Our Captive Tax Webinar Will Be Fun. Hear Me Out.

An accountant, an auditor, and a tax lawyer walk into a bar…just kidding, no joke here. But have you ever had fun at a tax seminar? Well I think you just might at our Captive Taxation webinar next week. For real!

For those of you that think that high jinx might be a little lacking as you wade through IRS and state taxes for captives, then we may have the right antidote to put you in the mood for holiday cheer. 

I have been present as Chaz Lavelle and Dan Kusaila have been developing and practicing for next week’s VCIA tax webinar and it has been a total hoot to watch as these two long time thought leaders and contributors to the VCIA combine a review of the arcane backwaters of tax with anarchic humor. 

Perhaps most importantly, they know how to get the information across that you need without drifting and being obscure. If the execution is anything like the prep, it will be a great hour! Enjoy their company, hear some interesting captive tax anecdotes, and learn about what’s ahead for our industry, tax-wise, in 2023. If you haven’t done so, you can still register for the tax webinar here. You won’t be disappointed by Chaz and Dan!

Of course, we have a more typical way to get into the holiday spirit with our annual holiday party the day before the tax webinar.  Over 80 of your colleagues have already registered for this event, and I look forward to meeting friends old and new as we wind down what has been an exceptional 2022 for the VCIA with a great event at ECHO in Burlington. VCIA members can register for their free holiday mixer here.

I hope to see you at these events next week!

Bookmark this Benchmarking Webinar Happening Next Week!

I can’t tell you how many folks have shared their excitement with me about VCIA’s upcoming Captive Benchmarking Webinar taking place next Wednesday November 16th at 2-3pm EST. It’s been a few years since our last benchmarking program, so it’s high time to update everyone on the health of captive financials in the State of Vermont. This year’s event is gearing up to be one of our most-attended webinars, and you can still get the important data by registering here!

I am lucky enough to moderate a conversation with the above captive financial data wizards, and I wanted to hear from them beforehand why they are excited for next week’s webinar.

With negative year-to-date investment returns reducing both profitability and surplus for captives, it is an opportune time to discuss best practices in benchmark selection for insurance entities that not only considers investment risk tolerances, but also the connection to the risks being underwritten by the captive

Bill piel, President of Institutional Markets, Opus Investment Management

During the webinar, Amy Angell of Milliman, Inc., plans to review surplus levels, identify ways to monitor claims performance, and to evaluate whether risk management programs are having the desired outcomes on the loss experience. She’ll do this all by looking at the hard data of the financial records of the 2021 EOY domiciled captives of the State of Vermont, listed by type of captive and by industry type.

What’s revving her up for next week? She told me point blank: “Benchmarking is a powerful tool that provides meaningful and actionable insights to captive owners.” If you want to start game planning for captive’s financial goals, then there’s no better place to start than our Hot Topics webinar.

Next to Amy will be her accomplished colleagues, Becky Aitchison, Captive Insurance Examiner for the State of Vermont DFR, and Bill Piel, President of the Opus Institutional Markets.

Becky is basically the source keeper the data aggregated and shared annually by the DFR. She will explain the key ratios used by the DFR for the surveillance of your captive’s financial health, and what markers she looks for in determining how a certain captive may or may not be thriving.

From an investment perspective, Bill will let you in on the primary reasons for establishing an investment policy and how the DFR data can help assist with developing an appropriate asset allocation unique to your captive. He will also identify ways to monitor investment performance and evaluate whether results are having the desired impact on your financial statements.

What makes Bill excited for the webinar? “With negative year-to-date investment returns reducing both profitability and surplus for captives, it is an opportune time to discuss best practices in benchmark selection for insurance entities that not only considers investment risk tolerances, but also the connection to the risks being underwritten by the captive.”

So, we have the expert who comes up with the data, and the other experts who will explain how to use the latest data to your benefit. It’s a win win!

I look forward to facilitating a data-driven conversation that looks into how your captive – and the Vermont captive landscape at large – has faired in the last financial year, and what that may say about the future. Remember to register, and “see you” there!

Your Signature (Series)

Join VCIA for its Inaugural Signature Series Event on April 13th! The Signature Series is an online event consisting of two Captive Education Sessions, each followed by Guided Discussion Groups hosted by Industry Experts. The day also features a Captive Owners Forum.

The first session will be the dramedy  “Disaster! – What’s the Plan?” exploring the reactions, interactions, and strategies to prepare your company and captive program for the next unforeseen event. We’ll illustrate real time issues companies and captives faced in the wake of the declaration of the COVID-19 Pandemic and how to better prepare your company for future disasters and other major business challenges. Our cast of thespians will examine the importance of a disaster preparedness plan, its key components and how to craft such a plan for your company. The stars of this dramady are Julie Bordo, President & CEO of PCH Mutual Insurance Co. Inc. (RRG), Hugo Crawley, Chairman of TigerRisk Partners (UK), Gail Newman, Vice President of Risk Management for Bright Horizons Family Solutions, and Michael O’Malley, Managing Director of Strategic Risk Solutions.  It may be so good we take it into syndication!

Our second session will look to answer many questions around cyber risk and captives. As cyber-attacks become more frequent and increasingly harmful, are you prepared? What risk financing and management techniques are you using today to handle your cyber risk? Are you familiar with regulation and governance required to manage cyber exposure for your organization? How do you design a program which provides appropriate coverage cost-effective price, along with the associated vendor costs, to prepare if a cyber event occurs in your organization?

Elisabeth Case, Managing Director at Marsh, John O’Neil, Corporate Insurance Risk Manager at MassMutual, Dan Petterson, Director of Captive Examinations for Vermont’s Division of Captive Insurance, and Uso Sayers, Managing Director at Johnson Lambert, will share knowledge of best practices, and what coverages you need to ensure for, both in and out of your captive, to protect your organization from this ever-expanding threat.

And finally, for our captive owners only forum, two captive owners will lead a dynamic discussion with other captive owners exploring current industry challenges, solutions, new ideas and industry best practices. Melinda Young of NC3 and Brian Johnson of Alliance of Nonprofits for Insurance, RRG, will corral the issues most on the minds of captive owners using interactive technology.

Click here to register today!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Tax: An Early Holiday Gift

For those of you in the United States, I hope you had a warm and safe Thanksgiving. As we head into the holiday season you can only be thinking of one thing – taxes. OK, maybe not, but we have pulled together our own version of the Three Wise Men to provide you with VCIA’s annual captive tax update on a webinar next week.

On December 8th, VCIA hosts the webinar “Captive Taxation: What You Need to Know” with Chaz Lavelle, a Partner with Dentons Bingham Greenebaum LLP, Dan Kusaila, Partner at Crowe LLP, and Sean Barnes, VP Finance and Administration and CFO with United Educators.

Chaz and Dan have years (and I mean YEARS) of experience and knowledge of captive tax issues and will bring you the latest 2020 tax developments, and outline what will occur in 2021, which is projected to be a busy year in captive tax.  Sean will attempt to corral these two as he moderates the session. Sean brings the captive owner perspective as the chief financial officer and chief investment officer for United Educators Insurance, a Reciprocal Risk Retention Group, one of the largest and most successful RRGs in the industry.

So please join us next Tuesday, December 8, by clicking here to register!

Thanks, as always, for your continued support in these trying times. I look forward to hearing from you!

Vermont = Competence

I was looking at a LinkedIn message from Tim McQuiston, the editor of the Vermont Business Magazine, the other day and it reminded me of how important the competence of both leaders and agencies in the State of Vermont is to its citizens.

Tim reminded us that Vermont has used a combination of strict health protocols and impressive compliance by students to keep COVID case counts down, despite 40,000 college students back in the state and tens of thousands of tests conducted.

Vermont COVID numbers are low per capita and have been from the beginning. Not that there haven’t been challenges here and there, but Vermont’s Governor, Health Commissioner, and overall team (along with the Vermont General Assembly) have remained cool, calm, and collected. And part of the leadership in the Governor’s team is Mike Pieciak, Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) – which, as most of you know, includes captive insurance. The Governor relies on Mike and his team to assist with the modelling of the COVID numbers and analysis using actuarial science. The work and reports being generated by Mike’s team are being used to inform the Governor, Health Commissioner, and all Vermont citizens. With this useful pandemic knowledge and insight, we are all better equipped to make good decisions.

Vermont has a history of being practical. Even us flatlanders who came to Vermont from other places seem to adopt that attitude – maybe it’s the weather. That practicality permeates the state and provides a sense of quiet competence regarding our leadership.  And nobody does competence better than DFR – let us all take a moment to acknowledge the great work the DFR staff continues to do, no matter the circumstance.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support in these trying times. I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

There’s More to the Story…

panelA key component in a captive program’s success is its ability to adapt to changing market conditions, economic turbulence, new & emerging risk and even the recent changes in the definition of employment. Even in the midst of this dangerous pandemic, underlying issues impacting the captive industry were emerging.

VCIA will be hosting a webinar next Thursday, May 14th, that will explore ways to shift captive strategy to respond to the business needs of your parent company and optimize your program in our changing market.  Our presenters will demonstrate captive success with emerging risks, illustrate current challenges and keys to achieving a positive outcome, and explore what questions to ask to create a successful pathway to deal with such unforeseen events such as COVID-19.

Our speakers will be four leading thinkers in the captive industry:  Andrew Baillie is the Program Director, Global Insurance for The AES Corporation, a global power producer and distributor, where he supports risk management oversight and the procurement of insurance, as well as managing the company’s large, Vermont-based Captive Insurance Company; Steven Bauman works for AXA XL serving as Head of Global Programs and Captive Practice in North America; Ed Koral is a managing director with BDO’s Insurance Risk Advisory group; and Christine Brown is Assistant Director with the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation – Captive Division, where she directly supports the Director of Captive Insurance and Deputy Commissioner of Captives with licensing, industry outreach and strategic planning.

Join us to learn how to remain agile during these challenging times. Go to www.vcia.com and register today.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

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

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

It was a sizzling conference!

2018collagefinalThanks to all who joined us in Burlington, Vermont, earlier this month for another great VCIA captive insurance conference.  More than 85% of conference survey responses rated our conference the best or better than most. With over 1000 attendees from 44 States and 9 countries, where more than 25% were captive owners, our annual gathering in August has grown to be THE captive insurance forum!

The conference had great energy – people liked the fresh format changes and extra touches, and, as one attendee stated the conference is “the best congregation of the captive industry in the U.S.” while another stated it was “the perfect environment for meeting the alternative risk and captive community”.  Many thanks to our sponsors and exhibitors without whom we could not put on such an event, as well as to the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen.

Now after a little break, we are back to work again looking out for the captive industry. We have a bunch of webinars being planned for the rest of the year, including Regulatory Compliance on September 20th, Captive Benchmarking on October 17th, State of the Union for Captives on November 15th with Dave Provost, Jim McIntyre and me summarizing all things legislatively current, and our annual Captive Taxation Update webinar on December 13th so keep your eyes on our website!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Hard Market, Schmard Market

chartThe siren song begins at the change of every year: based on historic losses in the year just ending, we can expect to see a hardening of the insurance market in the upcoming year. In fact, by all reports last year’s losses were high – Swiss Re’s preliminary sigma estimates for insured global losses resulting from natural and man-made disasters in 2017 are around $136 billion, well above the annual average of the previous 10 years and the third highest since sigma records began in 1970. Total economic losses soared in 2017 to $306 billion from $188 billion in 2016 primarily due to the three hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria—that hit the United States and the Caribbean, and wildfires in California.

The fact that we are seeing a “new normal” in loss rates certainly will be exacerbated by climate change – but that is a different story. To me, the story continues to be how even with last year’s near record losses, the insurance industry (which in the past would have triggered a substantive hardening of rates) has barely registered a blip.

One area we see this in is the reinsurance market. As stated in an article in Business Insurance, David Priebe, New York-based vice chairman of Guy Carpenter, said “Despite substantial catastrophe losses in 2017, the market demonstrated significant resilience with no notable capital withdrawal and moderate price increases.”

There are good reasons why the insurance marketplace remains so stable. Better loss control, better data, and more capital looking for a home have all contributed to this stability. And I would argue that the maturation of the captive insurance industry played a role by giving risk managers more options and flexibility.

Hard markets usually spark a corollary growth spurt in captive insurance formations. As prices harden, and insurance becomes more scarce, organizations form captives to fill the gap. But even without the hardening market, we continue to see growth in captive insurance. As Brady Young, president and CEO of Strategic Risk Solutions (SRS), told Captive.Com recently, he sees captives evolving in the future to be more of an offensive tool to support overall corporate strategies to serve customers and generate incremental profits. Brady also states, “captives can and will do more to reduce organizations’ overall cost of risk and squeeze out more of the inefficiencies of the traditional commercial insurance market… and in terms of specific lines of business or growth areas, captives will help solve the mismatch between the demands of companies and industries that have new risks and service models where traditional insurers struggle to provide the needed solutions.” He would know!

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 (which translates to not likely).

Speaking of Brady, come join us next Tuesday, February 6, in Atlanta where Brady and I will participate in VCIA’s world-famous Road Show outlining the advantages of captive insurance. We will be joined by Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captive Insurance at the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, Christy Williams, President of Green Mountain Sponsored Captive Insurance Company, Christopher Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of MCIC Vermont, Inc. (A Reciprocal Risk Retention Group), and Ian Davis, Director of Financial Services for the State of Vermont.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President