Captive Corner: VCIA Interview Series, 1. Joe Carter

Captive Corner: VCIA Interviews Industry Experts

Joe Carter, VP of Business Development and UE Experience at United Educators, and VCIA Board Member

ue.org / @UnitedEducators / United Educators LinkedIn Company Page

United Educators is a reciprocal risk retention group that provides the insurance coverage needs of more than 1,600 members ranging from large university systems to small, independent K-12 schools. Joe Carter’s responsibility is to set the strategy for UE’s growth. This includes planning the business development and distribution strategies that ensure success. He is also responsible for teams that manage UE’s brand and constituent experience strategy, the Voice of Constituent (VOC) program, digital experience, member support, marketing, and communications. Joe recently was elected to the Board of Directors at VCIA, and we sat down with him to ask a few questions.  

1. Tell us how you got involved with insurance and risk management. How did you come to UE?   The early days in my professional journey were rooted in large commercial insurance companies with fantastic training programs for new employees. I began by handling first and third-party claims in an environment best described as “rapid fire” for America’s second largest insurance company at the time. I had the rare opportunity to rotate through other functions of the company including underwriting, risk management consulting, front-line sales management, and leadership coaching. Then I started an independent insurance agency/brokerage that I grew and sold to a larger agency owned by a regional bank. After a couple of additional executive leadership roles, I found this wonderful Risk Retention Group (RRG) captive that focused on education, a sector that I think is so important to our world. Joining United Educators was a chance to apply all my experiences to lead UE’s business development strategy, marketing, and member experience – a home run opportunity for me.  

2. UE is celebrating its 35-year anniversary. What do you provide your members?   We continue to deliver the third-party liability coverages that drove our creation by educational institutions in 1987. A significant part of our work is delivered well before any claims call comes in. We research and build training, loss prevention courses, and risk management tools that not only help prevent bad things from happening, but also help institutions prepare for bad things that are likely to happen. We are proud that these risk management resources are highly valued and utilized by educational institutions. Our resolutions team partners with institutions as soon as there is a concern about a potential claims matter. They help strategize early, while taking a Cool Head, Warm Heart® approach to resolving claims that recognizes the value of the relationships our members have with their students, staff, and communities.  

All captives need to focus on their differentiation from commercial markets and think hard about why they exist. There needs to be a shared understanding about what captives are really accomplishing for their owners. I believe captives have a unique opportunity to help owners to see risks that lie ahead using trends from a purer set of data and experience.  


3. What have you seen in the time you have been there? Can you tell us a little about the culture at UE?    There are many liability lessons from education claims over the 35 years: preparation is as important as seeking prevention, active and early intervention usually is more effective than the “wait and see” tactics we’ve seen used by other carriers, and treating claimants with respect and empathy is an important part of loss mitigation, to name a few. Our culture is shaped by being member-owned. We’re serving members amid upheaval of the education sector, market fluctuations, and skyrocketing claims and defense costs. Enjoying a personal connection to our members drives an ethos of excellence in member service.  

4. What are some of the challenges you see today for your members and what innovations is UE bringing to them to meet those challenges? We see several challenges that have been pervasive with new ones emerging. In recent years, we’ve monitored how demographic shifts are affecting enrollments and the top lines for many institutions. And we all think about the financial and operational risks going forward for tuition-dependent institutions. There are also real concerns about keeping campuses operating as healthy and safe environments for in-person learning. Most campuses, including K-12 sites, are concerned about student mental health for good reasons. And many are concerned about employee mental health as we transition through the next phase of this pandemic. And there is the ever-present challenge that all employers face in managing risks such as employment and misconduct issues involving high-profile and highly-valued employees. In the education arena, these include coaches, researchers, faculty, presidents, or trustees. UE’s risk research and resolutions teams work constantly to develop useful tools that help break these complex exposures down into tactical and useful programs that help campuses effectively plan and train administrators, employees, and students on staying healthy and safe.  

5. What are some of the challenges facing UE as an organization and the captive insurance/RRG industry as a whole?   UE faces many of the same challenges that most providers do. We are seeing loss inflation that goes beyond just a rise in the average cost of a claim or even a category of claims. The rise in claims costs and awards reflects a societal trend that is punishing institutions of any type without regard to the nexus between bad verdicts and the rising costs of insurance going forward. Insurer investment strategies aren’t delivering much return in recent environments, so there is great pressure to underwrite and price your business accurately and on time. That is a hard pill for owners to swallow during times of rising loss costs. All captives need to do their best job of speaking this truth to their owners. And when we are doing this correctly, owners understand that the captive’s health is directly tied to their ability to manage risks and losses. All captives need to focus on their differentiation from commercial markets and think hard about why they exist. There needs to be a shared understanding about what captives are really accomplishing for their owners. I believe captives have a unique opportunity to help owners to see risks that lie ahead using trends from a purer set of data and experience.  

6. Why does Vermont fit UE’s mission and business plan as your domicile of choice?   I believe that one of the best things that Vermont does for domiciled captives is allowing and encouraging open dialogue. They do a really good job at getting to know the organizations doing business in and around the state. They show up at industry conferences not just to speak and deliver content, but to also listen and learn. That’s a level of engagement that allows them to be helpful to innovation while they ensure compliance. No one wants to see bad captives formed or operating in the market. I believe Vermont’s approach to engagement keeps the marketplace respectable and healthy for consumers of these services.  
All captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market.

7. What are you most proud of as you look back over the past 35 years for UE?   There are many things that I could talk about. It is impressive how our captive and its membership have grown so much since I joined. The staff I have the pleasure of working with and learning from every day are smart and bring a rich diversity of experience. They work collaboratively and challenge us leaders to think hard, consider much, and act decisively. We’ve also been working hard to foster and improve our culture of inclusivity. I am proud of how our teams contribute in many ways. And we’re just getting started. I know we will continue to grow our culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.  

8. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you wanted to talk about?    I think captive organizations represent the best in business relationships between owner and provider. Being able to do this constituent experience work on behalf of those that you serve just demonstrates a purity in relationship that cannot happen with the influence of third-party shareholders. And all captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market. In fact, there should really be no better experience available when an effective captive option is present. No other option can to focus and deliver like we do.

All captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market. In fact, there should really be no better experience available when an effective captive option is present. No other option can to focus and deliver like we do.

The many sides of captives

Ever heard the Indian parable about the blind men and the elephant?  Each man was asked to describe the elephant based only on the part they could touch. The one who touched the leg said it was like a tree, the one who had the tail said it was like a rope, etc. According to the wise Wikipedia, it’s “about a range of truths and mistakes. It is also about the need for communication and the need for respect for different perspectives.”

In the eight months I have been with the VCIA I have started to become familiar with ‘our part of the elephant’ as it applies to Vermont-based captives, but this week I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge by attending the SIIA (Self Insurance Institute of America) annual conference in Phoenix, AZ.  There, I got to see a whole different part of the elephant!  It was standing room only for a session called ‘Captives to the Rescue.’ The participants in this session (80% of whom were from what we can call the ‘medical field’ – including benefit plans, insurers, hospitals, etc.) heard what captives can do for them and for the changing risk profiles.  While very few of those present were involved in Vermont captives, it was clear that, just like in Vermont, this is a growing industry as all sectors evolve to serve the changing needs of industries, services, and public organizations.

Just like in Vermont, this is a growing industry as all sectors evolve to serve the changing needs of industries, services, and public organizations

Kevin Mead on the Diverse IMpact of Captives

Next month, the Vermont DFR’s Sandy Bigglestone will be a presenter at the European Captive Forum in Luxembourg. (Obligatory plug: she’ll also speak at our October 26th New York City Roadshow, which you can register for here!)  Brittany Nevins of the Vermont DED and myself will also be there as we seek to show the capacity and capability of Vermont to a well-established group of risk professionals.  

From whatever angle one approaches the elephant that is captive insurance, it is an expanding and exciting place to be.  And while, just like the parable, no one person could ever have a full and complete picture of the industry, the range of options, services and expertise out there to assist entities in managing their risk utilizing captives is probably the best it has ever been. Add to the conversation by commenting, or emailing me kmead@vcia.com. I look forward to connecting.

#VCIA2022 Keynotes To Give a Global View of Things

With our early bird period in the rearview, and 700 and counting registrants (!) , we gear up for one more month of celebrating all things #VCIA2022, before our flagship event takes center stage of the captive world in August. By now, you know how important the networking and educational sessions will be. Let me turn your attention to why our two worldly #VCIA2022 keynotes are worth your price of admission. For both history buffs and people interested in politics and economics…we have you covered!

History maker Admiral Michelle Howard will be at the VCIA Conference

First, let’s start with our Special Keynote Speaker who will be closing out #VCIA2022 on Thursday August 11th with an inspiring speech and luncheon. US Navy Admiral Michelle Howard has not only commanded ships at sea but also a deep respect from all branches of the military. She’s a groundbreaking leader who has seen it all, enjoying a distinguished career in national defense within the areas of operations, readiness, and strategic planning.

What stories can she tell? Plenty! A veteran of operations that included NATO peacekeeping, Indonesia tsunami relief, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, she was thrust into the international spotlight in 2009 as leader of the counter-piracy task force that rescued civilian Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates!

Hear from her a preview of what she’ll be talking about in her keynote address.

Her keynotes address leadership, cybersecurity, diversity, innovation and team building. To each, she lends experience gained from three decades on the front lines and highest levels of national defense. Bringing the empowering insights of an African-American woman who spent her career shattering glass ceilings and breaking new ground, she continues to motivate others with her highly inspirational presence.

This is what you’ll Get at #VCIA2022!

Next to an iconic military figure, The VCIA Conference has paired a geopolitical whiz as the second keynote speaker. Michael Weidokal, an internationally-recognized economic and geopolitical forecaster who helps business leaders and policy makers comprehend the issues and trends that are impacting the world today AND tomorrow, addresses #VCIA2022 attendees on Tuesday August 9th at 3:45pm.

Michael is the president and founder of International Strategic Analysis (ISA), a leading provider of economic forecasting, international market intelligence and geopolitical analysis with clients all around the globe. ISA is one of the world’s most respected economic and geopolitical research firms, providing research and support for thousands of the world’s leading businesses, governments and universities. Get a glimpse of what he will share at our conference below!

Michael’s ability to combine international economics, geopolitics and history allow him to have a unique perspective on the issues and events that are taking place throughout the world. His areas of expertise include the fields of international economic competitiveness, global market selection and geopolitical risk assessment. Furthermore, he has repeatedly proven to be able to accurately predict important trends and developments before they happen.

Get the Intel from Experts like Michael at #VCIA2022!
Happy Fourth of July!

Have a wonderful, long Independence Day weekend, everyone. Can’t believe we’re basically just a month out from our dynamic captive conference. Thank you to everyone who has worked hard to put it together and additionally to everyone has registered so far. We couldn’t do this without you. P.S👉 registration link for folks that missed the early bird bus. It’s still a great deal! And don’t forget to sign up for our golf tournament!

Summer Conference Registration Opens!

Meticulously planning, securing keynotes and hammering out the schedule, we’ve waited all year for this and now the “gates are opened” for our first in-person conference in three years. We can’t wait to gather with the captive industry’s best and brightest this August in Burlington.

Our 2022 Conference is sure to be a memorable one!

We’re officially launched! Please visit our conference registration page to sign up for the biggest and strongest captive insurance event this summer on the global calendar. No matter your experience level, you will find so much in our conference that will develop you professionally and advance your career. We have a full slate of dynamic educational sessions, curated networking and benchmarking events, and an environment conducive for making business deals. Simply put, you are sure to add to you captive knowledge at the 2022 VCIA Conference, and more than that, it will be a triumphant celebration of the captive industry at large. Be sure to follow the #VCIA2022 hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn.

I should mention (before I enlist you in another conference prize opportunity!) that I highly recommend booking your hotel and travel flight plans as soon as possible in order to avoid any complications. There are rooms still available at the VCIA group rate, but they are going fast, so head to our conference lodging page and be directed to local hotels who carry our group rate.

I’m a horse racing fan and I enjoy placing some modest bets down when I’m at the track. In that spirit, we are expecting a banner year, and as insurance professionals you are all concerned with risk and the odds that something might or might not occur. So, I introduce you to the VCIA version of ‘How Many Jelly Beans are in the Jar?’  I believe that our total attendance count will be 1,048. Are you taking that over or under? My guess includes exhibitors, staff and all classifications of attendees – i.e. anyone with a name badge! Let me know your number, and if I’m the closest, I will make a $50 personal donation to ICCIE (www.iccie.org), the captive insurance industry’s educational non-profit.  If someone beats me, I will make a $100 donation in their name!  We will, of course, also recognize the best prognosticator! Send your guesses to kmead@vcia.com

Need a little help to formulate your guess? Check out our Conference Attendee page to see who has already registered!

How many people will be in attendance at our conference? Take a guess and email Kevin!

See you in August – if not before! 

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! 

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