It’s time we stop being ostriches…

 

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How much longer is our industry (and by that, I mean the general insurance industry) going to keep ducking one of the most (if not THE most) important risk issue of our time: climate change?

Regardless of what your philosophical or political beliefs may be, the evidence is clear that we are facing unprecedented changes in the earth’s climate – well at least going back a few thousand years. And still, the one industry that is supposed to be out in front on risk management has its head in the sand.

As late as last year, Business Insurance reported that “the majority of insurers, particularly in the United States, do not integrate climate change into their risk management practices despite historic flooding in many communities”. Reinsurers, on the other hand, seem to have had a better response to climate change-related financial risk, according to the study by the University of Waterloo called Insurance and Climate Change Risk Management: Rescaling to Look Beyond the Horizon.

As reported in Gloria Gonzales’s article in BI, most insurance companies assumed the risk to property from extreme weather is static and based their premiums on historical data. Insurers have not adjusted as extreme weather events have increased in severity, frequency and unpredictability, according to the study.

“As extreme events become more frequent, insurers that ignore climate change will not put away enough money to cover their claims,” Jason Thistlethwaite, a climate change economist at the University of Waterloo, said in a statement. “To recoup those losses, they’ll have to raise rates or pull coverage from high-risk areas. When this shift happens, thousands of people will lose coverage or it will be unaffordable.”

“Some insurers are better at understanding climate change than others,” Mr. Thistlethwaite said. “These organizations will survive and likely be able to sell climate services to their counterparts struggling to understand the problem. Those that don’t will fail.”

As I blogged more than a year and a half ago, the insurance industry, including captives, needs to step up and lead on this issue. No industry is better placed to clear-headedly explain the risks and provide much-needed leadership on mitigation and sustainability. It’s what we do!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

The Gospel of Captives and Temple

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As I mentioned in my last blog, we were in Philadelphia last Tuesday for one of VCIA’s famous Road Shows serving up our sermon on the gospel of captives to a group of around 100 attendees. My heartfelt thanks to all the participants and our sponsors: Trion-MMA, Old Republic PMA, Kroll, and the State of Vermont.

Jeff Packard of Old Republic PMA acted as our MC, introducing the panels while providing entertaining (and educational) anecdotes of his many years in the captive industry. Our panelists were terrific as well! Kirk Watkins, Captive Practice Leader of Trion-MMA, walked through the basics of captives including types, lines and the process of setting one up. Then Ian Davis, Director of Finance, and Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captives, provided an overview on regulation and licensing of captive insurance in the State of Vermont.

The second panel included two of Vermont’s captive insurance owners, Gary Langsdale, University Risk Officer for The Pennsylvania State University which owns Nittany Insurance Company, and Phil Leaman, COO of Resource Partners and Peace Church Risk Retention Group (A Reciprocal). Both provided excellent information from their many years of experience in operating captive insurance companies.

Gary outlined the complexity of his captive which covers 8 million sq. ft. of floor surface in 700 buildings, a 107,000-seat football stadium, 45,000 students, 16,000 faculty and staff, 1900 owned motor vehicles, two large hotel and conference centers, and, my favorite, a nuclear reactor sharing a driveway with the child care center!  Phil talked about how his captive covers Quaker, Mennonite, and Church of the Brethren facilities serving the aged and other assisted living populations.  With approximately 140 organizations and 16,843 insured units, Peace Church has gross written premiums of $55,433,689.

But most of all, we had around 30 students from Temple’s Fox School of Business studying risk management or actuarial sciences who joined us that afternoon. This extremely poised, intelligent group of young adults asked the best questions and provided all of us great hope for the future of the captive industry. My sincere thanks to Michael Zuckerman, Assistant Professor at the Fox School of Business and Management’s Dept. of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management, for bringing such an inspiring group of students!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Philadelphia Freedom!

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Heading to Philadelphia next Tuesday for one of VCIA’s famous Road Shows where we dazzle the crowds with an overview of the captive insurance industry. The afternoon includes two educational seminars featuring captive owners and captive professional panelists who share their companies’ experiences in forming and operating a Vermont captive. The afternoon wraps up with a networking reception for all.

Held at the Le Meridien Philadelphia hotel on 1421 Arch Street in downtown Philadelphia, the first half of the afternoon will focus on the basics of captive insurance companies; the reasons for formation, the feasibility process and key issues in putting a successful captive program together. In the second half, two distinguished captive owners from two different types of captive insurance companies will share their experiences and why and how they created their captive programs.

Gary Langsdale serves as university risk officer for The Pennsylvania State University with responsibility for Enterprise Risk Management including operational, hazard, and strategic risks. Gary is president of the university’s captive insurance company, Nittany Insurance Company. He has over 40 years of experience in the insurance and risk management field, has co-authored white papers for the University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA), and participated in the 2010 development of the ASME standard on risk assessment for institutions of higher education. In 2009, he was recognized by Business Insurance magazine as a member of their Risk Management Honor Roll, and in 2016 he received URMIA’s highest honor, the “Distinguished Risk Manager” designation. Gary will share his experience with us.

While serving as CEO and COO of Resource Partners over the past 15 years, Phil Leaman, our second captive owner panelist, helped direct the launch of three Vermont based captives providing for the liability, workers compensation, medical benefits and risk management needs of its faith-based, not for profit, aging services and health & human services member organizations. During this time Phil was part of the organizational team and served as a founding board member of the Center for Aging Services Risk Management which confers the professional designation of Certified Professional in Aging Services Risk Management (CPASRM) to individuals who complete its educational program in the discipline of aging services risk management. Phil serves on the VCIA Legislative Committee.

It’s not too late to register to hear from these fine panelists! Click here for more info.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

VCIA Legislative Day – Cyber-up!

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As we all know, cybersecurity is one of the main issues facing society today. From data breaches that expose personal information to malware that can infect computer systems, in our growing IOT (internet of everything) world it’s the problem of the day. The insurance industry, including captives, have focused on cybersecurity for some time now. Both to provide their clients with the proper mitigation policies and to protect their own data systems, our industry continues to be in the forefront.

Who would have figured that in our small state, Vermont hosts one of the top cybersecurity institutions in the nation! Located in Northfield, Vermont (just south of our State’s capital, Montpelier) Norwich University hosts the NU Applied Research Institutes (NUARI).  NUARI was federally chartered in 2002 to address cyber incident management challenges through research, training programs and technology development and has been a global leader for more than a decade in developing cyber war gaming, distributed learning technology, distributed simulation technology, critical infrastructure exercises, and cybersecurity curriculum.  Norwich provides a truly unique program utilizing state-of-the-art forensic tools unheard of at other institutions of this size.

We are honored to have the President of NUARI, Phil Susmann, address our members at next week’s VCIA Legislative Day in Montpelier. Phil will speak at lunch in the Capital Plaza Hotel on January 23rd along with DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak and a welcome from Lt. Governor David Zuckerman.

Legislative Day is a chance for our members to meet the State’s top political leaders and hear about the issues that are facing Vermont in the upcoming year. It’s also a great chance for the captive industry to say “thank you” for the over 30 years of support from politicians and policy leaders from all stripes: Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and Independents.

There will be meetings with legislative leaders and presentations to House and Senate committees. And don’t miss the Q&A opportunity with Dave Provost and the DFR Team after lunch! The event concludes with a fabulous evening reception where legislators, elected and appointed officials and VCIA Members mingle and exchange information about Vermont’s captive insurance industry and make plans for its continued success in 2019.

So, if you haven’t done so already, register here for a great day!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Let the Games Begin (and Congrats Vermont – Again)!

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The Vermont General Assembly began the first half of the legislative biennium this month. Both houses of the Vermont legislature now have a supermajority of Democrats, so Governor Scott (R) will have less room to push back on any legislation he doesn’t support. That being said, the House Commerce Committee’s new chair is Mike Marcotte, a Republican and former vice chair of the committee. Senate Finance remains in the hands of veteran Ann Cummings; both these committees oversee captive insurance in Vermont and both are strong captive insurance supporters.

As we do every year, VCIA initiated a process to build an agenda for suggested changes to the captive statutes for the 2019 legislative session.   With the results from our membership survey in hand, we meet with  Vermont’s captive management firms and law firms to hear their suggested changes. Then comes an iterative process with Dave Provost’s team at Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation resulting in a consensus bill to present to the legislature. This year’s captive bill will be mostly tweaks and technical corrections, but even those are important in staying current in our ever-changing industry.

On another note, congratulations again to DFR and the State of Vermont! For the fifth straight year, Vermont was ranked the BEST  insurance regulatory environment in the United States, according to the R Street Institute’s  Insurance Regulation Report Card, an annual examination of which states best regulate the business of insurance.

Don’t forget that January 23rd  is VCIA’s annual Legislative Day in Montpelier, Vermont’s capital. It’s a full day of meeting and hearing from Vermont’s political leaders on the captive industry and issues facing the State broadly. Go to www.vcia.com and register today!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Happy New Year!

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OK, that was weird…. 2019 is here and 2018 seems like a strange dream. 2018 was one of the most “interesting” years in my brief (well, not so brief anymore) and wondrous life. That being said, we have a lot on our plates this year and I am looking forward to working with you to further advance the captive insurance canon!

2018 proved to be another highly successful year for Vermont’s captive insurance industry with 25 new captive licenses added, bringing its total to 1,137 with 558 active captive insurance companies. Over the past ten years or more, the average number of new captives licensed yearly in Vermont has been roughly 25, regardless of the marketplace. This steady figure highlights the resiliency of both the captive marketplace and Vermont as a domicile.

The new captives were made up of 12 pure captives, 3 sponsored captives, 4 Risk Retention Groups (RRGs), 2 special purpose financial insurers, 1 branch captive and 2 industrial insured captives. As usual, a healthy mix of sizes, types and industries, ranging from healthcare, manufacturing and financial services to religious institutions, entertainment and nonprofits. As David Provost, Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of Captive Insurance, always says, Vermont’s focus will always be licensing quality companies, not chasing numbers.

Don’t forget that January 23rd this year is VCIA’s annual Legislative Day at the State House in Montpelier, Vermont’s capital. It’s a full day of meeting and hearing from Vermont’s political leaders on the captive industry and issues facing the State broadly. Go to www.vcia.com and register today!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Washington State News

Rubber stamp "TAX"You have probably already heard of the recent pronouncement by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner in Washington State “allowing captive insurance companies that have unlawfully insured any risk in Washington State in the past 15 years to pay a substantially reduced fine and premium tax penalty for self-reporting the activity.”

The fact that the Washington State believes they can basically outlaw captive insurance with a press release is disturbing at best. It contradicts established federal law on insurance and creates a direct threat to the industry for those organizations that have risks in the state covered with a captive.  In the original legal filing by the K&L Gates law firm on the Microsoft case, they laid out the comprehensive argument that (1) the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) does not have the authority to regulate self-insurance; (2) the captive was not in the business of making contracts of insurance and therefore excluded from the definition of “insurer”; (3) the captive is outside the scope of the OIC’s authority under the federal McCarran-Ferguson Act litigated under Todd Shipyards; and (4) the OIC was outside its bounds to try and tax premiums related to risks outside the State of Washington.

VCIA is working with CICA and our other captive insurance partners on a cohesive response to the bulletin. In the meantime, I would advise captives with Washington State presence to check with their captive advisors on the issue.  We strongly urge you to give it some time before deciding to comply with the release.

I look forwarded to hearing from you!