Happy Holidays and See You in 2020

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Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays to all of the VCIA family! It was another great year for captives in Vermont, and next year portends to be even better for the industry as a whole.

As I have talked to many of VCIA’s members in the course of the past month or so, “busy” seems to be the word that encapsulates the tone. I think that has been due to two main factors: the increasing sophistication of risk managers in smaller and medium-sized organizations, and the beginnings of a hardening insurance marketplace.

Vermont is set to add another 20+ captives to its stable of over 1000 licenses by year’s end, notwithstanding the competition, due in large part to Dave Provost and his team at DFR’s continued steadfast regulation, Ian Davis’ doggedness in pursuing captive leads, and captive service providers, who continue to recognize Vermont as the premier captive insurance domicile! Overall VCIA membership has increased 2% this year with 446 member organizations thanks to Janice Valgoi and her tireless work in adding to our roles.

I want to say thank you to VCIA’s Board of Directors for all their support and guidance over the past year to the association. I want to especially thank Wilda Seymour of Franklin Casualty Insurance Company RRG for her contribution as board chair starting in October of 2018, and welcome back Jan Klodowski of Agrisurance Inc. as our chair as of this past October.  Longtime captive expert attorney extraordinaire, Stephanie Mapes of Paul Frank + Collins, came on as our vice-chair.  Many thanks to Andrew Baillie of AES Global Insurance Company, independent consultant Donna Blair, Lawrence Cook of Sedgwick, Dennis Silvia of Cedar Consulting, Anne Marie Towle of Hylant, and Derick White of SRS. And on behalf of the staff, I would also like to welcome Tracy Hassett of EdHealth and Jason Palmer of Willis Towers Watson to the board.

We continue our strong focus on events and on legislative and regulatory issues on behalf of our members. Many thanks to Jim McIntyre, and his partner Chrys Lemon, in Washington and Jamie Feehan in Vermont for their wonderful service to VCIA.   And my great thanks to the VCIA staff! Without their hard work, smarts and enthusiasm, we would not be able to accomplish any of the wonderful things we do for our members.  Thank you to Diane Leach, Elizabeth Halpern, Peggy Companion, Janice Valgoi, Dave Rapuano and Megan Precourt – you are all terrific!

Most of all, thank you for all your support and another great year!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Mixy Business

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Many thanks to all you who joined us Wednesday night for VCIA’s annual Holiday Mixer. We had around 120 of nearest and dearest friends attend at the Hilton taking time to greet and socialize with fellow VCIA members on a cold and ultimately snowy Vermont evening.

Many thanks to our sponsors of the event: our friends at Crowe right up the street, and the folks of NAMIC Insurance Solutions (NAMICO) who came all the way from Indianapolis! Tim Sullivan, Kristen Strasser, and Ted Doughman braved the “friendly” skies to join us.  It is one of my favorite nights of the year, when friends come together with no agenda except to enjoy each other’s company as we head into the holiday season.

I also want to congratulate David Guerino as SVP & Managing Director of KeyState Captive Management.  Dave was there with some of his fellow KeyState colleagues as well, Jeff Vigne and Alicia Huskes. KeyState is a relatively new VCIA member and just announced plans to establish an office in Burlington, Vermont in early 2020.

Thank you again and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

 

Taxing Talk

2019-tax-panelJoin us next week As VCIA presents its annual captive taxation update! On December 12th, a group of noted captive tax specialists will inform you of the latest 2019 tax developments impacting captive insurers. Our panel will provide details on specific tax authorities and court rulings released over the past year to provide further insight into the ever-shaping landscape of captive taxation. The panel will also explore the latest changes from the U.S. Tax Reform bill enacted a couple of years ago, its impact on captives, and how best to plan for year-end.

Our panelists will be Saren Goldner, Partner at Eversheds Sutherland, Kristen Hazel, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, and Alicia Miller, Tax Senior at Crowe.  Each of these experts are considered respective authorities of captive taxation in their various capacities, and all are members of firms who have a strong presence in the captive industry and work tirelessly for the benefit of all.

This webinar offers a great opportunity for all stakeholders to keep up with the latest tax developments in efforts to make informed decisions at the highest level of corporate governance for your captive.  You will walk away learning about recent changes from the U.S. Tax Reform bill that will affect the status of captive insurers; Washington State’s recent approach toward taxing captive entities and some results of recent court cases;  the basics of Johnson & Johnson’s successful appeal in its $55 million NJ Self Procurement Tax Refund Case; recent developments involving insurance characterization, including risk pools and alternative premium characterization; and the IRS’s continued focus on smaller captive insurance companies and understand best practices learned from the cases in this area.

Click here for more information. I hope you will be able to join us!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

It’s a Hard Market

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OK, time to fess up. In a blog in February 2018, I dismissed the rumor that a hardening insurance market was on its way. As a matter of fact, I stated “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” – ouch!

Well, as we are all aware, the insurance market has certainly been hardening over the last year. Even though I still believe that the broader insurance market is more stable now, with better loss control, better data, more capital, and the maturation of the captive insurance industry, it is tightening. According to the second quarter 2019 Marsh Global Insurance Market Index, commercial property rates in the U.S. increased nearly 10% in the second quarter, which is twice the level of recent quarters.

And though the hardening market is impacting several different lines, I thought the explanation as reported in Business Insurance by Bret Ahnell, Executive Vice President of Staff Operations at FM Global, on property insurance (a large area in the captive marketplace) was instructive:

1.) The commercial property insurance industry has been losing money.  There have been declining rates industry-wide for more than a decade while carriers have offered broader coverages.  At the same time the industry has been contending with increased risk as a result of global economic expansion.  In fact, the property and casualty industry has been above a 100 combined ratio in 6 of the last 9 years. Only 2013-2015 were profitable, explained by extremely low losses from natural disasters.  Yet, when big natural catastrophe losses resulted from events, including hail, hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and monsoons, the industry again posted losses in 2017 and 2018.

2.) Bonds markets have remained lackluster.  While investment yields in the stock market have been favorable during this time, the returns in the bond markets — which most insurers primarily rely upon for investment income — have remained lackluster.  The result is the industry hasn’t been able to use their investments to offset bad underwriting results. Carriers have had to adjust rates and coverages as needed to better ensure an underwriting profit.

3.) Regulators are gaining more sway in underwriting behavior.  The role of regulators is having an impact on underwriting behavior and discipline.  More than ever the insurance industry needs to be able to demonstrate sustainable business models and profitability across each line of business.

4.) New U.S. tax laws have increased tax liability while driving down profitability. Where previously carriers could write off 35% of a loss, today, it is only 21%, which ultimately means more selectivity when placing capacity.

It all adds up to a commercial property market that requires underwriting discipline and a continued correction over time. And, in this market, those clients who understand and commit to property loss prevention and risk engineering will do better than those who don’t.  That means captive owners will most likely be adding more to their risk portfolios.

On that cheery note, I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

May the FASB with you

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Look, the Empire of Accounting has many draconian rules and regulations, but if you are unprepared with Force of knowledge you will be thrust into the Dark Side of your ledger.

OK, enough with the Star Wars rip-off. The Financial Accounting Standard Board (FASB) has been busy at work issuing a variety of new standards. If you have investments, especially equity investments that have been accounted for through Other Comprehensive Income (OCI), you’re about to see a big change as a result of Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-01, Financial Instruments Recognition and Measurement, ASU 2018-03, Improvements to Financial Instruments and ASU 2018-13, Changes to the Disclosure Requirements for Fair Value Measurement.

Hopefully you can join us on September 25th at 2:00 p.m. ET for a truly instructive webinar on these changes as we walk through a case study and discuss the impact of obtaining a permitted practice to not adopt these new standards. Additionally, we will provide an update on ASU 2016-13, Financial Instruments – Credit Losses and ASU 2016-02, Leases.

Our panelists will be Sandy D. Griffith, Senior Vice President at Advantage Insurance, and Magali Welch, Partner with Johnson Lambert LLP. Ably moderated by Steve Garwood, Vice President, Treasurer and CFO of EIIA, which is the parent company of two Vermont based captives, with expert content advice from Rebecca James, Principal at Johnson Lambert LLP.

After completing this webinar, you will be able to: cite changes related to accounting for financial instruments; adopt best practice methods for properly accounting for the change in guidance; and identify some impacts (potential and known) of obtaining a permitted practice to not account for this guidance.  Register now, and may the Force of accounting knowledge be with you!

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

We had a great time!

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VCIA Staff left to right: Diane Leach, Rich Smith, Peggy Companion, Elizabeth Halpern, Megan Precourt, Isabelle Halpern (summer intern), Dave Rapuano and Janice Valgoi

Thanks to all who joined us in Burlington earlier this month for another great VCIA captive insurance conference!  As I tell everyone who asks me how the conference went, I have a great time meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends. And the entire VCIA staff feels the same way.

You seem to agree, too: more than 84% of conference survey responses rated our conference the best or better than most. With over 1000 attendees from 44 States and 10 countries, where more than 25% were captive owner and 19% first time attendees. Our annual gathering in August has grown to be the place “Where the Captive World Comes to Meet”!

The conference had great energy and people liked the format and extra touches.  As a few of the  attendees stated the conference is “where the best and the brightest in the captive world come together to keep moving the industry forward”; “a participative educational forum, fostering business and personal relationships that last a lifetime!”; “the place where everyone is willing to share ideas and learn from each other”; “the premier captive insurance conference on the calendar, given its size, its sophistication….if I could only attend one captive conference per year, it would be VCIA.”

Attendees especially liked the new Captive Immersion program that was held on Monday, our Learning Circles which enabled attendees to share ideas and experiences, the exhibitor reception with the special Vermont beer and spirits samplings provided, and our two excellent keynotes: Laura Drabik from Guidewire and astronaut Mike Massimino.

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. A special thank you to our Platinum Sponsors:

  • A.M. Best
  • Kroll Bond Rating Agency
  • Madison Scottsdale
  • Old Republic
  • Performa
  • Wells Fargo
  • State of Vermont

Now after a little break, we are back to work again looking out for the captive industry. We have a bunch of webinars being planned for the rest of the year so keep your eyes on our website!

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

10-Day Countdown

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Just ten days until we open Burlington, Vermont to all you captive insurance professionals! If you have not already done so, please make plans to join us for a week of wonderful education, networking and friendship.

Here is just a smattering of some of the captive owners who will be presenting this year:

  • Andrew Baillie, AES of Global Insurance Company
  • Sean Barnes of United Educators
  • Julie Bordo of PCH Mutual Insurance Co., Inc., a RRG
  • Tracy Hassett of Educators Health Insurance Exchange of New England
  • Tim Herr of Recreation Risk Retention Group
  • Karen Hsi of the University of California
  • Jan Klodowski of Agri-Services Agency LLC & Agrisurance Inc.
  • Troy LePage of HAI Group
  • Heather McClure of Oklahoma University Medical
  • Bill Murray of Church Insurance
  • Tim Padovese of Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC)
  • Joshua Reding of Life Time Captive Insurance Company
  • Paul Smith of National Insurance and Indemnity Corporation

I hope you all can join us! Click here to register for the VCIA Conference today.

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

Rich Smith