We are launched! On Monday of this week registration opened for the 2023 VCIA Conference, and already over 160 attendees have registered to attend. On the outside, it looked like we just ‘flipped the switch,’ but in all honesty that could not be further from the truth! The lead up to the launch of registration has been a meticulous process, one that involved a significant amount of time on the backend to ensure that the registration procedure can run properly for everyone.
Many logistics go into managing the conference experience as well. It’s a big mark of logistical success when attendees don’t even notice because everything is running so smoothly, and that is our goal! A look behind the scenes shows that the VCIA staff have been working on the details that make the conference rev – from hotel contract to our great conference logo – reflecting the summer colors of Vermont. From transportation to sampling the food offerings at the hotel (Somehow, I missed out on that job!)
Equally important to logistics, is the actual conference schedule that has been materializing for months. Since September of 2022 (Yes, less than a month after the end of the 2022 conference!), a dedicated group of captive professionals have been working as the VCIA’s Conference Task Force to solicit, evaluate, hone and finalize a broad range of continuing professional education. Working closely with staff, they have also addressed issues such as safety and security, and the integration of stellar social and networking events into the program.
Staff and the Conference Task Force have also work hard on securing the keynote speakers who will bring something different and relevant to the attendees. This year we are delighted to have retained the services of Juliette Kayyem & Jeff Kreisler. Juliette is a CNN National Security Analyst, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, and a former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security. Jeff is the head of Behavioral Science at JP Morgan as well as being a former stand-up comedian! That’s a combination I can’t wait to experience.
So, come join us and about 1,000 of your peers as we explore new challenges and innovations. Build effective and useful contacts across the formal and informal events, and have an outstanding time in beautiful Burlington, Vermont!
My second RIMS Conference is complete, and I was fortunate to meet a considerable number of you there. The conference energy at RIMS is strong and it reminds me of the buzz you will find at the VCIA Conference in Burlington this August!
At RIMS, the Vermont display (you really can’t call it a ‘booth’) was a hub of activity, and not just because of the ever-popular maple syrup. Throughout the two and a half days, there was a steady stream of current captive owners swinging by to meet with regulators and VCIA staff. We discussed their captives and plans for the future and showcased how VCIA and Vermont could help them meet their goals. A number of both formal and informal meetings with potential new captives took place during our stay in Atlanta.
Person-to-person engagements are important to VCIA, and I am pleased to tell you that one of these meetings at RIMS was a direct result of our recent trade mission to Mexico. I am confident our Mexico relations are just the beginning of a flourishing partnership to come. We also entertained visitors from Germany, Japan and the UK. I continue to be amazed by the brand recognition that our ‘Brave Little State’ gets globally in this field, and I suspect you will find an international presence at the #VCIA2023 Conference.
Additional news: I am happy to report that the 2023 Captive Bill has passed through the Vermont legislature and now sits with the Governor awaiting his signature. This effectiveness again speaks volumes to the great work that volunteers put on both inside the VCIA’s Legislative Committee and beyond that the ensure that your voice is heard in the halls of power. VCIA will of course stay on top of this and alert members and stakeholders when the Governor signs the bill into the law.
Happy May! That means VCIA is primed and ready for our #VCIA2023 registration kick off, and we look forward to “opening our gates” soon!
In the coming months, I intend to highlight a number of facets to demonstrate how The VCIA Conference stands out in the captive conference circuit. We will detail our special events, our keynote speakers (Shh! waiting to reveal them during registration week), the wide variety of services offered in our comprehensive exhibit hall, thanks to our exhibitors.
I will also go in depth on our educational topics – a source of deep pride for VCIA. Above all, our conference is about the people, about you! It starts with the people behind the scenes – the VCIA Conference Task Force, the topic coordinator and speakers, the VCIA Board and Staff, the #VCIA2023 Sponsors – then includes the variety of captive professionals from all walks of life and corners of the world who make our event so special. I don’t want to give it away, but let me just hint that we have a special video dropping during registration week which will illustrate how VCIA is truly the place where the captive world comes to meet.
So, just as a primer, let me provide the basics:
#VCIA2023 is four jam packed days of captive education, networking and business opportunities, in lovely Burlington, Vermont starting Monday August 7th with Captive Immersion, as the full conference slate picks up Tuesday August 8th and goes through Thursday August 10th.
#VCIA2023 is for everyone, not just service providers and captives domiciled in Vermont! In fact, we have a number of other domiciles who will be exhibiting in the exhibit hall, and many regulators and government officials from other states and countries attend. VCIA is very happy about this and it goes to my ethos of building out “a bigger pie” which everyone can eat from.
On top of that #VCIA2023 is productive for those who have been in the captive industry for more than 30 years, and those who maybe have been in the captive industry for just 3 days! We have advanced topics as well as Captive Immersion and Captive101. Plus, the VCIEL will be playing a major role at the conference in engaging rising professionals and students.
Jamie Feehan is a dear friend of the VCIA and plays a major role in our legislative efforts on the state level. For this year’s Legislative Day, he kindly answered some questions so VCIA Members could get to know him and how he supports their captive interests. We now publish Jamie’s interview in its unabridged form, which details how a captive bill is put into law. As of this writing, the 2023 Vermont captive bill is pending but anticipated to be signed into law by Governor Phil Scott without any issue.
Thank you for all the great work you do, Jamie!
Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your background?
I am Jamie Feehan, and am the Government Relations Director at Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, a Burlington firm. I am the firm’s lead lobbyist on behalf of our clients that have an interest in Vermont legislative and regulatory matters. I’ve been with Primmer and its previous iterations for about 25 years. Prior to that, I worked on Capitol Hill for a Congressman from Maryland for several years. I have also done political campaign work for that Congressman and for others here in Vermont.
What is your relationship to VCIA and how do you support the association?
I have been working with the VCIA on its Vermont legislative and regulatory initiatives for most of the time I’ve been at Primmer. That includes working with Kevin and his predecessors, the VCIA Board and its Legislative Committee.
Members highly value legislative advocacy. Can you share why it’s so important and what goes into it?
Vermont is the country’s leading domicile for captive insurance and among the world’s leaders. Reaching that point is not without effort and there are many reasons for that success, including legislative advocacy. This includes annual captive insurance legislation that continuously adds new features and tools to the captive statutes, or down to the basic amendments to existing law that make the law operate more smoothly for captives and practitioners. The Vermont Legislature understands how important the captive industry is to Vermont, and that there are other domiciles that would like to have similar success, even at the expense of Vermont. Getting the Legislature to have that understanding is the result of the efforts of the VCIA and DFR in educating legislators of all political stripes on what captive insurance is, and what it means to Vermont. This may be tied to legislative initiatives, VCIA Legislative Days, and more. This educational effort and advocacy is continuous as the faces in the Legislature change, and as the captive insurance industry evolves.
Why is VCIA’s Legislative Day an important process of legislative advocacy on the Vermont state level?
It really ties to the educational effort the VCIA undertakes to help position the captive industry for success in the Legislature. It is our chance to put a face on the industry through attendance by captive owners, management folks, attorneys, and others in the industry – who can each explain how captive insurance plays a role in their professional lives. Moreover, it is a chance for legislators to see and hear of examples of captive owners, the reason a captive was formed, the types of business put through the captive, and the reason Vermont was chosen as a domicile. Most legislators will not know what a captive insurance company is or does, but they (hopefully) learn enough from interactions on Legislative Day, and through their colleagues on committees that dive deeper into captive insurance, that it is something they should embrace and continue to foster.
There are a lot of new faces in the Vermont House and Senate this year. What implications does that have for the VCIA and how we represent the interests of members?
Vermont is a citizen legislature made up of folks who either have the time and flexibility to serve, or take a leave from their job to serve while the Legislature is in session – and frankly throughout the year. This model doesn’t necessary promote the “career” politician and results in frequent turnover among the 180 members. Through a confluence of events, a third of that 180 is new this session. For that reason, the VCIA needs to double-down on its educational and outreach efforts with the Legislature and its members to again position ourselves for success with the new Legislature.
Can you share what kind of captive developments you expect to see in the State for 2023?
I could probably characterize the amendments to the captive law under consideration this year as largely technical or housekeeping in nature. Nevertheless, they do represent the constant tweaks I referenced that keep Vermont’s laws fresh and operationally smooth. They also give the Legislature exposure to captive insurance in the form of legislation. The Legislature has come to understand they are an important cog in Vermont’s success story by being responsive to legislative needs of the industry and regulators. In fact, the veterans there have come to expect annual legislation. Plus, you never know. There’s always time for more significant initiatives to be introduced while the Legislature is in session!
First of all, the numbers. Both conferences had strong attendance, both up from 2022 levels, together with a full exhibit hall. Then secondly the content. As in 2022, almost all presenters were upbeat about their own captive, or, in the case of service providers, their pipeline of new and expanding clients. And then lastly, the “chatter.” A standard opening question of mine is, “how’s business” and this was almost invariably met with a plaintive request for more resources in terms of staff, because there is so much business to take on.
So how does this inform the VCIA as we develop our services to members? Some of the hotels for our own conference in August of this year are already approaching capacity, and this is before we even open registration in May! So, we are working with our partners in the Burlington lodging industry to secure additional rooms and even additional hotels to meet the expected high demand in a small marketplace. Then, addressing some of the workforce issues that I’ve heard, we are about to announce some strong new initiatives that will hopefully pay dividends in expanding the available workforce for the captive industry, especially in Vermont.
Lastly, it only remains for me to recognize March 17th, Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh, go athas sé lúcháir orainn go léir!
Almost a year ago, before I even joined the VCIA, I attended the World Captive Forum in Miami, and well, here I am again, learning and networking. And what a year it has been, my first as VCIA President! More on that in a future blog, but I am happy to report that there is further evidence here at this event of the resilience and growth in the captive industry. Right now, I am sitting in on the regulatory panel (featuring Vermont’s own Sandy Bigglestone), and every domicile present is talking about growth, new product lines and innovation across the board.
For Vermont and VCIA it has been a great event, strengthening our stakeholder relationships and building new ones.
We also debuted the new Vermont booth – please pay no attention to the fact that 4 captive professionals working collaboratively could not get the lights on right! Despite that, the booth looks great (we fixed the lights) and certainly acted as a beacon within the exhibit hall. Vermont is off to the races to try to top last year’s 41 new captive count!
I also got to fulfill on my mantra of ‘cooperate to grow the pie, compete for a larger slice’ by visiting with the other domiciles present to specifically invite them to the VCIA’s Annual Conference in August. While many already attend, I was happy to invite them to come as exhibitors. The greatest accolade that we could get for the VCIA Conference would be when an attendee says ‘I attended the event and got the solution I needed.’ Of course, I would be delighted if that solution was Vermont, but I must also recognize that there are many offerings in the marketplace. So far, we’ve gained great interest in other domiciles/associations for our booth spaces!
That’s all for my live World Captive Forum reporting. Sad to say we New Englanders must leave sunny Miami and return to Vermont with a temperature shift of 107°F forecast. Winter may be hard, but it won’t last forever in the Green Mountain State, and the closer spring approaches means the closer our 2023 conference cycle starts!
These last few weeks I’ve spent more time in hotel rooms and airplanes than I’ve spent at home. Now, happily snug in my snowy–yes, already–Vermont headquarters, I can reflect on quite a trip the State of Vermont and VCIA had to Luxembourg for the European Captive Forum.
The trip, and the conference, had a perfect combination of networking and educational sessions. Deputy Commissioner Sandy Bigglestone led an engaging topic on “Why and How to Establish a Captive” and the Vermont team heard from stateside and international industry colleagues about opportunities for new captive formations in the Green Mountain State. I was personally happy to hear a recurrent point about how many people are eager for the business possibilities, networking values, and educational content of our annual conference…even if it’s more than 8 months away! Even so, we are already hard at work on creating an optimal experience for our attendees.
The “hard at work” phrase kept in my mind as we learned that Vermont won the International Domicile of the Year during the Captive Review European Awards. The announcement on LinkedIn read: “Moving on to the next category at #EUCaptiveAwards 2022 where we have the International Domicile…And it is of course Vermont who have earned our congratulations!”
I’m still less than a year in as VCIA President/industry representative, so it struck me that the “of course” preposition to describe our award reflects the healthy and productive infrastructure that VCIA and the State has built–and continues to strengthen. That’s why I responded to Captive Review’s post like this: ” ‘Of course Vermont’ is a delightful comment, but rest assured that the industry-leading regulators, service providers and managers, economic development professionals and the VCIA are NOT resting on their laurels as we all further develop the ‘Gold Standard’ that garners awards like these.”
We’re further developing our Gold Standard here at VCIA by starting a Strategic Planning process that will result in a comprehensive and innovative blueprint that will guide us into prosperous future in partnership with our members, stakeholders, and the industry as a whole. Our newly appointed Board Chair Tracy Hassett said it in a nutshell: VCIA will be thinking “blue sky big” in how we can provide more to our members, meet captive owner/industry needs, and increase our impact and reach. So I encourage you to join us. Become a member, join a committee, share your feedback. This is YOUR organization, and the success we experienced at ECF only motivates us to higher ground.
United Educators is a reciprocal risk retention group that provides the insurance coverage needs of more than 1,600 members ranging from large university systems to small, independent K-12 schools. Joe Carter’s responsibility is to set the strategy for UE’s growth. This includes planning the business development and distribution strategies that ensure success. He is also responsible for teams that manage UE’s brand and constituent experience strategy, the Voice of Constituent (VOC) program, digital experience, member support, marketing, and communications. Joe recently was elected to the Board of Directors at VCIA, and we sat down with him to ask a few questions.
1. Tell us how you got involved with insurance and risk management. How did you come to UE? The early days in my professional journey were rooted in large commercial insurance companies with fantastic training programs for new employees. I began by handling first and third-party claims in an environment best described as “rapid fire” for America’s second largest insurance company at the time. I had the rare opportunity to rotate through other functions of the company including underwriting, risk management consulting, front-line sales management, and leadership coaching. Then I started an independent insurance agency/brokerage that I grew and sold to a larger agency owned by a regional bank. After a couple of additional executive leadership roles, I found this wonderful Risk Retention Group (RRG) captive that focused on education, a sector that I think is so important to our world. Joining United Educators was a chance to apply all my experiences to lead UE’s business development strategy, marketing, and member experience – a home run opportunity for me.
2. UE is celebrating its 35-year anniversary. What do you provide your members? We continue to deliver the third-party liability coverages that drove our creation by educational institutions in 1987. A significant part of our work is delivered well before any claims call comes in. We research and build training, loss prevention courses, and risk management tools that not only help prevent bad things from happening, but also help institutions prepare for bad things that are likely to happen. We are proud that these risk management resources are highly valued and utilized by educational institutions. Our resolutions team partners with institutions as soon as there is a concern about a potential claims matter. They help strategize early, while taking a Cool Head, Warm Heart® approach to resolving claims that recognizes the value of the relationships our members have with their students, staff, and communities.
All captives need to focus on their differentiation from commercial markets and think hard about why they exist. There needs to be a shared understanding about what captives are really accomplishing for their owners. I believe captives have a unique opportunity to help owners to see risks that lie ahead using trends from a purer set of data and experience.
3. What have you seen in the time you have been there? Can you tell us a little about the culture at UE? There are many liability lessons from education claims over the 35 years: preparation is as important as seeking prevention, active and early intervention usually is more effective than the “wait and see” tactics we’ve seen used by other carriers, and treating claimants with respect and empathy is an important part of loss mitigation, to name a few. Our culture is shaped by being member-owned. We’re serving members amid upheaval of the education sector, market fluctuations, and skyrocketing claims and defense costs. Enjoying a personal connection to our members drives an ethos of excellence in member service.
4.What are some of the challenges you see today for your members and what innovations is UE bringing to them to meet those challenges? We see several challenges that have been pervasive with new ones emerging. In recent years, we’ve monitored how demographic shifts are affecting enrollments and the top lines for many institutions. And we all think about the financial and operational risks going forward for tuition-dependent institutions. There are also real concerns about keeping campuses operating as healthy and safe environments for in-person learning. Most campuses, including K-12 sites, are concerned about student mental health for good reasons. And many are concerned about employee mental health as we transition through the next phase of this pandemic. And there is the ever-present challenge that all employers face in managing risks such as employment and misconduct issues involving high-profile and highly-valued employees. In the education arena, these include coaches, researchers, faculty, presidents, or trustees. UE’s risk research and resolutions teams work constantly to develop useful tools that help break these complex exposures down into tactical and useful programs that help campuses effectively plan and train administrators, employees, and students on staying healthy and safe.
5.What are some of the challenges facing UE as an organization and the captive insurance/RRG industry as a whole? UE faces many of the same challenges that most providers do. We are seeing loss inflation that goes beyond just a rise in the average cost of a claim or even a category of claims. The rise in claims costs and awards reflects a societal trend that is punishing institutions of any type without regard to the nexus between bad verdicts and the rising costs of insurance going forward. Insurer investment strategies aren’t delivering much return in recent environments, so there is great pressure to underwrite and price your business accurately and on time. That is a hard pill for owners to swallow during times of rising loss costs. All captives need to do their best job of speaking this truth to their owners. And when we are doing this correctly, owners understand that the captive’s health is directly tied to their ability to manage risks and losses. All captives need to focus on their differentiation from commercial markets and think hard about why they exist. There needs to be a shared understanding about what captives are really accomplishing for their owners. I believe captives have a unique opportunity to help owners to see risks that lie ahead using trends from a purer set of data and experience.
6.Why does Vermont fit UE’s mission and business plan as your domicile of choice? I believe that one of the best things that Vermont does for domiciled captives is allowing and encouraging open dialogue. They do a really good job at getting to know the organizations doing business in and around the state. They show up at industry conferences not just to speak and deliver content, but to also listen and learn. That’s a level of engagement that allows them to be helpful to innovation while they ensure compliance. No one wants to see bad captives formed or operating in the market. I believe Vermont’s approach to engagement keeps the marketplace respectable and healthy for consumers of these services.
All captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market.
7.What are you most proud of as you look back over the past 35 years for UE? There are many things that I could talk about. It is impressive how our captive and its membership have grown so much since I joined. The staff I have the pleasure of working with and learning from every day are smart and bring a rich diversity of experience. They work collaboratively and challenge us leaders to think hard, consider much, and act decisively. We’ve also been working hard to foster and improve our culture of inclusivity. I am proud of how our teams contribute in many ways. And we’re just getting started. I know we will continue to grow our culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
8.Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you wanted to talk about? I think captive organizations represent the best in business relationships between owner and provider. Being able to do this constituent experience work on behalf of those that you serve just demonstrates a purity in relationship that cannot happen with the influence of third-party shareholders. And all captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market. In fact, there should really be no better experience available when an effective captive option is present. No other option can to focus and deliver like we do.
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.