Bookmark this Benchmarking Webinar Happening Next Week!

I can’t tell you how many folks have shared their excitement with me about VCIA’s upcoming Captive Benchmarking Webinar taking place next Wednesday November 16th at 2-3pm EST. It’s been a few years since our last benchmarking program, so it’s high time to update everyone on the health of captive financials in the State of Vermont. This year’s event is gearing up to be one of our most-attended webinars, and you can still get the important data by registering here!

I am lucky enough to moderate a conversation with the above captive financial data wizards, and I wanted to hear from them beforehand why they are excited for next week’s webinar.

With negative year-to-date investment returns reducing both profitability and surplus for captives, it is an opportune time to discuss best practices in benchmark selection for insurance entities that not only considers investment risk tolerances, but also the connection to the risks being underwritten by the captive

Bill piel, President of Institutional Markets, Opus Investment Management

During the webinar, Amy Angell of Milliman, Inc., plans to review surplus levels, identify ways to monitor claims performance, and to evaluate whether risk management programs are having the desired outcomes on the loss experience. She’ll do this all by looking at the hard data of the financial records of the 2021 EOY domiciled captives of the State of Vermont, listed by type of captive and by industry type.

What’s revving her up for next week? She told me point blank: “Benchmarking is a powerful tool that provides meaningful and actionable insights to captive owners.” If you want to start game planning for captive’s financial goals, then there’s no better place to start than our Hot Topics webinar.

Next to Amy will be her accomplished colleagues, Becky Aitchison, Captive Insurance Examiner for the State of Vermont DFR, and Bill Piel, President of the Opus Institutional Markets.

Becky is basically the source keeper the data aggregated and shared annually by the DFR. She will explain the key ratios used by the DFR for the surveillance of your captive’s financial health, and what markers she looks for in determining how a certain captive may or may not be thriving.

From an investment perspective, Bill will let you in on the primary reasons for establishing an investment policy and how the DFR data can help assist with developing an appropriate asset allocation unique to your captive. He will also identify ways to monitor investment performance and evaluate whether results are having the desired impact on your financial statements.

What makes Bill excited for the webinar? “With negative year-to-date investment returns reducing both profitability and surplus for captives, it is an opportune time to discuss best practices in benchmark selection for insurance entities that not only considers investment risk tolerances, but also the connection to the risks being underwritten by the captive.”

So, we have the expert who comes up with the data, and the other experts who will explain how to use the latest data to your benefit. It’s a win win!

I look forward to facilitating a data-driven conversation that looks into how your captive – and the Vermont captive landscape at large – has faired in the last financial year, and what that may say about the future. Remember to register, and “see you” there!

Captive Corner: VCIA Interview Series, 1. Joe Carter

Captive Corner: VCIA Interviews Industry Experts

Joe Carter, VP of Business Development and UE Experience at United Educators, and VCIA Board Member

ue.org / @UnitedEducators / United Educators LinkedIn Company Page

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.

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.

Find a Wealth of Captive Education – And Networking – at VCIA’s Last Captive Roadshow of 2022 in New York City

A chill is in the air here in Vermont and autumn officially arrived yesterday. Time to get on boots and your long sleeve plaids! And after doing a deep dive on the results of our annual conference, we shift attention to Gotham – New York City – where Janice Valgoi and I host a cadre of experts who will answer your questions and point you in the right direction on how to properly form, manage, and serve a captive. Do you miss the buzz from our conference? Then catch it again in the Big Apple.

When: October 26th from 1-5:45pm.

Where: The beautiful EY US Headquarters. That’s 1 Manhattan West, 395 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001.

Why: An easy one: to see me. Or if you’re not keen on me regaling you about rugby or motorcycles, earn CPE/VT CLE credit, get your questions answered by the industry giants like Sandy Bigglestone, learn a step-by-step blueprint for captive success, and simply be in the room with high-powered captive players.

Where captive dreams are made

What: We break down the afternoon into three parts: 1) An overview of captives and their formations, and how to find a supportive domicile for your captive. Brittany Nevins and The State of Vermont will provide information in this respect. 2) Captive Success Stories. What makes a captive successful and how do you reach your captive goals? Dianne Salter, President of Mountain Laurel Risk Retention Group, will share specific facts and experiences that helped give shape to the high value of her captive. (There are many more erudite captive minds who will be speaking in Parts I and II. See below! 3) Networking Reception: Build relationships and find opportunities in the City That Never Sleeps. And be sure to find me and say hello!

Who: EY is generously providing the space and is a sponsor of the Roadshow, along with The State of Vermont, AM Best, and Marsh Captive Solutions. For the Roadshow speakers, VCIA, as always, presents a stellar lineup of seasoned professionals who have decades of experience to impart to you. I personally want to thank EY’s Mikhail Raybshteyn and Jim Bulkowski for working with us to put on this fruitful event.

How: By registering via this link!

Join us for a high-powered Roadshow in the heart of Manhattan

See you folks a few days before Halloween. I cannot confirm or deny I will be in costume. 🎃

Your Perspectives of #VCIA2022

I finally came around to writing that personal $100 donation check to ICCIE. It’s in honor of A.I. Insurance’s Cameron MacArthur, who guessed the closest number to the #VCIA2022 attendee count, 986! I also want to acknowledge our friend George Levine of KPMG. He correctly answered all staff trivia at the conference and won the $50 Vermont Flannel Company gift card. We went through several wrong submissions before coming up with George’s! I hope George found something to clad himself in for the New England autumn. For the rest of the blog, I want to give it over to you, the fine folks that made #VCIA2022 a complete success. VCIA staff closely read over your post conference feedback, and we’ve already identified areas that we can improve on for next year. We also appreciate the support and gratitude, as we went all in to make it possible. So without further ado, here are some comments that really made us smile. (As a side note, if you haven’t filled out the conference survey and would still like to, get in touch with Francis at fmcgill@vcia.com)

Job well done, VCIA!  That was an incredible conference and I think anyone that attended would agree, you are clearly the best.

Thank you for all your, and your team’s efforts in putting this together. Excited to be here (1st-timer)!

The best organized conference I’ve attended. Keep it up!

A phenomenal opportunity for a young professional in the captive industry to become more integrated in the community at large!

I love VCIA! It truly is where the captive world comes to meet. Anyone doing captives is here so it’s a must-go.

The best US conference to attend.

Professional sessions with strong attendance of key players in the captive space.

Everyone’s willing to make new contacts and build out their networks at VCIA!

Excellent information from thought leaders in the captive industry.

Vermont Conference is the best.

Best in class!

The people and the good times make this a great conference.

The staff at VCIA is very supportive and helps make it one of the best conferences of the year.

At VCIA all attendees genuinely want others to have a positive experience.

If you do anything related to captive insurance, you have to come to VCIA. Simple as that!

Sandy Bigglestone: The Perfect Captive Successor to Dave Provost

Continuity. Experience. Expertise. 3 reasons (among many) for why Vermont is the Gold Standard for captive domicile decisions. The same 3 reasons describe Sandy Bigglestone, who this week was appointed as the new Deputy Commissioner of the Captive Insurance Division. Since the NBA Finals are underway, I’m inclined to say this is a slam dunk choice for everyone interested in captives in Vermont!

The Board, staff and members of the VCIA are delighted that Vermont Governor Phil Scott knew exactly where to turn to lead the division into a profitable future, and we join the entire industry, in Vermont and beyond, in congratulating Sandy. She is hardly a new face to the captive industry, and I hope that she will forgive me when I mention that she is 25 years into her career at the DFR. I said it once and I’ll say it again, Sandy will ensure stability, consistency, and quality that is the hallmark of regulation in Vermont, while also challenging staff and other stakeholders to develop and improve.

L to R: 2022 VCIA Conference Chair Ian Davis, appointed Deputy Commissioner Sandy Bigglestone, and retiring Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost

The upcoming VCIA conference from August 8 – 11 in Burlington offers a great chance for members and other stakeholders in the industry to meet up with Sandy and congratulate her. You can register for the conference here (and don’t forget to book your airfare and lodging soon, they go fast!) “Hot Topics with Dave Provost” on the last day of the conference, with incoming and outgoing Deputy Commissioners, will indeed be a hot ticket!

The upcoming VCIA conference from August 8 – 11 in Burlington offers a great chance for members and other stakeholders in the industry to meet up with Sandy and congratulate her.

Many major captive players enthusiastically received the news of Sandy’s appointment. Here are some snippets.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott: “Sandy has decades of experience in licensing and regulating captives in Vermont, the top domicile in the country. It made sense to look within for the best person to lead the industry and the obvious choice was Sandy.

Sandy’s soon-to-be predecessor Dave Provost: “Sandy will carry on the mission of the captive division and be a thoughtful regulator. She has the experience and skills and new ideas to help guide the industry forward.”

Mary Ellen Moriarty, VP of Property & Casualty at EIIA. “Sandy is a polished professional, goes the extra mile when necessary, and wants to see us thrive. She is the perfect person to guide Vermont.”

“Sandy is a natural leader, and we are happy to have her stepping into this role,” said Interim DFR Commissioner Kevin Gaffney.

Upwards and onwards to the Sandy Bigglestone and the Vermont Captive Industry…see you all in August!

Summer Conference Registration Opens!

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.

Our 2022 Conference is sure to be a memorable one!

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 kmead@vcia.com

Need a little help to formulate your guess? Check out our Conference Attendee page to see who has already registered!

How many people will be in attendance at our conference? Take a guess and email Kevin!

See you in August – if not before! 

A Busy and Productive Week with VCIA

Captive Roadshow and Hot Topic Webinar Major Successes on Back-to-Back Days

2022 brings a wealth of enthusiasm and optimism not only for VCIA but for the entire captive industry. The major cause of this excitement derives from the simple fact that we are all getting together again. Catching up. Building out networks. Collaborating on new ideas. The possibilities are endless when we’re all in the same room. (Which is why we’re so thrilled to bring back our conference this August!)

It’s no small feat then, that this week VCIA’s returned with its first in-person Original Captive Roadshow since November 2019!  In Indianapolis on Tuesday an audience of over sixty professionals listened intently and asked great questions as a panel of Vermont industry experts (Sandy Bigglestone, Dave Provost, Brittany Nevins) enjoyed a captive conversation facilitated by Hylant’s Anne Marie Towle. The Vermont team outlined the process and structures of captives in Vermont and why captives can thrive in the Green Mountain State.

2022 brings a wealth of enthusiasm and optimism not only for VCIA but for the entire captive industry. The major cause of this excitement derives from the simple fact that we are all getting together again.

Following that, two captive owners Valynda Laird and Will Lehman explained their business case and development of their own entities that have done so well due to captive formation.  The feedback was very positive and we are already deep in planning for the next two. The Big Apple just might be seeing our Roadshow before the year lets out.

A great turnout it Indy

Not forgetting our Hot Topic Webinar series, the very next day our March webinar had a similar number of attendees for a great session on Strategic Planning for Captive Optimization and Future Success. Many thanks to the erudite panelists, and the State of Vermont’s own Christine Brown who moderated the talk.

These events and others, both online and in-person, have served us well as we identify in-demand topics and exceptional presenters for our August 2022 conference. We are about 6 weeks away from registration, but you can get a ‘sneak peak’ of the entire schedule and sign up for more info at VCIA.com.

Cheers to you, captive learning, and captive collaboration. Happy spring!

The Results Are In

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.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Happy Holidays!

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.

Happy Holidays!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Hail to 40 Years!

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.

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President