Captive Madness

NCAA Forms a Captive— in Vermont!

Many Vermonters in the captive industry might have had an NCAA bracket that had UVM going all the way. Locals supporting locals is what we do here. Sadly, Arkansas stood in their way, and UVM came up a little short in the first round. They didn’t bust the nation’s brackets, but there were other perpetrators—I’m looking at you, Saint Peters Peacocks. The absence of the Catamounts from the Final Four makes it no less intriguing, but you might wonder, where’s the link with VCIA and captive insurance?

The Vermont Captive Insurance Industry is a Powerhouse Program

The answer lies in the fact that the NCAA, perhaps mindful of the hit that their marquee event took in 2020 and 2021, recently formed a captive, and not only that, but they have made its domicile in the Green Mountain State. Vermont’s most popular (and free) newspaper, Seven Days reports that the captive activated at the start of March and could “potentially save the association millions of dollars.” Taking on both D & O and event cancellation coverage, the entity has been funded with $175M, and will be consolidated into the financial statements of the NCAA.

The pandemic has raised the profile of Vermont’s captive insurance industry as more businesses have sought to self-insure, according to state officials.

ANNE WALLACE ALLEN, Seven Days

While the University of Vermont will not be crowned winners after this upcoming Monday’s championship, the State of Vermont surely won an impactful and lasting relationship with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. VCIA is happy to announce that their captive formation has joined our association on a free, first year trial basis.

My prediction for the Final Four winner (which is the sporting equivalent of a kiss of death)? Kansas Jayhawks. Who do you have?

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!

Captive Insurance and Rugby: Staff Spotlight on President Kevin Mead

Captive Insurance is a bit like rugby. Let me tell you why.

Just three weeks in, and I have quickly learned some truths about the captive insurance industry. Truth number one: how badly it is understood by those outside. Even those that have a knowledge of risk or insurance sometimes seem to shake their heads and mutter darkly when the subject is raised. Truth number two: that external lack of knowledge (or potentially confusion) means that the industry itself is tight knit, cooperative, and friendly.

Over 25 years ago, authors Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff co-authored a book called Co-Opetition in which they used game theory to suggest that businesses should cooperate to “grow the size of the pie,” and then compete for a larger slice of that enlarged pie.  Seeing the way in which board members and other VCIA volunteers are working together for the benefit of the association and for the industry is almost a case study in what the authors refer to.

“Real success comes from actively shaping the game you play—from making the game you want, not taking the game you find.”

― Barry J. Nalebuff, Co-Opetition

A second thing that has struck me is the number of rugby people there are in the captive industry. And there are similarities! To the uninitiated, rugby looks dangerous, risky, and somewhat unmanaged. To those that know the game, it is subtle, nuanced, athletic, and referred to as “the game they play in heaven.” On the field, rugby players are intensely competitive, but once the final whistle blows the bruises and battles are forgotten and a spirit of camaraderie and mutual support comes to the fore.

So, rugby as a metaphor for captive insurance? Perhaps that is too much of a reach! But my predecessor, Rich Smith, commented to me multiple times that the essence of the VCIA was built around mutual respect, understanding, and a sense of all being in the same league—if not all on the same team.

For me, rugby season is about to start up. This Saturday, the 19th, I will be refereeing at a tournament put on by the University of Vermont women in Burlington. Feel free to check this out or any rugby game in your location and see if my comments on the similarities hold any water! 

Announcing the 2nd Keynote Speaker for our August Conference

Enjoy political thrillers? Then you will need to hear from Michael Weidokal, founder of International Strategic Analysis, at the VCIA Conference!

These days, it’s an understatement to say global geopolitical stability is being challenged—look no further than Ukraine. I often find it difficult keeping up with intricate and sometime disparate elements that bear consequences not just worldwide, but at home. Which is why I’m proud to announce that VCIA has secured a second keynote speaker for our conference in August—Michael Weidokal, founder of International Strategic Analysis, and a shrewd economic and political forecaster. His lecture will be timelier and more relevant than ever.

Founder of International Strategic Analysis and VCIA Conference Keynote Speaker Michael Weidokal

I’ve used Michael as a speaker three times in my career, and I kept coming back to him because he consistently received top marks from audience feedback. I think what makes him so effective is his facility at explaining and distilling global structural challenges, their historical backgrounds, and their potential economic fallout. To put it in a nutshell: Michael combines economic theory and geopolitical situations, rendering them into a real-life political thriller, all the while predicting, with sufficient evidence, how they impact you and your business. You will be both intrigued and informed—hallmarks of a successful and worthwhile keynote address.

Michael combines economic theory and geopolitical situations, rendering them into a real-life political thriller… while predicting… how they impact you and your business.

His deeply researched and vetted lecture, “Global Economic and Risk Outlook,” draws interest from many different industries and conference circuits. According to Michael’s website, the general theme of his speech investigates “factors that are driving or hindering economic growth in the United States and in all of the world’s major economies.” Utilizing the latest data and current events, Michael will provide VCIA Conference attendees “an in-depth analysis of all of the important issues and trends that will impact their activities in domestic and international markets, both in the year ahead and over the long-term.”  

We can’t wait for you to meet Michael Weidokal, and he’s excited too. Learning that our conference is the premier event of the captive industry, he added to me in an email, “I very much look forward to speaking at this year’s VCIA conference!”

Don’t forget he’s the second of two outstanding keynote speakers we now have. The inimitable Admiral Michelle Howard, the first woman in the U.S. Navy’s 236-year history to be promoted to four-star admiral who achieved the second highest-ranking in the service, will share her experiences and insights on national security, leadership, risk, and much more.

VCIA’s 37th Annual Conference Distinguished Keynote, Admiral Michelle Howard

If these two won’t get you to come to our first, in-person conference in three years, what will? I guarantee you amazing and topical presentations, plus wonderful networking and business development opportunities.  I also guarantee you the pleasures of summer in Burlington, Vermont—stunning views of Lake Champlain, the festive atmosphere of Church Street, and quick access away to the lush Green Mountains and the great outdoors. A perfect destination for you and your family.

Registration opens May 16th.

Water, Sun, Mountains, and Captive Insurance…

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

Back to the Future… with VCIA’s Annual Tax Update!

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!

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

COP 26

As the world’s leaders conclude their two-week summit in Scotland it is good to see some of the leadership in the insurance industry involved in the most critical issue facing all of us today. Many in the insurance industry are working positively to promote policies that will help mitigate climate change – or at least don’t add to the problem – such as new ESG guidelines for the company, looking at the impact of placing climate risks in their portfolios, new modeling, and reassessing where to invest the huge assets the insurance industry has under management. Reinsurers rank climate change as the top risk facing the global insurance industry, according to PwC’s latest survey.

Climate policy is a risk management system, and the industry needs to provide a comprehensive vision for risk sharing going forward. There are many complex issues to be worked out for both the insurers and their insured for sure, however, a cleared-eyed approach by all parties can get us there.

Innovations like from AXA XL which has launched a tool that maps current and future flood hazards resulting from climate change and integrates the protective benefits of coastal ecosystems into insurance risk models, is a great example of where the industry can lead.

There is a theory in the risk management world, however, that insurance can be seen as a barrier to the kind of innovation needed to tackle the hard nut that is climate change. Providing P&C insurance, or D&O insurance, to a client without concern for the long-term impacts climate change can bring can remove the responsibility from the clients. Adding to this, innovative changes to infrastructure, along with the recent technologies used to build resilience, can be hard to insure as they rarely have claims history. This makes it difficult for the insurance sector to price the risk.

I think the basic principle behind captive insurance will accelerate solutions. With captives, organizations take direct responsibility for their risks – they now own it. The data on how to mitigate climate risk comes from their captive which allows them to be more focused on pursuing resilience at all levels. No longer is there a large, anonymous insurance company obscuring leaders from understanding and acting to better protect their own properties, employees, supply chains, and ultimately shareholders. And captives are innovative. They have the ability to take specific risks for an organization that might be looking at pioneering ways to use new technologies to protect from the impacts of climate change.

I remain hopeful that with a comprehensive and coordinated effort from all facets of society and industry we can turn the corner on climate change. Captive insurance will be part of that solution.

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

The People of Washington Have Spoken!

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!

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President