RIMS

Normally at this time, I would be looking forward to travelling to one of the great cities in the U.S. to take part in the mega-insurance event known as RIMS. Even though we will not be luxuriating in a convention center while pining for a breath of the outdoors this year, the State of Vermont, VCIA and our members will be staffing the virtual Vermont booth starting next Monday.

Brittany Nevins is captaining our ship, that includes Dave Provost, Sandy Bigglestone, Dan Petterson, Christine Brown, and others from Vermont’s DFR; Janice Valgoi and myself from VCIA HQ; and a smattering of captive professionals from Vermont. Normally, over 10,000 attendees stalk the cities hosting this behemoth, but with RIMS going virtual, there is still an opportunity to meet with Dave, his team and the rest of us.

We will be hanging out in our virtual booth so come on by if you are attending. Sure, there won’t be the dinners and receptions, but we are still a lot of fun!

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

This Week’s All Stars

Some of the many Captive All-Stars who presented this week at WCF — Bravo all!

I attended the virtual World Captive Forum this week and it was great to see many friends over the two days. I was working the Vermont booth (remember those days…) so was not able to see all of it, but there was some good stuff on several sessions I was able to join.

The regulators panel with Vermont’s own Dave Provost, Deputy Commissioner – Captive Insurance, Vermont Department of Financial Regulation; Carl Culmer Jr., Manager – Policies and Practices, Insurance Commission of The Bahamas; and Travis Wegkamp, Director of Captive Insurance, Utah Insurance Department was ably moderated by Joe Holahan of Morris Manning & Martin LLP (and member of VCIA’s Legislative Committee). It was good to hear that each domicile was more or less in synch with each other as they discussed legislative and policy updates, new and emerging risks, and the outlook for the captive industry post-pandemic.

Dennis Silvia, Davies Captive Management and VCIA board member, did a super job with his panel, The Art of the Cell (very clever!), outlining the dramatic increase in the popularity of the use of cells and how they are currently being utilized in risk financing programs.

The topic of the hard market and evolving global risk landscape was of course a prominent area of focus throughout the conference. Another terrific panel highlighted the importance of captives in long-term risk financing and risk management planning. Deyna Feng, Director, Captive Programs at Cummins Inc.; Mike Maglaras, President of Michael Maglaras & Company; and Anne Marie Towle, Global Captives Insurance Leader of Hylant (another VCIA board member) discussed how companies are re-defining their risk appetite to take control of their own destiny by using captives to complement traditional insurance placements and fill coverage gaps. Anyone who has not yet had an opportunity to meet Christine Brown, Assistant Director of the Captive Division in Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation, moderator of the session, should check out this rising star!

And speaking of the captive insurance firmament, the all-star panel of Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captive Insurance at Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation (Women to Watch winner 2018); Ellen Charnley, President of Marsh Captive Solutions (Women to Watch winner 2018); Karen Hsi, Program Manager- Captive Programs, University of California Office (Break Out winner 2020); and Amy Evans, Executive Vice President, Intercare (Women to Watch winner 2020) did an amazing job explaining why captives are well suited for crises such as a pandemic, hardening market and social unrest.

Great job all around!

An update from my blog on February 5th challenging you to identify the people in the 80’s era photo. Maria Young of Alcoa, who was present at the party, won the box of chocolates for identifying most of the group. She was an insider, but there was nothing in the rules that said the people there could not answer! Here is who was in the photo:

Diane Leach; Mary Wrenn (now Woodward); Gary O’Hare ; Maria Young; Cynthia Reer (now O’Connor); Sue Urie; Jeff Kenneson; Scott Whittemore; Kate Westover; Nikki Kuhn.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Kickin’ it Off!

Great kickoff event for the 40th Anniversary of captive insurance in the State of Vermont this week. Each year in January, VCIA Members visit the Vermont State House for our annual Legislative Day. This special event highlights the successful working relationship between our Association and the State’s elected and appointed leaders.

This year, we switched to a virtual Legislative Day due to the pandemic and it was one of the most popular we have hosted! We started the day with a Q&A session from the leadership team at the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation’s Captive Division. They reviewed recent events and changes at DFR, as well as answered questions on what they saw on the regulatory horizon.

Midafternoon, DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak hosted an hour-long captive industry review, highlighting 40 years of innovation and superlative regulation in Vermont. Mike also talked about how members of the Captive Division and others in DFR had taken on important roles in tackling the COVID-19 emergency in the State – the Governor drew on the expertise and competence of Mike and his department in modeling the pandemic as well as assisting in the distribution of COVID resources to Vermonters.

DFR’s Dave Provost and Sandy Bigglestone provided an overview of the captive industry in Vermont to legislators, members and guests attending, followed by Brittany Nevins, Captive Insurance Economic Development Director at Vermont’s Agency of Commerce, who gave the economic and market report. Yours truly did a quick summary of VCIA, before passing the baton to Julie Bordo, President & CEO, PCH Mutual Insurance Co. Inc. (RRG), who hit it out of the park with a presentation of her captive program and the important role Vermont has played in its success.

The final event was a zoom meeting with VCIA members and the new leaders under the gold dome. Lt. Gov. Molly Brown, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski, and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint shared their valuable time with us talking about the issues and priorities they see ahead for the State of Vermont.  The enthusiasm they all brought to our meeting with our members contributed enormously to the success of the day.  Sen. Balint recounted the time as a new member of the Senate Finance Committee she reported out the captive bill on the Senate floor with a song! (Something she had to apologize to her colleagues for later 😊).

The cherry on top (literally) is that the State of Vermont provided a Lake Champlain Chocolate Thank You Gift Basket to a randomly chosen attendee of Legislative Day. The winner was our good friend Adam Dubuque of Johnson Lambert who has been in the industry for 18 years – almost half of the 40 years captives have been in business in Vermont! Yikes 😉

Thank you again to all of you who joined us this week. I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Woo-hoo! It’s Official: Vermont Kills It in 2020

The numbers are just in and Vermont rocked it last year with the number of new captives licensed in 2020.  Vermont licensed 38 new captive insurance companies in 2020, bringing the state’s total number of licensed captives to 589.  A “normal” good year for Vermont in terms of new captives is usually between 20-25; so, 2020 was a banner year.

Sure, the hard market in the traditional insurance industry helped drive the surge, but let’s give credit where credit is due: Brittany Nevins, Vermont’s new captive insurance economic development director!

OK, she had some help from the all-star line-up at Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation. You know the crew: Dave Provost, Sandy Bigglestone, Christine Brown, Dan Petterson, and the wonderful team in the Captive Division. And she might have had help from Vermont’s vaunted captive insurance service providers and captive managers who helped facilitate this blistering pace. But Brittany jumped right into the job, and without missing a beat, picked up right where Ian Davis (her very successful predecessor now at Peoples United Bank) left off. In a year when everything else was less than ideal, it is nice to celebrate a huge success!

Don’t forget to see Brittany and the DFR team in action next Wednesday during VCIA’s Annual Legislative Day, held online this year.  On January 27th, VCIA Members will hear updates from DFR and ask probing questions; attend a presentation kicking off the 40th anniversary of the captive industry  in Vermont; and have a chance to hear from the new leaders in the State of Vermont and ask them probing questions as well!

And if all that hasn’t got you interested; the State of Vermont is providing an exclusive Legislative Day giveaway: all registrants will be entered for a chance to win an awesome Lake Champlain Chocolates Gift Basket – so what are you waiting for!

Please RSVP to megan@vcia.com if you can join us on January 27th for Legislative Day. I hope to “see” you there! Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

40 Great Years… and Many More to Come

Seems like just yesterday, but this is the 40th Anniversary of the captive insurance industry in Vermont! In 1981, the Vermont Legislature passed the Special Insurer Act, which was designed to provide a unique and attractive statutory framework for captive formation. As most of you know, this landmark law and subsequent amendments and regulations have become the model of captive regulation.

As a way to kick off the 40th Anniversary, VCIA and the State of Vermont will be hosting the Members-Only annual Legislative Day on January 27, 2021, but instead of our members traipsing down to Montpelier, we will be hosting the event online. 

The event will start off with Dave Provost, Sandy Bigglestone, and their team at the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) hosting a Captive Division update that will review any new or upcoming regulations, other DFR news, and answer any questions members might have.

Then, DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak will host a one-hour webinar with Vermont legislators and members to celebrate the 40th anniversary of captive insurance with an overview of captives by Dave Provost and his team, a report from Vermont’s Captive Insurance Economic Development Director Brittany Nevins, a quick update on VCIA by yours truly, and then a presentation by Julie Bordo, President & CEO, PCH Mutual Insurance Co. Inc. (RRG), a Vermont-domiciled captive owner.

Our final event will be a Zoom meeting with Vermont’s political leaders. Members will get a chance to hear from these leaders, many new to their positions, on what their priorities are for the upcoming year. They will also be able to ask them all those questions they have been saving up just for this occasion!

And if all that hasn’t got you interested; the State of Vermont is providing an exclusive Legislative Day giveaway: all registrants will be entered to win an awesome Lake Champlain Chocolates Gift Basket – so what are you waiting for!

Please RSVP to megan@vcia.com if you can join us. I hope to “see” you there! Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Brighter Days Ahead


It is certainly a relief to hear that the vaccines being developed to counter COVID are beginning to be rolled out. It has been a difficult year, and although we are not out of the woods yet, it’s nice to finally see the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.  Not surprisingly, Pfizer, one of the vaccine developers has a captive in Vermont!

Looking ahead to January, VCIA will be hosting our annual Legislative Day, but instead of crowding in the committee rooms at Vermont’s State House, we will be working with Vermont’s Department of Economic Development, and Department of Financial Regulation to put on a Virtual Legislative Day for our members on January 27th.  It will include the usual Q&A opportunity with Dave Provost and his team, as well as introductions to the new leadership under the Golden Dome: Lt. Governor Molly Gray, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski, and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint. More details to come soon.

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

Rich Smith
President, VCIA

It’s an Election…. Now What Happens?

In case you may have missed it, we had a national election this week where the United States picked who will be our President for the next four years… well, almost. As of this filing, the winner has not been declared and there is talk of court cases and recounts. Such is the way of our world these days.

I have been asked several times (OK, once) how I think the captive industry might be impacted under a Biden administration if he were to win. The short answer, from my perspective, is probably not much. Certainly, there are macro issues that may change if Biden were to tack toward a more open border economy than Trump as seems likely. And he is probably going to tighten some of the regulations that Trump loosened in his four years. Perhaps those policies offset each other, but all the same, I don’t think it will have a huge impact on our industry. And I don’t see much of a change in the IRS’s attitude against 831(b)s!

The hardening of the traditional (re)insurance marketplace that ostensibly started last year looks like it will keep steaming ahead into the upcoming year. That will most likely have a greater impact on our industry than policy shifts under a new administration. Certainly, policies impacting the economy, world affairs, and the continuing pandemic will have an effect, but captives are very good about adapting to new risks and economic environments.

One policy change that might provide a little boost to captive formations is if Biden raises the corporate income tax that was lowered under Trump. The lowering of the corporate income tax decreased the federal tax benefit to captive owners, as the accelerated deduction for losses incurred but not recorded will be worth less at a 21 percent tax rate than at the previous rate.  I will be curious to see if a raise to the corporate income tax (if it happens) will have a perceptible effect in our current market.

So, my advice to you all is to strike “impact to captives” off the list of things you are worried about regardless of who ultimately wins. However, if you want to hear more about what may be coming our way in terms of policies, laws and regulations that will impact the captive industry, join VCIA’s annual members-only Captive State of the Union with Dave Provost, myself and other luminaries as we discuss the outlook as part of VCIA’s Annual General Meeting on November 18th. Click here for full information and how to register.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

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

Mick Jagger is in the House

Bald musician playing a guitar plugged into an amplifier

Okay, we know this isn’t actually Mick Jagger OR Dave Provost, but you get the idea…

Remember when you could travel to cool places and see all your captive industry friends at one of the main conferences that happened throughout the year? Yeah, the memory is beginning to fade in my mind as well.

However, I do remember the electricity when one of the captive industry’s most famous “rock stars” would enter the room at these events and everybody’s head would turn to get a look. Of course, that person was our own Dave Provost, Deputy Commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) – it was like Mick Jagger entered (minus the entourage)!

For all you folks who know Dave, Mick doesn’t readily pop into mind. Dave is friendly, approachable, and has a singing voice like a screech owl (honestly, I have never heard him sing – he may sing like an angel). And let’s not even touch the hair. But captive insurance is the one place where a tiny state like Vermont is the big gorilla and Dave is at the pinnacle of Vermont’s captive world.

So even though you can’t come to Vermont in person this year for our conference, joining VCIA’s Virtual 2020 gives you an opportunity to see Mick, err Dave, in his element. The last event of our three-day conference will be Hot Topics with Dave Provost. Dave will be joined by other highly experienced panelists, for an engaging and interactive discussion on current hot topics impacting the captive insurance industry.

Moderated by Dan Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance Magazine, panelists and audience members alike will share their experience and insight ensuring that attendees are well-informed about current trends in the captive industry. The panel includes Kent Broussard, President of Bluegrass Insurance Company, Inc., an 831-b captive formed in the State of Vermont in 2014 on behalf of Sazerac Company, Inc., one of the top alcoholic beverage suppliers in the world.

Rounding out the group is Dave Tatlock, a director at Strategic Risk Solutions Vermont Ltd. and is responsible for the management of a portfolio of single parent, group and sponsored captive insurance companies domiciled in Vermont and Connecticut.  And last, and certainly not least, is Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captive Insurance at DFR, and Dave Provost’s righthand woman – hmmmm, perhaps Vermont’s own Lady Gaga?

Join us for this session which will tie together themes discovered during VCIA Virtual and say farewell on an energetic note!  I look forward to seeing you all in August at VCIA Virtual! View all the details and register for the event here.

Team VCIA + Team DED + TEAM DFR = Team Vermont

2You may ask yourself (and others) just how is VCIA going to pull off a successful 100% virtual captive insurance conference this August. Well, we are still working out the details, but one BIG reason I feel confident it will be great is the support and brainpower we get from our colleagues at the State of Vermont’s Department of Economic Development (DED) and Department of Financial Regulation (DFR).

Often, when I go to captive insurance conferences, people talk to me as if I were a regulator from Vermont. Not surprising, many folks conflate our distinct organizations because we coordinate so well with each other. I will then explain that, no, I am not a State employee but staff the captive trade association. And even though we are separate organizations with our own missions, we absolutely work in tandem for the good of Vermont’s captive industry.

Now is one of those times I am truly proud of that essential teamwork. VCIA staff met yesterday via Zoom with Ian Davis from DED and the captive leadership from DFR: Dave Provost, Christine Brown, Dan Petterson, and Sandy Bigglestone, to discuss ideas on the best ways to make the VCIA Virtual Conference truly awesome. The State folks brought excellent ideas, innovative thinking, and, most importantly, terrific enthusiasm to the process. Their professionalism and broad perspectives underscored just how lucky we are to have their partnership.

So, keep an eye out for details. We plan to bring you a terrific conference – and could not have done it without Team Vermont!

Thank you and stay safe!

Rich Smith
VCIA President