“Vermont is a small state which makes an enormous difference.” -Mr. Rogers – Just 10 days until #VCIA2022 comes to life! And while we can certainly keep you fed and refreshed while here, I appreciate that some of you may want to venture into the depths of Burlington. So here are a few spots that come with the “Kevin Seal of Approval.”
Bars: I am more of a dive bar person than anything else. I love a good juke box and a billiards table that slants just slightly to the left. Any place with ‘tasting notes’ for the beer tends to get a pretty wide berth from me, so…
Lincoln’s: More of a scavenger hunt that a bar. No signs, and Google Maps is only mildly helpful. Once you find it and are in, everything is $5 – cash only. Pepsi? $5. Gin & tonic with a dash of bitters? $5. You get the picture.
The Olde Northender: Time stood still here in 1974. Of course, it’s Vermont, so there are two micros on tap to accompany the bottles of Bud Light and cans of PBR. 23 North St, Burlington, VT 05401
Food: Amusing story, there is a not a Starbucks in downtown Burlington.
Feldman’s Bagels: A pepper salt and sesame bagel with a schmeer of bacon scallion and horseradish cheese. Open at 06:30, 660 Pine St, Burlington, VT 05401
American Flatbread: ‘It’s not a pizza, it’s a flatbread!’ ‘OK buddy, I’ll get a whatever-you-call-it with the maple fennel sausage and caramelized onions’. 115 St Paul St, Burlington, VT 05401
The Eclectic: Burlington is the natural habitat of all things quirky.
Thirty Odd: Bring home something from Vermont that is not syrup or a T-Shirt. Local artists and makers with delightful stuff. 270 Pine Street, Burlington, VT 05401
The World’s Biggest Filing Cabinet: Go and see it, and then ask me, “Why did you send us there?” I’ll buy you a drink if you actually make it to the filing cabinet tower and take a selfie! 220 Flynn Ave, Burlington, VT 05401
A Director of Finance, Director of Membership, and Director of Education walk into a bar…jokes aside, Peggy Companion, Janice Valgoi, and Diane Leach have been central in building the high reputation and strong impact of VCIA. What drives them? A deep admiration for the good-natured people in the captive industry.
Along with industry-leading educational sessions and curated networking events, VCIA’s 37th Annual Conference is simply going to be blast. It will be a productive AND enjoyable time—guaranteed. That said, I have a couple of fun “branding” initiatives up my sleeve (after all, this will be my first conference as VCIA president, so I want to make it memorable!). Staff trivia will be one of them. Here’s our final staff spotlight, a tripleheader!, on the three smart and experienced women that are vital to VCIA’s success. Read up on all of our staff so you can get to now us a bit better before our big summer event. We’ll pose some staff questions at the conference and if you get them right you could win a nice little gift!
Director of Education Janice Valgoi
Since 2012, Janice Valgoi has brought many smiles to people in the captive industry. She takes great care in fostering relationships with people and companies, and works attentively in setting up sponsors for the annual conference while managing member needs throughout the year. Something you may not know about Janice, she used to be a serious synchronized swimmer, doing routines in the water and getting chewed up by Canadian geese. She loves dancing whether on land or sea!
Naturally her mind focuses on the conference this time of year, and when asked about what she’s excited about, she has a difficult time choosing. “To be honest I’m excited about everything! It’s very fulfilling to see everyone benefit from the conference. I think we give sponsors and exhibitors a really great value. There’s nothing better than bringing everyone together and that’s what the 2022 conference will be like. The VCIA staff has worked so hard to put it all together and make it a wonderful experience. It’s a very cool high to complete it!”
Director of Finance Peggy Companion
Four weeks into Peggy’s tenure at VCIA the office flooded. Her room was the only part of the floor that didn’t get damaged, and so she stayed in the building while everyone worked remotely. It was quite the initiation. She had just finished an accounting degree after juggling many jobs and working as a single mother. Before graduating, her teacher came to her and said, “I am going to change your life today.” He was neighbors with then VCIA president Molly Lambert and set up a meeting for Peggy with her. Peggy hasn’t looked back (minus the flood!) since.
Raised in Long Island, Peggy has lived in many places: Louisiana, Connecticut, Florida, the list goes on! Her work with VCIA comes back to the people she serves and connects with. “The staff, the industry, they are all lovely, supportive, intelligent people.” She sees this year’s Annual Conference as a great opportunity to witness the positive changes VCIA President Kevin Mead has begun making. “Kevin’s got smart plans and visions for the organization. I’m excited about the pathways he’s creating for VCIA.”
Peggy plays the piano and guitar and wants to brush up on her skills. She sails and golfs when she can, but there’s something else. “Peggy’s hidden talent is that she can be a professional singer. She has a wonderful sense of humor and sings a perfect show tune,” Diane revealed, to Peggy’s chagrin.
Director of Education and Programming Diane Leach
October 2022 marks 35 years of employment for Director of Education and Programming Diane Leach. She’s been with VCIA literally from the start. “I keep learning something new with VCIA and the captive industry. It’s what keeps me going, this constant evolution of knowledge.”
Diane puts her heart into designing the annual conference. Of course, this year has added significance because it’s the first time since 2019 that it will be back live and in person. She looks at the VCIA Conference as an enormous tool to solve challenges and brainstorm new ideas for the captive industry, and she finds a common theme that will be on display this August. “Change. Change of the guard with the DFR. Change of leadership with the VCIA. Change with hot topics and the incoming generation of captive professionals. This industry responds well to anticipating needs and providing answers to them, and that’s what the conference will be all about.”
If Diane’s not perfecting details for the conference, she’s seeking out a tranquil place on earth. Nature brings her peace, and practicing yoga has kept her more centered as a person. Her best thinking comes out on the trail, or on the mat. She contributes her well being to the support VCIA has provided. “I have always tried to take care of myself and VCIA has encouraged that for all staff.”
What’s most important to Diane? Being a mother. “My greatest joy is being the mother of my two daughters. I love the work-life balance VCIA provides. To have been a present parent means so much to me. VCIA has been so kind and generous to me and because of that I consider VCIA as my third child. And every year that child gets married again and I plan a large wedding to celebrate.”
Meticulously planning, securing keynotes and hammering out the schedule, we’ve waited all year for this and now the “gates are opened” for our first in-person conference in three years. We can’t wait to gather with the captive industry’s best and brightest this August in Burlington.
We’re officially launched! Please visit our conference registration page to sign up for the biggest and strongest captive insurance event this summer on the global calendar. No matter your experience level, you will find so much in our conference that will develop you professionally and advance your career. We have a full slate of dynamic educational sessions, curated networking and benchmarking events, and an environment conducive for making business deals. Simply put, you are sure to add to you captive knowledge at the 2022 VCIA Conference, and more than that, it will be a triumphant celebration of the captive industry at large. Be sure to follow the #VCIA2022 hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn.
I should mention (before I enlist you in another conference prize opportunity!) that I highly recommend booking your hotel and travel flight plans as soon as possible in order to avoid any complications. There are rooms still available at the VCIA group rate, but they are going fast, so head to our conference lodging page and be directed to local hotels who carry our group rate.
I’m a horse racing fan and I enjoy placing some modest bets down when I’m at the track. In that spirit, we are expecting a banner year, and as insurance professionals you are all concerned with risk and the odds that something might or might not occur. So, I introduce you to the VCIA version of ‘How Many Jelly Beans are in the Jar?’ I believe that our total attendance count will be 1,048. Are you taking that over or under? My guess includes exhibitors, staff and all classifications of attendees – i.e. anyone with a name badge! Let me know your number, and if I’m the closest, I will make a $50 personal donation to ICCIE (www.iccie.org), the captive insurance industry’s educational non-profit. If someone beats me, I will make a $100 donation in their name! We will, of course, also recognize the best prognosticator! Send your guesses to email@example.com
You all saw it coming. The number of captives licensed in Vermont last year eclipsed 2020 – already a banner year. Sure, almost every captive domicile had a good year, but even with over 40 states establishing captive laws, Vermont stands head and shoulders above.
Here are the hard numbers: Forty-five new captive insurance companies were licensed this past year in Vermont, making 2021 Vermont’s 4th highest year of growth in its 40-year history. Vermont is now home to 620 licensed captives, consisting of 589 active and 31 dormant captives. Vermont’s 52 sponsored cell captives currently host nearly 500 cells and separate accounts, in addition to the licensed captive companies.
The new captives were licensed in 17 different industries, the main industries being healthcare, real estate, manufacturing, insurance, and transportation. At least 5 of Vermont’s new captives in 2021 were formed by companies with international roots, including Japan, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Vermont has been experiencing growth in the number of new cells within sponsored captives, at a similar pace as new company licenses, with nine of the 45 new companies formed this year being sponsored cell companies.
Vermont has licensed a total of 1,242 captive insurance companies since 1981 and remains, by far, the largest U.S. domicile for captive insurance and third largest in the world. With an active pipeline of prospective new captive insurance companies already underway for 2022, the state expects continued growth in the coming year.
As we close out the year it is a great time to reflect on the last 12 months – or longer. It certainly has been a challenging year for all of us, but I can say without reservation how grateful I am to have been a part of this great industry for the past 12 years.
The friends I have made as head of VCIA are amazing. All of you have made my job joyful which is not something everyone can say, I know. You all know how fabulous the folks who work in the captive insurance space at the State of Vermont are – truly a pleasure to work with Dave Provost, Sandy Bigglestone, Dan Petterson, Christine Brown, Becky Aitchison, and Brittany Nevins.
VCIA’s Board of Directors day in and day out have provided their time, energy, guidance, and friendship through a year where they had to face many challenging decisions. My thanks to Andrew Baillie, Donna Blair, Joe Carter, Lawrence Cook, Tracy Hassett, Stephanie Mapes, Gail Newman, Jason Palmer, Dennis Silvia, Anne Marie Towle, and Derick White.
And to work with the great staff at VCIA in these tumultuous times has shown me just how wonderful they all are. Thank you so much Diane Leach, Elizabeth Halpern (who leaves us at the end of the year – sniff), Peggy Companion, Janice Valgoi, Dave Rapuano, and Meg Precourt for everything!
Even in these uncertain times, we are looking for a brighter future with 2022 and it gives me such comfort to know what good people there are out there.
Vermont’s 40th anniversary year of the inception of its captive industry is drawing to a close. Since 1981, Vermont has worked hard to be the top U.S. domicile and continues to strive for excellence. Currently, VCIA is working with Dave Provost and Sandy Bigglestone and their team at DFR to build another captive bill to be introduced into Vermont’s General Assembly.
Over the past two years of COVID challenges, the Gold Standard has never been so apropos as Vermont lead the captive insurance industry in incredible growth and resiliency. I could not be prouder to be a part of this great work.
Brittany Nevins, in her role as Captive Insurance Economic Development Director, has put together a terrific short film highlighting relationships, accomplishments, future goals—and really what it means to be part of the Vermont captive family. I hope you will watch and encourage you to share.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week and were able to spend it with friends and family. As we move into the continued uncertainty with COVID, it is always good to take a step back to appreciate and be with loved ones (or ones that at least like you).
One certain thing you can count on this time of year is VCIA’s annual captive tax update webinar, scheduled for December 15 at 2:00 ET. This year we present “Back to the Future” where our esteemed captive tax specialists review 2021’s most significant tax developments and explore the possible impacts of proposed legislative action by the current administration.
Our panel consists of Daniel Kusaila, Partner at Crowe LLP, Chaz Lavelle, Partner at Dentons Bingham Greenbaum LLP, and Brandy Vannoy, Partner at Johnson Lambert LLP. With the help from content advisors Stephanie Brassard of Johnson Lambert LLP and Dana Marino of Innovative Captive Strategies, the panel will provide an analysis of state and federal tax activity from 2021.
Our panelists will also provide an overview of recent, notable court cases and IRS actions. This includes a discussion on “lessons learned “ for large captives from small captive cases and a “fact or factors” segment highlighting key drivers that impacted the decisions made by the courts.
Our tax specialists will be monitoring the current tax landscape through the days leading up to this webinar to ensure the audience receives real-time updates on the state and federal tax environments.
Also, I want to say congratulations to Dave Angus, recently appointed as counsel to the captive insurance law practice at the firm of Paul Frank + Collins in Burlington, Vermont. Dave brings his captive insurance and transactional practice from The Angus Firm to PF+C’s captive insurance team and has been a long-time member (and twice chair) of VCIA’s Legislative Committee. Congratulations, David!
Captive Review reported that Washington State voters rejected a recent law that imposes premium taxes on captive insurance companies licensed in other states that are doing business in Washington State this past Tuesday! When asked to give their views on introducing the 2% premium tax, voters opposed it by a 19 point margin. It was just one of a number of new taxes rejected by voters under the advisory votes on tax increases that must be held under state law.
As you all have heard me say in an earlier post, the Washington State captive law passed earlier this year sets a terrible precedent whereby acquiescing some regulatory oversight by the Washington State insurance commissioner on captives domiciled in other states. Under the legislation, S.B. 5315, captives licensed elsewhere and operating in Washington would be required to pay an initial registration fee of $2,500 and be assessed an annual two percent premium tax on insurance provided to their parents or affiliates for Washington risks.
The reality is that the non-binding vote is unlikely to have an impact – the law will remain in effect unless state legislators vote to repeal the measure, which is unlikely to happen. I don’t think Washington State citizens delved into the issue of the captive tax and, after weighing the strong evidence of its inappropriateness, decided to reject it. No, this was a broad anti-tax vote on several taxation measures in the state, and the captive tax was dumped into a bunch of other unpopular taxes.
That being said, the vote did give me a moment of hope!
Thank you to all our members who joined us this past Wednesday evening for VCIA’s open board meeting, DFR Q & A, and Mixer. It was so nice to see people gathering once again, even if somewhat cautiously, for VCIA’s first in-person event since the beginning of COVID.
Besides hearing the litany on how many legislative items we are watching down in DC that will likely not move this Congress due to the continued gridlock, members got to hear Dave Provost and Dan Petterson from Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation provide an update on their work and changes in the future that they will see. Brittany Nevins , Vermont’s Director of Captive Marketing, screened a new video she produced extolling the virtues as Vermont as a captive domicile for members. It was a terrific piece that will be used in the State’s marketing efforts going forward. One of the “stars” of the video was VCIA new board member, Joe Carter, from United Educators, who did a super job outlining what makes Vermont so special for captive owners.
Dave provided an update on the number of captives being licensed this year and it sounds like its going to be a record breaker. Over 40 have been approved to date and we usually see a wave of applications toward the end of the year as organizations scramble to get their captives licensed. That said, we could easily hit 50 new captives this year. A good year for new captives licensed in Vermont is usually around 25. Another interesting note, DFR is seeing far fewer dissolutions and redomestications out of Vermont then normal, meaning that current captives are not only happy but thriving. Dan reported that DFR was fully staffed and ready to take on the workload that these new captives promise.
The reception was a terrific way to cap off the day with an opportunity to see and say “hi” to many of our old and new friends alike. A special shoutout to former board member, and good friend, Ed Koral who traveled all the way from New York City to joins us that evening. I think the prize for the greatest distance traveled for the event was by Andrew Zoller, the new Head of International & Captive Solutions – US Commercial Insurance for Zurich North America, who flew in from Dallas. Welcome to the family, Andrew!
Not surprising news that Capitol Hill continues to be the most dysfunctional place in the United States. Even must-pass bills or bills where there is broad consensus around the priorities, such as the debt ceiling or infrastructure support, are being held hostage by more acrimonious politics than ever before. I spent three years on Capitol Hill and loved my time there. Not that it wasn’t political and sometimes rancorous, but there was a general feeling that we were all there for the greater good.
Enough gloom on the situation – the question remains is this dysfunction in any way good for the captive industry? Since insurance policy is primarily state driven, it might seem not to matter. However, as we have seen in the not too distant past, actions in Washington can have an effect on our industry, usually as collateral damage. The passage of the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA) is one good example. NRRA was not intended to pertain to captives, but because it was poorly drafted and tacked onto a bill barreling through Congress (Dodd-Frank) it is now interpreted that way.
The positive effect of Congressional dysfunction is that almost nothing will pass in the near term. That’s not to say that there aren’t bills of interest to our industry, such as PRIA (a government-backed pandemic reinsurance program similar to TRIA), updates to the LRRA, or the cannabis bill that creates a safe harbor for financial services to provide products where pot is legal.
My take on it is that Washington gridlock is not good for captive insurance. Risk management is increasingly important, and taking more of a center stage in broader policy discussions at the national level. So it would benefit everyone (captive owners, the industry and the country) if Congress were a place where one could work with both sides of the aisle to move a good piece of legislation forward. Presently, nothing is likely to pass – unless it is tacked on to a bill that finally gets dislodged. And that is not the best way for good policy to take place.
Two bits of news regarding captive people: First, VCIA board member Lawrence Cook has joined Somers Risk Services as director of client services, where he will be responsible for enhancing client relations and services as well as special project work, marketing support, and partner company relations. Prior to joining Somers Risk, Lawrence was the director, program management, for Sedgwick. Congratulations, Lawrence!
Second, Jay Branum resigned from his position as the director of captives in the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI). Jay joined the SCDOI in late 2013 as captive director, a newly created position, and in his time there South Carolina experienced tremendous captive insurance growth. Even though Vermont and South Carolina are competitors in the captive insurance arena, Jay has always been helpful and willing to share his many years of wisdom with me. He is truly a class act, and VCIA wishes him all the best in his new endeavors.
I look forward to seeing many of you at our Member Mixer next Wednesday, October 20th at the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain! Register here.
Stay well, and see you soon! Rich Smith, VCIA President