Mixy Business

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Many thanks to all you who joined us Wednesday night for VCIA’s annual Holiday Mixer. We had around 120 of nearest and dearest friends attend at the Hilton taking time to greet and socialize with fellow VCIA members on a cold and ultimately snowy Vermont evening.

Many thanks to our sponsors of the event: our friends at Crowe right up the street, and the folks of NAMIC Insurance Solutions (NAMICO) who came all the way from Indianapolis! Tim Sullivan, Kristen Strasser, and Ted Doughman braved the “friendly” skies to join us.  It is one of my favorite nights of the year, when friends come together with no agenda except to enjoy each other’s company as we head into the holiday season.

I also want to congratulate David Guerino as SVP & Managing Director of KeyState Captive Management.  Dave was there with some of his fellow KeyState colleagues as well, Jeff Vigne and Alicia Huskes. KeyState is a relatively new VCIA member and just announced plans to establish an office in Burlington, Vermont in early 2020.

Thank you again and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

 

Taxing Talk

2019-tax-panelJoin us next week As VCIA presents its annual captive taxation update! On December 12th, a group of noted captive tax specialists will inform you of the latest 2019 tax developments impacting captive insurers. Our panel will provide details on specific tax authorities and court rulings released over the past year to provide further insight into the ever-shaping landscape of captive taxation. The panel will also explore the latest changes from the U.S. Tax Reform bill enacted a couple of years ago, its impact on captives, and how best to plan for year-end.

Our panelists will be Saren Goldner, Partner at Eversheds Sutherland, Kristen Hazel, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, and Alicia Miller, Tax Senior at Crowe.  Each of these experts are considered respective authorities of captive taxation in their various capacities, and all are members of firms who have a strong presence in the captive industry and work tirelessly for the benefit of all.

This webinar offers a great opportunity for all stakeholders to keep up with the latest tax developments in efforts to make informed decisions at the highest level of corporate governance for your captive.  You will walk away learning about recent changes from the U.S. Tax Reform bill that will affect the status of captive insurers; Washington State’s recent approach toward taxing captive entities and some results of recent court cases;  the basics of Johnson & Johnson’s successful appeal in its $55 million NJ Self Procurement Tax Refund Case; recent developments involving insurance characterization, including risk pools and alternative premium characterization; and the IRS’s continued focus on smaller captive insurance companies and understand best practices learned from the cases in this area.

Click here for more information. I hope you will be able to join us!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

It’s a Hard Market

Business concept, Young businessman pushing large stone uphill with copy space

OK, time to fess up. In a blog in February 2018, I dismissed the rumor that a hardening insurance market was on its way. As a matter of fact, I stated “Next time I get asked by a reporter whether I think a hard market is coming our way, I will give them the same answer I gave at the end of last year: hard market, schmard market” – ouch!

Well, as we are all aware, the insurance market has certainly been hardening over the last year. Even though I still believe that the broader insurance market is more stable now, with better loss control, better data, more capital, and the maturation of the captive insurance industry, it is tightening. According to the second quarter 2019 Marsh Global Insurance Market Index, commercial property rates in the U.S. increased nearly 10% in the second quarter, which is twice the level of recent quarters.

And though the hardening market is impacting several different lines, I thought the explanation as reported in Business Insurance by Bret Ahnell, Executive Vice President of Staff Operations at FM Global, on property insurance (a large area in the captive marketplace) was instructive:

1.) The commercial property insurance industry has been losing money.  There have been declining rates industry-wide for more than a decade while carriers have offered broader coverages.  At the same time the industry has been contending with increased risk as a result of global economic expansion.  In fact, the property and casualty industry has been above a 100 combined ratio in 6 of the last 9 years. Only 2013-2015 were profitable, explained by extremely low losses from natural disasters.  Yet, when big natural catastrophe losses resulted from events, including hail, hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and monsoons, the industry again posted losses in 2017 and 2018.

2.) Bonds markets have remained lackluster.  While investment yields in the stock market have been favorable during this time, the returns in the bond markets — which most insurers primarily rely upon for investment income — have remained lackluster.  The result is the industry hasn’t been able to use their investments to offset bad underwriting results. Carriers have had to adjust rates and coverages as needed to better ensure an underwriting profit.

3.) Regulators are gaining more sway in underwriting behavior.  The role of regulators is having an impact on underwriting behavior and discipline.  More than ever the insurance industry needs to be able to demonstrate sustainable business models and profitability across each line of business.

4.) New U.S. tax laws have increased tax liability while driving down profitability. Where previously carriers could write off 35% of a loss, today, it is only 21%, which ultimately means more selectivity when placing capacity.

It all adds up to a commercial property market that requires underwriting discipline and a continued correction over time. And, in this market, those clients who understand and commit to property loss prevention and risk engineering will do better than those who don’t.  That means captive owners will most likely be adding more to their risk portfolios.

On that cheery note, I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

CNN_SOTU_logoJoin me on November 20th for an informative and timely update on VCIA legislative activities on behalf of our members and the industry. The session is free, for VCIA Members only, and is not to be missed!

I will be joined by David Provost, Deputy Commissioner for Captive Insurance at the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, and Jim McIntyre, VCIA’s representative in Washington DC for an overview of new and pending regulations in the state and in Washington D.C. and the NAIC.  Between these two guys, they hold enough knowledge on captive insurance to fill an old UNIVAC 1107 mainframe computer (OK, admittedly an iPhone holds tons more data, but we old mainframes have to stick together)!

Learn about VCIA’s activities on your behalf, and the status of important current issues like:

  • What’s happening in Washington, DC
  • TRIA Reauthorization
  • Cannabis Safe Harbor Act
  • IRS Letters to 831(b) Captives
  • Update to the Liability and Risk Retention Act (LRRA)
  • Activities and updates from the NAIC, including the RRG Task Force
  • Non-domiciliary state actions: Washington State, Johnson & Johnson decision
  • Vermont’s captive 2019 bill and what’s ahead for Vermont’s 2020 captive bill
  • DFR legislation creating an insurance “sandbox” to test innovative technology or insurance models.
  • Vermont Department of Financial Regulation updates

I hope you will be able to attend this Members Only event.  If you aren’t already a VCIA Member, this would be a great time to join! Click here for more information and to register.

Thank you very much, I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

On The Road Again…

Richie-NelsonVCIA is on the road again, coming to Boston on November 14 at the Seaport Hotel & Conference Center for our “world famous” VCIA Captive Road Show, where we preach the gospel of captive insurance in cities across the U.S. (and will even be presenting in Mexico City next year!)

The VCIA Road Show is an excellent chance to learn about captive insurance and enjoy a great reception afterwards, to connect with others in the industry.

The educational session will feature representatives from two captive programs, who will share their experiences.  Tracy Hassett, SPHR, is President and CEO of Educators Health, LLC where she played a key role in the launch of edHEALTH, a unique entity, a first of its kind consortium of colleges and universities with the mission of reducing health care costs while enhancing consumer knowledge of options, plan design, disease management and wellness programs. Gail Newman, Vice President of Risk Management for Bright Horizons Family Solutions is our second captive owner panelist. Gail’s program excels in providing best-in-class family-care solutions across North America, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and India. Gail is passionate about business process improvements and creating risk mitigation strategies that not only support healthy financials and the “right” insurance program, but also keep employees and clients of the business safe. With the inception of Bright Horizon’s captive (APEX) in 2017, the business has been able to realize better flexibility and financial health for their insurance program and innovate insurance coverage strategies that are unique to the business.

Others all-stars presenting that day will be:  Michael O’Malley, managing director for Strategic Risk Solutions; Dave Provost, Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of Captive Insurance; and Ian Davis, Director of Financial Services for the State of Vermont.

If you are in the Boston area, I hope you will be able to join us! Click here for more information and to register.

Thank you very much, I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

TRIP(RA) Down Memory Lane

The long-term viability of the U.S. property terrorism insurance market is back in the spotlight as Congress looks at renewing the federal reinsurance backstop, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIPRA), which is set to expire in Dec. 31, 2020.

Despite a trend of decreasing risk, new threats will likely arise. A report from Marsh points to events that will likely affect terrorism risks in 2019, including the territorial defeat of First, Islamic State (IS) that the report warns will likely bring new threats both in the Middle East and in Western states, especially in the wake of the chaos in Syria. Religious extremism is expected to remain the dominant terrorism threat globally, but the threat from the “extreme right-wing groups” is also expected to rise in Western states, most likely in the form of “low-capability attacks that “generate little property damage, but pose significant risks to people.”

Why do I bring this up now? We all remember the last-minute deal for the last reauthorization, and are seeking to avoid it. Congress held a hearing on October 16th on the subject, and Joe Carter, acting president and CEO of United Educators, a risk retention group, testified on behalf of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.  United Educators is a longstanding and active member of VCIA.

Joe testified that the “TRIA program has been successful in making much needed terrorism insurance coverage available to meet the needs of the market and protect the nation’s economy. Reinsurers’ appetite for writing terrorism insurance without the program in place may be limited. Failure to reauthorize the program could have significant economic implications and would expose taxpayers to even greater risk because pressure for federal disaster assistance to compensate for uninsured losses would increase in the aftermath of an attack.” I couldn’t agree with him more.

The good news is that the new chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters, supports the reauthorization. The more troubling news is that a letter was filed from the Consumer Federation of America stating that TRIA should NOT be reauthorized as there was “plenty of capacity in the market”. It is hard to fathom why the Consumer Federation of America is taking this stance, especially as there is no impact to taxpayers or consumers with TRIPRA.

Jim McIntyre, VCIA’s DC counsel, believes there is sufficient support on Capitol Hill to get it reauthorized, and VCIA will work with a coalition to move the agenda forward – so we are hopefully wringing our hands at the end of 2020 wondering if it will pass!

Thank you very much, I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

It’s Your Reputation on the Line

reputation-risk-panel

On Monday, August 19, a group of high-powered American executives, including seven of the large commercial insurers, published a statement on the role of shareholders in corporate governance that departs sharply from tradition.  The “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” put forth by the Business Roundtable asserts that corporations have greater obligations beyond generating profits for shareholders. In short, they are responsible for creating better lives for all their stakeholders.  Putting these parties first and treating them ethically is ultimately what keeps businesses going and the economy growing.

Shareholders have long been corporations’ top priority because disappointing them means withdrawal of their investment at best, and at worst, the potential for securities class action lawsuits. Businesses now operate in an environment of heightened reputation risk that has a tangible impact on income statements. Loss of customer loyalty and diminished brand value are real consequences of social irresponsibility, and these ultimately impact revenue and profit.  As important as the change in priority might be overall, it will add to the growing reputational risk profile of every organization.  That is one of the main reasons VCIA is hosting a webinar on reputational risk and how captive programs can help mitigate it, on October 23rd.

It can be said that reputation is a product of expectations. Often misunderstood and inadequately addressed, reputation risk is the peril of economic harm from leaving stakeholders disappointed and angry. Negative media and social media coverage are often a byproduct, amplifying that disappointment and anger. When reputational crises occur, they impact businesses commercially and financially, and their leadership personally. The August 2019 Business Roundtable declaration raises the stakes.

A captive program can be an effective vehicle for insuring reputational risk. A captive is in the unique position of being able to fund potential losses associated with stakeholder anger and disappointment, and by doing so signal to key stakeholders (employees, creditors & analysts, and regulators) that the company’s governance apparatus is very aware of the peril, and is confident that it is managing the risk well. And if the captive is at least partially reinsured in the open market, it then also demonstrates that an objective third-party has reviewed the company’s practices and is essentially “warrantying” the company’s governance.

So, join us on October 23rd for our webinar featuring Dr. Nir Kossovsky, CEO of Steel City Re, a leading source of integrated reputation risk mitigation solutions and insurances, and Machua Millett, Chief Innovation Officer for FINPRO U.S. and the General Partner Liability Product Leader at Marsh.  Ably moderated by Maigh Wright, an associate actuary with Milliman, this webinar is guaranteed to burnish your reputation!

Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President