Is Gridlock Good for Captives?

Not surprising news that Capitol Hill continues to be the most dysfunctional place in the United States. Even must-pass bills or bills where there is broad consensus around the priorities, such as the debt ceiling or infrastructure support, are being held hostage by more acrimonious politics than ever before. I spent three years on Capitol Hill and loved my time there. Not that it wasn’t political and sometimes rancorous, but there was a general feeling that we were all there for the greater good.

Enough gloom on the situation – the question remains is this dysfunction in any way good for the captive industry? Since insurance policy is primarily state driven, it might seem not to matter. However, as we have seen in the not too distant past, actions in Washington can have an effect on our industry, usually as collateral damage. The passage of the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA) is one good example. NRRA was not intended to pertain to captives, but because it was poorly drafted and tacked onto a bill barreling through Congress (Dodd-Frank) it is now interpreted that way.

The positive effect of Congressional dysfunction is that almost nothing will pass in the near term. That’s not to say that there aren’t bills of interest to our industry, such as PRIA (a government-backed pandemic reinsurance program similar to TRIA), updates to the LRRA, or the cannabis bill that creates a safe harbor for financial services to provide products where pot is legal.

My take on it is that Washington gridlock is not good for captive insurance. Risk management is increasingly important, and taking more of a center stage in broader policy discussions at the national level. So it would benefit everyone (captive owners, the industry and the country) if Congress were a place where one could work with both sides of the aisle to move a good piece of legislation forward. Presently, nothing is likely to pass – unless it is tacked on to a bill that finally gets dislodged. And that is not the best way for good policy to take place.

Two bits of news regarding captive people: First, VCIA board member Lawrence Cook has joined Somers Risk Services as director of client services, where he will be responsible for enhancing client relations and services as well as special project work, marketing support, and partner company relations. Prior to joining Somers Risk, Lawrence was the director, program management, for Sedgwick. Congratulations, Lawrence!

Second, Jay Branum resigned from his position as the director of captives in the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI). Jay joined the SCDOI in late 2013 as captive director, a newly created position, and in his time there South Carolina experienced tremendous captive insurance growth. Even though Vermont and South Carolina are competitors in the captive insurance arena, Jay has always been helpful and willing to share his many years of wisdom with me. He is truly a class act, and VCIA wishes him all the best in his new endeavors.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our Member Mixer next Wednesday, October 20th at the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain! Register here.

Stay well, and see you soon!
Rich Smith,
VCIA President

John Primmer

Sad to hear of the passing of another great name in Vermont’s captive insurance history last month. John Primmer was one of the legal minds behind the original captive insurance law passed in Vermont 40 years ago that almost every state that has adopted captive laws since has copied – for good reason!

John was a founding partner of the Vermont law firm of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, which not only being one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in Vermont, is still one of the powerhouses in the captive legal realm. Prominent captive lawyers such as Jeff Johnson, Randy Wachsmann, Jesse Crary, Ryan Gadapee, and Rusty Young are some of the most sought-after legal minds in the industry.  VCIA also has relied on the government affairs team at the firm lead by the estimable Jamie Feehan for many years.

Retiring a number of years ago, John lived in a part of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom – a place of great beauty even by Vermont standards.  He was a wonderful father and husband, great cook and great host, and a true friend of many in the captive insurance industry. Rest in peace, John.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

The Long Goodbye… or If Daniel Can Do It, So Can I

As some of you have heard by now, I am stepping down as President of VCIA at the end of January 2022. Now, as many of us hear when a politician or business exec. gets in trouble and must step down, they often mention it is to “spend more time with their family” or to “pursue new opportunities and challenges” and we roll our eyes knowing they were getting booted out. It’s just with me it happens to be the truth – really!

It has been an amazing twelve years at the helm of this wonderful association and in this terrific industry. And to meet and work with such a great group of people who have become my friends beats all. But it seems right for me and the association for a refresh. There is never a perfect time to step aside, but I think this is as good as it can be. I will be here until the end of January providing a smooth transition to the next President. And by that time, you will probably be sick of me saying goodbye (my wife is already tired of hearing about it!).  Like Daniel Craig (who many compare me to) you realize it’s time to leave a terrific franchise and let a new 007 takeover.

I will be seeing many of you and talking to many of you over the course of the next few months so will have a chance to say a proper goodbye. But in the meantime, thank you for the wonderful opportunity to work with you and, more importantly, get to know you.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our in-person VCIA Mixer later this month.  Until then, stay well!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Thank You!

A HUGE thank you to all of you that joined us for our 36th annual captive insurance conference this past August 10th – 12th. With 500 captive professionals in attendance from across the globe, the event received high marks for its substantive opportunities to conduct business, learn and make meaningful connections.

The conference featured fresh ways for service providers to present their newest innovations and connect with potential clients, both during “Ignite Talks” and while hosting their “Solution Labs”. These features were crafted by VCIA to offer alternatives to the typical online exhibit hall and create an energetic approach for all parties to learn and connect.

The Association presented two significant awards this year, for two well-deserving captive professionals. The 2021 Industry Service Award was presented to Mike Meehan of Milliman, a true friend of everyone in the captive insurance industry. Mike was on the VCIA board of directors when I came on almost 12 years ago and provided me with his friendship and guidance as I worked my way thought those first years.  The Captive Crusader Award was presented this year to Sandi Prescott of Performa. Sandi is head of Performa’s client service, with primary responsibility for the firm’s global client relationships.  The moment she came into the captive insurance industry, Sandi has been involved with the success of VCIA on many fronts. She really showed her chops by chairing VCIA’s Conference Task Force a few years ago – something that Mike accomplished (are you seeing a pattern here?).

A big thanks to all our volunteers, speakers, and sponsors for which we would not have had a successful event. A special thank you to Keynote Speakers Michael Pieciak, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation and Hank Watkins, Regional Director & President, Americas for Lloyd’s of London, who discussed the implications of systemic risk. Altogether the event had an energetic synergy which was a breath of fresh air for attendees, panelists, and sponsors.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our in-person VCIA Mixers and other events beginning this October.  Until then, stay well!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

It’s a Wrap – Thank You!

Just a quick thank you to all of you who supported VCIA this past week helping and attending our annual captive conference. By all accounts it was a terrific success, and we could have not done it without the brains, sweat, and time of our volunteer members who made it all happen.

Tina Bukow from KBRA was our indefatigable 2021 Conference Chair, and she kept upbeat and enthusiastic no matter what was thrown her way. She led the wonderful VCIA Conference Task Force starting way back last September to last week’s triumph –  thank you, Tina!

VCIA’s Board of Directors rolled up their sleeves and jumped right into the fray as well. Thank you to Andrew Baillie from AES Global Insurance Company, Jason Palmer of Willis, Donna Blair, Dennis Silvia from Davies Captive Management, Lawrence Cook, Anne Marie Towle from Hylant, Tracy Hassett from EdHealth, Derick White from SRS, Jan Klodowski from Agrisurance Inc., and Board Chair Stephanie Mapes from Paul Frank + Collins.

And finally, to VCIA’s terrific staff! Diane Leach, Elizabeth Halpern, Peggy Companion, Janice Valgoi, Dave Rapuano, Meg Precourt, and our super intern Morgan McCuin. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be associated with such good people!  As Mike Meehan from Milliman and VCIA’s 2021 Industry Service Awardee said in his acceptance speech: it’s amazing that such a small staff can do so much.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks at the October 20th Member Mixer!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President  

Come Collaborate!

Alex Petrovich will facilitate the Captive Owners Only Forum at the VCIA Annual Conference in August.

One important aspect of the VCIA Annual Conference is the time that captive professionals connect and collaborate together outside of the educational sessions.  This is especially true for captive owners. It is such a niche career, and yet so important for those in it to have broad understanding.

Captive managers and other outside team members are invaluable  in advising and helping owners  address challenges and support growth, but the opportunity to discuss issues and ideas candidly with captive owner peers is hard to come by and can be immeasurably helpful. During the VCIA Annual Conference (less than 3 weeks away!) we’ve designed an  ‘off-the-record’ session (no press is allowed, and the session is for owners only), for captive owners to seize the opportunity to ask colleagues how they’ve addressed issues, and lend wisdom, stories of success, and knowledge to other captive owners.  

The forum will be curated by Alex Petrovich, an executive tasked with operating Circle Star Insurance Company, a Risk Retention Group and a segregated cell facility, STCICI. Alex spent almost a decade on the insurance company side, most notably at a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary in the areas of underwriting, business development, finance, and operations.  He went on to work at Gallagher, leading cross functional teams and consulting with large companies on alternative risk management solutions, including captives.  Prior to his current role, Alex was a partner at Lockton Companies, the world’s largest privately owned insurance brokerage.

Collaborative interaction is the core of what makes VCIA so important to the broader captive  industry.  Not only does it shore up your captive knowledge and expand your captive horizons, but it strengthens the association through shared experience.  It’s the perfect example of a symbiotic relationship: your participation is the key to the continued success of VCIA as it strengthens our mission – which  allows VCIA to create these spaces to strengthen your captive IQ.  Quite a win-win!

The VCIA Annual Conference will be held online August 10 – 12th, which is fast approaching, so check out all the details here and Register Now!

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Rich Smith, VCIA President  

Three…Two…One…Ignition

Last week I spoke about the increased interest of parametric insurance in the captive space as evidenced by the number of Ignite Talks coming up at our virtual conference focused on this emerging specialty. However, that is only one of the many topic areas being covered with Ignite Talks by the captive industry at VCIA’s 2021 Annual Conference coming up in three weeks.

We informally polled some of our captive owners to ask them what some of the challenges are that their captives have recently faced. We then asked our members to respond to those challenges (or those they have focused on) and present them in our Solution Labs at the conference. Ignite Talks are short, “TED-Talk” style presentations on these solutions.

Some of the challenge areas besides parametric insurance that will be covered include cyber regulation, captive strategic planning, third party risk, tax strategies, employee benefits, premium payment options, use of InsurTech, cell structures, legacy solutions, mentorship, managing volatility, risk distribution, predictive modelling for workers comp, finance and investment strategies, actuarial impact of the pandemic and situational awareness. Quite an incredible line-up!

The VCIA Annual Conference will be held online August 10 – 12th, which is just 3 weeks away so check it out here and Register Now!

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon. 

Rich Smith
VCIA President

It’s Hot!

Captivated – July 9, 2021

The record-breaking heat in western North America is just another example of the climate change challenge we all face in the years to come. The insurance industry, not surprisingly, will play a lead role in helping their clients –  and society overall – manage this risk in innovative ways.

One such innovation that is beginning to take off in the captive insurance arena is the use of parametric insurance. Parametric insurance is a non-traditional insurance product that offers pre-specified payouts based upon a trigger event. Trigger events depend on the nature of the parametric policy, which can include weather-related events as well as earthquakes, travel cancellations, and much more.

I know parametric solutions are getting more traction in the captive space because we have not one, but four organizations that are providing Ignite Talks at VCIA’s 2021 Annual Conference on the topic. Ignite Talks are short, TED-Talk style presentations on solutions to challenges facing captive insurers.

Not in any order, we have Aon presenting Parametric Insurance – An Alternative Solution, which will explain how captives supporting Parametric Insurance placements are helping organizations address a hardening market for Natural Catastrophe coverage, contingent and non-damage business interruption risks and other ‘difficult to insure’ areas.

Another session by AXA XL is entitled Parametric Solutions for Captive Owners where you can learn more about how parametric programs enhance risk management for captive owners, and the practical solutions offered through effective captive utilization.

X350 – Magnify Your Reinsurance Capacity to the World´s Largest Capital Market(s) With One Page presented by RYSKEX will explain how the future of buying reinsurance capacity as part of a blockchain-based Digital Risk Exchange (DREx) ecosystem will allow you to start selling your risks to the capital market with parametric risk trading.

And finally, Arbol presents Streamlined “Captive+Parametric” Solutions for Climate Change Risk Management which will explore how captives can play an active role in corporations’ responses to the climate change risk management mandate using climate data, online tools to structure and price parametric protections, and settle claims automatically via smart contracts.

Quite an incredible line up! The VCIA Annual Conference will be held online August 10 – 12th, which is fast approaching, so check it out here and Register Now!

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

The British Are Coming… And It’s Cool

We in the captive insurance realm have fond relations with our British friends in the industry – I mean let’s face it, you can’t go to a captive event anywhere without bumping into an ex-pat.

But this past week, it was nice to meet Peter Abbott, Her Majesty’s Consul General at the British Consulate General Boston and members of his team to talk things captive insurance. The meeting was facilitated through Brittany Nevins, Director of Captive insurance for Vermont’s Department of Economic Development and included Christine Brown, Deputy Director of Captive Insurance for Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation.

Consul Abbott was making several virtual visits throughout the New England states to meet with leaders from key industries in each of the states – and naturally, captive insurance interested them the most out of all of Vermont’s industries.

We gave them the fascinating history of captive insurance in Vermont as well as discussed possible trade cooperation between the UK market and Vermont captives. And although there is already much collaboration between the U.S. captive industry and the London insurance world, it is always good to strengthen these ties.

Don’t forget registration is now open for VCIA’s Annual Conference this August. Click here for more information!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Trust

Vermont’s Governor, Phil Scott, declared that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in the state are lifted following a massive 80 percent vaccination rate among its eligible constituents.  Vermont is the first state to reach this important milestone and it has a lot to do with the competence of the Governor, his team, and the many folks involved with getting Vermont through this crisis.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Commissioner Mike Pieciak and his team at the Department of Financial Regulations were heavily involved with this critical mission.  The Governor relied on Mike and his team to assist with the modelling of the COVID numbers and analysis using actuarial science. The work and reports generated by Mike’s team were used to inform the Governor, Health Commissioner, and all Vermont citizens.

The success also has to do with Vermont and its citizens. We are a small state and there is a genuine feel for community that permeates the state regardless of which town you live in or what your economic status may be. This “we are all in together” with the trust of government leaders and workers – who are our neighbors – made reaching the 80% goal achievable. It was not easy, and there are still miles to go (to quote another famous northern new Englander), but having trust in one’s neighbors, one’s community, and one’s government is key. Its that same trust Vermont captive insurance owners feel when they domicile in the Green Mountain State.

And although VCIA will be holding our annual conference virtually this year – registration is now open –  I feel confident that we will see each other again by early fall if not sooner.

Thank you and I REALLY look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President