs in Chicago for a very interesting view on what the industry needs to do to attract (and hold) the next generation of RRG leaders. Of course, DFR luminaries Dave Provost and Sandy Bigglestone were on two different panels providing their sought-out thoughts and wisdom on a number of issues affecting the RRG world.

Congratulations to Michael Bemi who was awarded the Karen Cutts Visionary award. This award is named for Karen who was an inspirational leader and advocate for the risk retention industry and the founder of the Risk Retention Reporter. Michael recently retired as President and CEO of the National Catholic Risk Retention Group and truly lives up to the accolades of the award. Even though retired, the good news for all of us at VCIA is that he will be joining us next year at our conference as a recently minted Honorary Member of the association!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Thoughts and Prayers

Just wanted to add VCIA’s voice of concern to all those caught in hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  We often talk in abstractions about risk assessment and property damage and insurable risk in our business when natural disasters hit, but when you see the pictures of devastation and hear about the impact to people’s lives it puts into perspective the havoc these things bring.

A bunch of Vermonters were about to head to South Carolina next week for their captive conference and just got word that they had to cancel, which I am sure is the right decision. However, we understand what a difficult one it was and how disappointing to have to reschedule (to say the least) after so much planning and hard work. Our thoughts are with our friends Jay, Jeff and all others – stay safe, our Carolinian captive family!

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

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Back to work!

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Thank you to everyone who joined us in beautiful Burlington, Vermont, a couple of weeks ago for the VCIA Annual Conference! Without a doubt, it was a terrific 2 ½ days with great programs, networking and events. With over 1000 attendees from 44 States (plus the Virgin Islands) and 9 countries, where roughly 23% were captive owners and 18% first-timers, our annual gathering in August has grown to be THE captive insurance forum!

The conference had great energy – people liked the fresh format changes and extra touches, and, as one attendee stated “the enthusiasm for the captive industry shone throughout all aspects of the event.”  The learning formats and interactivity of the event were also held in high standing.  Many thanks to our sponsors and exhibitors without whom we could not put on such an event, as well as to the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen.

Now after a little break, we are back to work again looking out for the captive industry. In case you missed it, we hosted a webinar Wednesday on the recent Avrahami decision regarding the use of the 831(b) tax election for small captives. Chaz Lavelle, Partner at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, and Dan Kusaila, Tax Partner at Crowe Horwath LLP, provided terrific analysis not only on what the opinion says, but also what it means. Avrahami is the first court case involving a captive taxed under section 831(b).   If you missed it, you can purchase a recording of the webinar through VCIA’s Captive EDU.

Other VCIA webinars on the docket include Short Duration Contracts coming up on September 14, State of the Union for Captives October 18 with Jim McIntyre and I summarizing all things legislatively current, Reinsurance Marketplace Trends in November and our annual Captive Taxation Update webinar December 14.  Notices will be sent by email once registration is open, or check our site.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Berlitz Phrasebook for Vermont

vermont-festivals4fun-imageI know most of you are busy preparing for next week’s VCIA conference – remember to pack comfortable shoes! – so I thought I would share a few tips on “Vermont-isms” that you may hear while you are here (and, yes, they sound a lot like “Maine-isms”, but don’t say that to a Vermonter):

Jeezum Crow – Commonly used in a state of anger or surprise, but it’s less offensive than yelling “Je$@$ Ch^!$&!”

Dooryard – This is the main entry way area into the house for people. Or rather, it hasn’t been taken over by the farm and used by animals.

Mounain – Not “mountain,” it’s “mounain” (pronounced without the “t”).

By the Jesus – Often said in a state of amazement, this is another way of saying “You betcha!”

Djeet? – A quick way of asking “Did you eat?”

Creemee – Forget Ben & Jerrys! When you are in Vermont this is ice cream (although it means a soft serve).

Upta – As in “Are you going upta the mountain?”

Yahd Aht – Or “Yard Art”. You’ll find all sorts of interesting things in yards in Vermont…

Flatlander – Someone (anyone) who wasn’t born in Vermont.

Woodchuck – A guy who lives and thrives in rural Vermont. Oh, and he can probably fix just about anything.

Keow – Those are the black and white animals that provide Ben & Jerry’s their cream.

I won’t be posting for a few weeks as I will be conferencing and then going on a nice, long holiday with the fam. I look forward to seeing many of you next week, by jeezum!

Rich Smith, VCIA President

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

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