Hard Market, Schmard Market

chartThe siren song begins at the change of every year: based on historic losses in the year just ending, we can expect to see a hardening of the insurance market in the upcoming year. In fact, by all reports last year’s losses were high – Swiss Re’s preliminary sigma estimates for insured global losses resulting from natural and man-made disasters in 2017 are around $136 billion, well above the annual average of the previous 10 years and the third highest since sigma records began in 1970. Total economic losses soared in 2017 to $306 billion from $188 billion in 2016 primarily due to the three hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria—that hit the United States and the Caribbean, and wildfires in California.

The fact that we are seeing a “new normal” in loss rates certainly will be exacerbated by climate change – but that is a different story. To me, the story continues to be how even with last year’s near record losses, the insurance industry (which in the past would have triggered a substantive hardening of rates) has barely registered a blip.

One area we see this in is the reinsurance market. As stated in an article in Business Insurance, David Priebe, New York-based vice chairman of Guy Carpenter, said “Despite substantial catastrophe losses in 2017, the market demonstrated significant resilience with no notable capital withdrawal and moderate price increases.”

There are good reasons why the insurance marketplace remains so stable. Better loss control, better data, and more capital looking for a home have all contributed to this stability. And I would argue that the maturation of the captive insurance industry played a role by giving risk managers more options and flexibility.

Hard markets usually spark a corollary growth spurt in captive insurance formations. As prices harden, and insurance becomes more scarce, organizations form captives to fill the gap. But even without the hardening market, we continue to see growth in captive insurance. As Brady Young, president and CEO of Strategic Risk Solutions (SRS), told Captive.Com recently, he sees captives evolving in the future to be more of an offensive tool to support overall corporate strategies to serve customers and generate incremental profits. Brady also states, “captives can and will do more to reduce organizations’ overall cost of risk and squeeze out more of the inefficiencies of the traditional commercial insurance market… and in terms of specific lines of business or growth areas, captives will help solve the mismatch between the demands of companies and industries that have new risks and service models where traditional insurers struggle to provide the needed solutions.” He would know!

Next time I get asked by a reporter whether I think a hard market is coming our way, I will give them the same answer I gave at the end of last year: hard market, schmard market (which translates to not likely).

Speaking of Brady, come join us next Tuesday, February 6, in Atlanta where Brady and I will participate in VCIA’s world-famous Road Show outlining the advantages of captive insurance. We will be joined by Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captive Insurance at the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, Christy Williams, President of Green Mountain Sponsored Captive Insurance Company, Christopher Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of MCIC Vermont, Inc. (A Reciprocal Risk Retention Group), and Ian Davis, Director of Financial Services for the State of Vermont.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Viva Las Ve-rmont!

Sure, it seems easy – especially when you are the largest and most sophisticated captive domicile in the US. But the work that Ian Davis, Dave Provost, Sandy Bigglestone and the rest of the State of Vermont team put into attracting so many new captives to license in the state should not be overlooked.Captive-Licenses-2017

What I am talking about here is the recent report that 2017 proved to be another highly successful year for Vermont’s captive insurance industry.  Vermont added 24 new captive licenses, bringing its total to 1,112 with 566 active captive insurance companies. This is almost exactly the average number of new captives licensed yearly in Vermont (roughly 25) regardless of the marketplace. There are now more than 40 states with captive laws on the book and with the current uncertainty of state self-procurement taxes that put a thumb on the scales in favor of “home states”, Vermont still excels.

The new captives were made up of 11 pure captives, 5 sponsored captives, 3 Risk Retention Groups (RRGs), 3 special purpose financial insurers, 1 branch captive and 1 industrial insured captive – as usual, a healthy mix of sizes, types and industries.  Risk Retention Groups account for three of the new licenses, bringing the active total to 90.  Vermont continues to hold a dominant market share with over 60% of all RRG premium volume being written by Vermont companies.  As David Provost, Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of Captive Insurance, always says Vermont’s focus will always be licensing quality companies, not chasing numbers.

Don’t forget that January 24 this year is VCIA’s annual Legislative Day in Montpelier, Vermont’s capital. It’s a full day of meeting and hearing from Vermont’s political leaders on the captive industry and issues facing the State broadly. Go to www.vcia.com and register today!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Welcome Home!


Some good news for Vermont was announced right before the New Year a week ago: the University of Vermont Health Network will move its captive from Bermuda to Vermont!

The network’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the move of VMC Indemnity Co. Ltd., a captive that provides medical malpractice insurance coverage, according to a statement by the six-hospital system issued Friday.  UVM Health Network established their captive back in the late 80’s, when Vermont’s captive insurance industry was just getting off the ground, and one of the few domiciles that made sense for many healthcare captives was Bermuda.

A nonprofit corporation will be established to become the network’s captive insurer and it will seek approval from the Internal Revenue Service to operate as a tax-exempt organization.  The UVM healthcare system has more than 1,000 physicians and 2,000 nurses and other clinicians in Vermont and New York.

Needless to say, we are very pleased to have VMC Indemnity redomesticate to Vermont!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Happy Holidays and See You in 2018


I just wanted to wish all of you Happy Holidays as we head out of 2017 and into 2018. It’s been another busy years in captives, that included a horrific hurricane season, the decision of the Avrahami case on 831(b)s, the specter of continued cyber security issues with the hacking of Equifax (among others), and the soon-to-be-passed Tax Reform bill – all of which impact our industry.

That being said, captive insurance is growing and remains a robust part of the world’s risk management sector. Vermont broke through the 1000 captive license mark and looks to add around 25 new captives before year’s end. With challenges and opportunities that lie ahead such as healthcare, drones, (more) cyber risk, and AI (artificial intelligence – get used to it), captives will show how entrepreneurial and innovative our industry can be!

Thank you all for another great year and Happy New Year!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

A Nice Little Holiday Gift from Congress


As reported by Business Insurance on December 13th, the House Financial Services Committee adopted legislation that aims to preserve the U.S. state-based system of insurance regulation and gives Congress greater oversight and transparency on international insurance standard negotiations.

As beneficiaries of the strong, state-based insurance regulatory framework, the captive insurance industry applauds the goal of this legislation. The bill was introduced in response to concerns expressed about the covered agreement signed by the United States and the European Union to address the U.S. lack of equivalency related to the bloc’s Solvency II directive for the insurance industry. Although we supported the covered agreement in terms of trying to create parity between jurisdictions, the NAIC objected to what they believe to be a lack of transparency and consultation with state regulators on the issue.

As reported in BI, the bill states that entities representing the United States may not agree to insurance-related international agreements unless they are consistent with and recognize existing federal and state law, particularly on the regulation of insurance. U.S. federal entities participating in negotiations would be required to coordinate and consult with state insurance commissioners, according to the bill.

Whether this bill gets enough immediate traction to pass in the next year remains to be seen. I think it does bode well that Congress reiterate the near supremacy in states regulating insurance (I say “near supremacy” because Congress can always change its mind!).

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Well, hello Molly!


Former VCIA President, Honorary Member, and all around wonderful friend, Molly Lambert stopped by our offices last week, and, as many of you know, she is Vermont’s most respected community servant. Molly is doing a little work for a local affordable housing organization here in Burlington, Champlain Housing Trust, and it just so happens the stars align that bring the world of captive insurance and affordable housing.

This past year, the Vermont General Assembly passed an amendment in a housing bill that added captive insurers as a listed group that can take advantage of a tax credit that supports affordable housing. Currently banks and traditional insurance companies can take advantage of the credit. This change was welcome by both the Governor and legislature, as affordable housing is a priority for both.

CPA Mutual Insurance Company of America Risk Retention Group is the first captive insurance company to take advantage of Vermont’s Affordable Housing Tax Credit program. The captive purchased credits from the Champlain Housing Trust who will use the proceeds to create permanently affordable homes in Essex, Vermont.

CPA Mutual’s captive management company, Strategic Risk Solutions, worked with VCIA and the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation to bring the initiative to the legislature. The purchase of the tax credits will provide a reduction in state tax liability spread out over the next five years, while providing a lump sum up front for Champlain Housing Trust to subsidize four condominiums for sale in its shared equity program.  The revenue from the sale of the credits will subsidize the purchase of the homes. In exchange for this down payment assistance, buyers agree to share any market appreciation if they decide to sell at a future date.

William Thompson, president of CPA Mutual, commented: “This was an easy decision for us. To play a role in increasing the availability of affordable housing in Chittenden County is critical right now, and investing in the tax credits makes good business sense, too.”

Just like Molly to be on the side of good community and good business!  Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Old Home Week


As many of you know, VCIA hosts a couple of educational sessions in different cities across the country to espouse the virtues of captive insurance. We call these our World Famous Road Shows, well, because the Ringley Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus is no more! It is an afternoon that focuses on the basics of captive insurance companies, including the reasons for formation, the feasibility process and key issues in putting a successful captive program together.  A brief overview of Vermont as a captive domicile is also discussed.

It hit us late last year that we have never brought our Road Show to our Homeland – the Great State of Vermont! So next Wednesday, October 25th at the Burlington Hilton we will presenting the Road Show for companies in Vermont (and neighboring regions), as well as enticing finance, business and accounting students from local colleges to come learn about this great industry in their backyard.

We will have Vermont’s chief regulator, Dave Provost on a panel with Rusty Young, a Shareholder at Burlington law firm Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, PC. The panel will be moderated by Ian Davis of Vermont’s Department of Economic Development. I will host the second panel of two of the industry’s experienced captive owners. Jan Klodowski is vice present of Agrisurance Inc. and is responsible for developing and administering their successful Captive/Alternative Risk Financing programs. She manages Agrisurance, Inc., a Vermont-domiciled Sponsored Captive focused on service the farming and agricultural industry. And Wilda Seymour, the corporate director of Professional Liability for the University of Pennsylvania Health System and vice president, Franklin Casualty Insurance Company, their Vermont-domiciled captive.

Hope you can join us to get a better idea why Vermont is the #1 captive domicile in the United States!

One last thing – we need your input! Today is the deadline to submit topics for VCIA’s annual conference next August. Please click link below to submit a conference topic suggestion:



Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President