The Doctor is in the House

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Dr. Robert Hartwig will be a Keynote Speaker at the VCIA Virtual Annual Conference August 11th

I will be stating the obvious here in when I say we are living in unprecedented times. Trade wars, political turmoil, and the beginnings of a hardening market last year has kept the captive industry on its toes with shifting economic trade winds.  On top of that a world-wide pandemic and social unrest in this country, and it’s a wonder how risk managers sleep at night.   We have invited back a keynote to VCIA Virtual 2020 who addressed our conference about 10 years ago to analyze some of the economic effects facing the insurance industry today, and beyond.

I remember Bob saying he had about 90 or slides to get through in his presentation back then but not to worry – he would make good time.  Sure enough, he ran through the slides effortlessly and I had so many members tell me how much they appreciated his keynote.

Dr. Robert Hartwig is clinical associate professor of finance and director of the Risk and Uncertainty Management Center in the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, and the former president and economist for the Insurance Information Institute in New York.

Over the years, Dr. Hartwig has focused his work on improving understanding of key insurance issues across all industry stakeholders including media, consumers, insurers, producers, regulators, legislators, and investors.  At the University of South Carolina, he teaches courses in risk management, insurance, and corporate finance.  He mentors students and serves and serves as a liaison between the university and the private insurance industry. Bob appears frequently in all major media, speaks internationally, and has testified before many Congressional and state committees on a wide variety of insurance issues.

At VCIA Virtual 2020, Bob will speak on the current state of affairs, and the transitioning insurance market, incorporating themes such as the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the industry that will resonate through the rest of the conference. So, come join us for what will be a truly innervating talk!

I look forward to seeing you all in August at VCIA Virtual! View all the details here.

I See Fireworks!

Celabration festive new year firework headline or bannner.It’s the Fourth of July weekend, and that means only one thing: we are just a little more than a month away from VCIA Virtual 2020! As you know, VCIA always bring the fireworks when it comes to our annual captive conference, and this year will be no different.

The VCIA Virtual Conference will be a great opportunity for the captive world to meet, socialize, learn, earn professional education credits, hear great keynotes, and have fun in this time of uncertainty and isolation.  We are very excited to present an excellent experience for the captive industry, and have people leave at the end knowing their time was very well spent!

We are providing our attendees with the look and feel of being at an in-person event, by using a very robust 3D digital platform. After all, one of the big reasons the captive world comes to meet in Vermont every summer is the opportunity to network with friends and colleagues. A key element of the platform is that attendees can connect with one another easily, for example in the virtual Captive Lounge, where attendees can swing by and meet up with others.  There will also be games and trivia contests to create fun ways to engage people and get them exploring all the places in the digital platform. Our Exhibit Pavilions will be showcase over 50 3D exhibit booths! And the many educational sessions and forums will be second to none. We are excited for it to all come together and be an excellent experience for attendees, sponsors and our many fine service providers who keep the industry humming.

I look forward to seeing you all in August at VCIA Virtual! View all the details here.

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

The F.B.I.

fbi FThose of us of a certain age can remember with absolute clarity the start of the popular show in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The announcer, in a strong, determined voice would introduce, “The F.B.I… starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.” and then we would have an hour-long drama whereby the eponymous organization would hunt down one bad guy after the other.

Well, at this year’s VCIA 2020 Virtual we may not have such a dramatic opening, and the bad guys now hide in the dark web, but the thrill is still there. Joining us on August 12th will be FBI Special Agent Matthew Wabby, currently assigned to the white-collar squad in Albany, NY, investigating corruption, fraud, money laundering and related crimes.  With his panel, he will explore how companies should respond to an increasingly complex and changing set of rules as our business environment and society move ever more quickly into the digital sphere.

Special Agent Wabby will be joined by a group of highly placed cyber and captive insurance experts:

  • Chris Giovino, who leads a practice for Aon when clients have suffered a loss due to crime, employee malfeasance or fidelity related matters;
  • Heather McClure, JD, LLM, Chief Risk Officer, OU Medicine and Executive Director of Operations, OU Physicians, who leads their Vermont-based captive insurance company; and
  • Shiraz Saeed of Starr Insurance Companies, the national practice leader for Cyber Risk responsible for the strategic direction and expansion of the Cyber Risk products and services.

Cyber-attacks are becoming more sophisticated. Organized crime now uses former intelligence members for more sophisticated attacks, broadening the nature of their attacks, and increasing their frequency. An ever-changing set of regulations from governments around the global compounds the difficulty of managing against cyber risks.

Join us to learn some positive ways to shield against cyber-attacks and respond to breaches if they do occur.  I look forward to seeing you all in August at VCIA Virtual! Register by June 30th for the lowest rates! View all the details here.

Summer’s here and it’s Grillin’ Season

 

I know last week I said summer has finally arrived here in Vermont after a tough spring with 80 degrees and sunny, well that’s nothing to the 90 degrees we had the past couple of days. And like I said that means it’s grilling season.

That reminds me that I am looking forward to my grilling of Vermont’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation, Mike Pieciak! Well, not that I am planning on a “grilling”, perhaps just a light “sautéing” instead. Mike is going to join me at the end of the first day of VCIA’s Virtual Conference to discuss.

Commissioner Pieciak will join me in a conversation with me on major issues impacting the captive insurance industry in Vermont, at the NAIC and beyond. We will hear Mike’s thoughts on transformative changes due to the COVID-19, the current regulatory environment, and other things I plan to spring on him.

Now Mike is a very smart guy and pretty unflappable, but I am going to do my best Mike Wallace on him (for all of you old enough to know the famed 60 Minutes reporter). More information to follow – I hope you can join us this August!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Memorial Day

Summer has finally arrived here in Vermont after a tough spring. 80 degrees and sunny – it makes me yearn for a barbeque this weekend.

As we all take time to be with our loved ones as best we can this weekend, we must also think about the folks on the front lines dealing with the pandemic on a daily basis. Everyone from  ER nurses and doctors (who went into their careers knowing these risks) to grocery store workers, hardware store clerks, social workers and public transportation workers (who have been thrust into unforeseen and at times impossible positions during this time). We owe each of them an enormous debt of gratitude. As I sit here safe at my kitchen table (now my executive suite), I recognize that I am privileged in this scenario, and that others are not.

If you haven’t done so already, reach out to those in your community who are on the front lines.  They might not be able to spend this weekend with loved ones, friends, and family. A sincere thank you to a minimum wage store clerk may be extra appreciated at this time. And, of course, reach out to your own family and friends and stay connected. Human contact, no matter how much social distancing is required, is more important than ever. And being appreciative of others who are in harm’s way to keep us all safe, is paramount.

Have a peaceful Memorial Day weekend. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

There’s More to the Story…

panelA key component in a captive program’s success is its ability to adapt to changing market conditions, economic turbulence, new & emerging risk and even the recent changes in the definition of employment. Even in the midst of this dangerous pandemic, underlying issues impacting the captive industry were emerging.

VCIA will be hosting a webinar next Thursday, May 14th, that will explore ways to shift captive strategy to respond to the business needs of your parent company and optimize your program in our changing market.  Our presenters will demonstrate captive success with emerging risks, illustrate current challenges and keys to achieving a positive outcome, and explore what questions to ask to create a successful pathway to deal with such unforeseen events such as COVID-19.

Our speakers will be four leading thinkers in the captive industry:  Andrew Baillie is the Program Director, Global Insurance for The AES Corporation, a global power producer and distributor, where he supports risk management oversight and the procurement of insurance, as well as managing the company’s large, Vermont-based Captive Insurance Company; Steven Bauman works for AXA XL serving as Head of Global Programs and Captive Practice in North America; Ed Koral is a managing director with BDO’s Insurance Risk Advisory group; and Christine Brown is Assistant Director with the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation – Captive Division, where she directly supports the Director of Captive Insurance and Deputy Commissioner of Captives with licensing, industry outreach and strategic planning.

Join us to learn how to remain agile during these challenging times. Go to www.vcia.com and register today.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Team VCIA + Team DED + TEAM DFR = Team Vermont

2You may ask yourself (and others) just how is VCIA going to pull off a successful 100% virtual captive insurance conference this August. Well, we are still working out the details, but one BIG reason I feel confident it will be great is the support and brainpower we get from our colleagues at the State of Vermont’s Department of Economic Development (DED) and Department of Financial Regulation (DFR).

Often, when I go to captive insurance conferences, people talk to me as if I were a regulator from Vermont. Not surprising, many folks conflate our distinct organizations because we coordinate so well with each other. I will then explain that, no, I am not a State employee but staff the captive trade association. And even though we are separate organizations with our own missions, we absolutely work in tandem for the good of Vermont’s captive industry.

Now is one of those times I am truly proud of that essential teamwork. VCIA staff met yesterday via Zoom with Ian Davis from DED and the captive leadership from DFR: Dave Provost, Christine Brown, Dan Petterson, and Sandy Bigglestone, to discuss ideas on the best ways to make the VCIA Virtual Conference truly awesome. The State folks brought excellent ideas, innovative thinking, and, most importantly, terrific enthusiasm to the process. Their professionalism and broad perspectives underscored just how lucky we are to have their partnership.

So, keep an eye out for details. We plan to bring you a terrific conference – and could not have done it without Team Vermont!

Thank you and stay safe!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Go Big!

going-virtual

As you may have heard, VCIA decided this week to move our Annual Conference in August to a 100% virtual event.

This decision definitely was not made lightly. VCIA Board, staff and Conference Task Force members labored over the facts, sought outside advice, and kept you all foremost in our minds through all the discussions. Though the full social and economic impact of the pandemic is still unfolding, we believe it will require recovery time to get back to “normal” for all of society, including our industry.

Going to a fully virtual conference is consistent with the uncertainty the next few months brings and the need to put public health first, and it also ensures the industry will have an opportunity to share important and critical information – especially regarding future pandemic risk management.

The response from our members of going virtual has been very positive.  I know there are folks who think we may have made the wrong decision or that we should have waited longer before making the decision, and I understand their feelings. However, we knew if we were to bring you the best conference possible in a new virtual space, we needed to get out of the gate quickly.

By starting now, we are confident that VCIA will deliver a virtual event that satisfies your needs for top-level education and networking, our exhibitors needs to have their products and services seen, our sponsors desires to be associated with a leading enterprise, and the public health system’s need for social distance and caution. Presenting in a virtual space may also open up the conference to those who may not have been able to travel this summer. With corporate travel and finances being currently of concern, we hope this can be a helpful shift.

There will be much more information to come on conference specifics. For now, please bear with us and trust that VCIA has taken into account your needs. Your continued support will be key to the success of the conference, just as it has been for the past 30+ years.  We are successful in large part due to the enthusiastic and committed involvement of you, our members.

When times are tough, the captive industry has a way of adapting. We are fortunate to be among such innovative professionals, like you. We will all get through this together.

Thank you and stay safe!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Mud Season

Just a brief check-in with everyone out there in these unprecedented times. The VCIA staff and I sincerely hope that you are all navigating this situation as skillfully as possible and are staying well.  Things have not radically changed since last week —like many governors, Vermont Governor Phil Scott has issued a stay-at-home order in place until April 30th. Gov. Scott says he expects to extend that timeline but it’s unclear right now for how long.

All organizations are seeking a road map through this crisis, but it has been difficult. We all operate best on data and information, but as we know, things seem to change daily. As Janice Valgoi said on a staff call this week, it seems appropriate that we are in Mud Season here in Vermont; as everything is about as clear as mud for the time being. Let’s hope we all gain some clarity in the next few weeks. And let’s especially hope that the health of our many communities fares as well as possible.

VCIA continues to push forward with all staff working from home. It has been great hearing from our captive insurance friends on how they are doing and sharing stories within this crisis. As usual, many captive professionals continue to surprise and inspire VCIA with their creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Our members truly are the best and the brightest. Thank you all.

Please feel free to reach out to any of us here at VCIA if we can be of help in any way (or you just want to say hello).  VCIA is presenting a webinar May 14th covering current market conditions, impacts on captives, and raising good questions and discussion on the current crisis. Be sure to join us!

Thank you and stay safe!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

COVID – 19 (are virtual happy hours our future?)

Day Five of our quarantine. My family made the decision to self-isolate when my son returned from San Francisco this past Monday. His work took him on the subway, he was working in a restaurant downtown, and he took a cross-country flight so it seemed like a no brainer. Certainly, it is a little easier to self-isolate in rural Vermont than in downtown New York, or even Burlington, Vermont.

We are certainly in strange times and unchartered territory for most of us – even those of us whose job is risk management! I have found myself rationalizing that things can’t get that bad and that it will clear up soon, even with the reality slamming us in the face. It is hard for any person, company or government to jump to more draconian measures, even when we see what is happening in other places hit by the virus before the United States. A little dose of paranoia might make us, as a society, get a little ahead of the curve. Maybe its time to trust your inner Cassandra*.

That being said, my wife and I joined a few friends of ours on a virtual cocktail hour last night. I opened a bottle of wine, brought out some cheese, and then connected with the two other couples through videoconferencing. It sounds a little silly, but it worked great – and we were able to get a dose of social interaction at our kitchen table!

It still doesn’t explain why for some reason I stocked up on potato chips and Ben & Jerry’s last Sunday…

Thank you and stay safe!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

*Cassandra was a woman in Greek mythology cursed to utter true prophecies, but never to be believed. In modern usage her name is employed as a rhetorical device to indicate someone whose accurate prophecies are not believed.