It’s Your Reputation on the Line

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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

Parametrics and Nat Cat

floodI participated on the SRS webinar recently about using a captive program for natural catastrophe risks (Nat Cat) and found it quite interesting. Most often, Nat Cat risk is insured with parametric insurance, a type of insurance that does not indemnify the pure loss, but rather issues a set payment upon the occurrence of an objective triggering event, such as an earthquake of a certain magnitude or a hurricane of a specific intensity.  The use of a parametric trigger has been around for some time, but there seems to be growing interest in the tool, especially with the number of natural disasters increasing exponentially every year.

Robert Nusslein, Head, Innovative Risk Solutions Americas, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, effectively described how captives can play a role in parametric insurance.  With insurance markets looking like they are hardening, especially property in natural disaster-prone areas, a new approach needs to be contemplated. As Swiss Re explains, parametric insurance products are linked to reputable, objective third-party sources, which are used to determine an insurance payout. They are designed to provide catastrophe coverage and complement, but not replace, traditional insurance coverage. Using this structure, parametric insurance payouts are quickly determined, easily measured, and effectively eliminate loss adjustment hassles. The proceeds from a parametric insurance payout can be used at the buyer’s full discretion.

Captives can play a variety of roles in this type of scenario.  As Brady Young pointed out, captives allow corporate to transfer risk of its subsidiaries to the parent’s captive insurer. Also, subsidiaries retain risk in their comfort zone and are able to assume it with less negative impact to financial results from Nat Cat or weather events. The captive can assume an appropriate amount of risk, anywhere from 90% to as little as 10%, with a reinsurer behind the captive assuming the balance of risk. Risk can be split in primary and excess layer participations or a percent quota share participation between captive and reinsurer. Reinsurers provide underwriting, structure and pricing expertise for parametric Nat Cat covers and third-party arm’s length pricing verification for the captive and its regulator.

All of this helps captive owners capture some of the benefits of parametric insurance, such as breadth of coverage, speed of loss payments, and supplemental coverage to traditional insurance.  And with the growing risk from natural catastrophes due to climate change, it is important for captive owners to be ready!

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

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Captives and Debtors

bankcruptcyInteresting news about OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma seeking product liability insurance and general liability coverage by creating a captive insurer.  Purdue asked for permission to set up the captive insurer in federal court on Monday as part of the firm’s filing for bankruptcy protection, as it has been challenging for them to find a commercial solution with a third-party insurer, not surprisingly.  Purdue faces more than 2,600 lawsuits alleging that it helped fuel the U.S. opioid epidemic.

As VCIA Member (and recipient of VCIA’s 2019 Industry Service Award!), Chaz Lavelle of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP stated recently in a September 17 article in Business Insurance,  “We’ve had situations in the past where an operating company has gone bankrupt but the captive insurer which it has previously set up was fully solvent, continued to operate and pay claims notwithstanding the bankruptcy and the disposition of the company.”

It reminded me of the Vermont captive for the bankrupt firm Enron back in the 90s. Even though the firm was mired in bankruptcy proceedings due to the fraudulent leadership at the top, under the supervision of Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation its captive remained solvent and paid out every one of its claims under its policies in full. Having the captive kept the policy claims separate from the bankruptcy proceedings. Even debtors require various liability, casualty, property and other insurance programs in the ordinary course of their businesses.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

10-Day Countdown

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Just ten days until we open Burlington, Vermont to all you captive insurance professionals! If you have not already done so, please make plans to join us for a week of wonderful education, networking and friendship.

Here is just a smattering of some of the captive owners who will be presenting this year:

  • Andrew Baillie, AES of Global Insurance Company
  • Sean Barnes of United Educators
  • Julie Bordo of PCH Mutual Insurance Co., Inc., a RRG
  • Tracy Hassett of Educators Health Insurance Exchange of New England
  • Tim Herr of Recreation Risk Retention Group
  • Karen Hsi of the University of California
  • Jan Klodowski of Agri-Services Agency LLC & Agrisurance Inc.
  • Troy LePage of HAI Group
  • Heather McClure of Oklahoma University Medical
  • Bill Murray of Church Insurance
  • Tim Padovese of Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC)
  • Joshua Reding of Life Time Captive Insurance Company
  • Paul Smith of National Insurance and Indemnity Corporation

I hope you all can join us! Click here to register for the VCIA Conference today.

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

Rich Smith

If the Spirit(s) Move You

headytopperAs you know (because of my constant pestering), the Great VCIA Annual Conference is coming right up! Well for those of you that are able to join us the week of August 5th, we have a little treat for you.

Come to VCIA’s Opening Reception in the Exhibit Hall on Tuesday and enjoy samplings of Vermont artisan brews and spirits. Look for the gold balloons throughout the hall to find these special beverages while connecting with great companies who are exhibiting, and industry peers from around the world.

Special samplings from the Alchemist (brewer of the world-famous Heady Topper), Zero Gravity, Boyden Valley, Caledonia Spirits’ Barr Hill Gin, Stonecutter Spirits, Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine, Whistle Pig Rye, Mad River Distillers and Stowe Cider.

So, come join us and enjoy your Vermont tipple! Click here to register today.

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

From Early Bird to Angry Bird

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For all you procrastinators out there (and I count myself as one of the best) listen up! VCIA’s Annual Conference “early bird” rates are about to expire on June 30th. That means, of course, you will be paying more to learn and network with 1100 captive professionals from around the US and the world. And none of us like doing that.

Don’t take my word on it – look, here it is in black and white:

Registration Type

Early Price

Late Price

Full Pass: Member $750 $825
Full Pass: Non-member $1300 $1380
Networking: Member $465 $515
Networking: Non-member $890 $940

So, before the early bird changes into an angry bird, get on it! Click here to register today.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Space…The Final Frontier

Rich-KurkVery cliché, I know, but still so true.

The fact that we now have a burgeoning space industry opens up opportunities for the insurance world. Most insurance companies offer some type of Space and Satellite Insurance which covers things like satellite launch and in-orbit, contingency, in-orbit third party liability, or some combination thereof.  But with space tourism becoming a reality in the not-too-distance future, captive insurance has an opportunity to play a role in the risk management of our last frontier.

The global banking firm UBS believes there will be very lucrative ramifications from the space flight efforts currently led by Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin, and stated that in a decade high-speed travel via outer space will represent an annual market of at least $20 billion and compete with long-distance airline flights. Space tourism will be a $3 billion market by 2030, UBS estimates.

UBS pointed to SpaceX’s plans to use the massive Starship rocket it is building to fly as many as 100 people around the world in minutes. SpaceX said that Starship would be able to fly from New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes, rather than the 15 hours it takes currently by airplane – pretty cool.  And even though space tourism is still nascent, UBS said they believe the sub-sector will become mainstream as the technology becomes proven and cost falls.

The legal risk of orbital space tourism is uncharted territory, and the liability risks to these companies could be huge.  Under current regulation, commercial passengers will have to sign an “informed consent” form to confirm that they recognize and accept the risks. This provision has been enshrined in US law by the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act 2004. Such liability waivers remain untested in the courts.

Although there are large insurance firms looking at space tourism, it seems that there is a yawning gap for the liability coverage of the space firms. Captives have always done well with filling this void with targeted, bespoke coverage. So, brush off your old Star Trek DVDs and let’s hope that we have a panel at the VCIA conference in the next ten years devoted to the extraterrestrial!

For all you Trekkies out there we have the next best thing to Captain James T. Kirk: for our closing luncheon on Thursday at the VCIA Annual Conference the week of August 5th we have former astronaut Mike Massimino as our special keynote. He is a recurring character on The Big Bang Theory, a professor at Columbia University, the first person to tweet from space, and a New York Times best-selling author.  Mike will speak of pursuing his passion and tell incredible stories about his experiences in outer space manning space missions. Having one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, Mike will speak of the teamwork and problem-solving skills needed to train for and accomplish one of NASA’s most difficult space missions. Don’t miss this fun closing event!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President