Welcome Brittany!

I want to say a HUGE welcome from the Vermont captive insurance community to Brittany Nevins. As many of you have heard, Brittany recently joined Vermont’s Department of Economic Development as the new Captive Insurance Economic Development Director. She will be taking over from the estimable Ian Davis, now over at Peoples United (but still in our captive community!).

Brittany will be responsible for the marketing and business development of Vermont’s captive insurance industry, working closely with the Department of Financial Regulation and VCIA to continue to strengthen the state’s reputation as the premier onshore captive insurance domicile.  We have already had several calls and zoom meetings with hew and she is going to be great!

Located in Texas for the last 2 plus years, Brittany served as a community and economic development specialist for Travis County, Texas, managing its property tax rebate program for businesses that sought to develop in the Austin region. Prior to that, she was a policy specialist for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, where she provided support for a variety of agency regulatory programs.

On top of all that, having lived in Latin America for a little while, Brittany is also fluent in Spanish. And as VCIA and the State of Vermont continue to explore connecting the Vermont captive industry to the Latin American risk management marketplace, it will come in handy. Although, she did warn me translating our nomenclature, such as non-domiciliary reciprocal risk retention regulations, will not just flow off her tongue! And it coincides nicely with next week’s Online Captive Trade Mission with Mexico which VCIA and the State are hosting on September 30th.  By the way, this event is free for VCIA Members – details here.

So, please take a minute to say “hi” to Brittany and welcome her into our wonderful community, like you did for me ten years ago. Her email is brittany.nevins@vermont.gov.

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

Thank You!

Just a quick post to say a huge THANK YOU to all who participated in VCIA Virtual 2020!

It was quite an experience for us to transform our usual captive insurance conference into an online 100% virtual event. And although it was sad not to have been able to see everyone in Vermont this year, it was heartening to get so many nice comments from many of the participants.

I am proud of our staff and members for pulling this off in the short mount of time we hade to learn the ropes and make the conversion. To all our expert panelists who so gamely made themselves available to the attendees – thank you!

And a huge thanks to all our exhibitors and sponsors without which we would not be able to present all the great content that will now be available until the end of July next year. Special thanks to our Platinum Sponsors:

  • A.M. Best
  • Kroll Bond Rating Agency
  • Madison Scottsdale
  • Old Republic Companies
  • Performa
  • Sedgewick
  • and the State of Vermont

I look forward to seeing everyone in Vermont next year!

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.

The F.B.I.

fbi FThose of us of a certain age can remember with absolute clarity the start of the popular show in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The announcer, in a strong, determined voice would introduce, “The F.B.I… starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.” and then we would have an hour-long drama whereby the eponymous organization would hunt down one bad guy after the other.

Well, at this year’s VCIA 2020 Virtual we may not have such a dramatic opening, and the bad guys now hide in the dark web, but the thrill is still there. Joining us on August 12th will be FBI Special Agent Matthew Wabby, currently assigned to the white-collar squad in Albany, NY, investigating corruption, fraud, money laundering and related crimes.  With his panel, he will explore how companies should respond to an increasingly complex and changing set of rules as our business environment and society move ever more quickly into the digital sphere.

Special Agent Wabby will be joined by a group of highly placed cyber and captive insurance experts:

  • Chris Giovino, who leads a practice for Aon when clients have suffered a loss due to crime, employee malfeasance or fidelity related matters;
  • Heather McClure, JD, LLM, Chief Risk Officer, OU Medicine and Executive Director of Operations, OU Physicians, who leads their Vermont-based captive insurance company; and
  • Shiraz Saeed of Starr Insurance Companies, the national practice leader for Cyber Risk responsible for the strategic direction and expansion of the Cyber Risk products and services.

Cyber-attacks are becoming more sophisticated. Organized crime now uses former intelligence members for more sophisticated attacks, broadening the nature of their attacks, and increasing their frequency. An ever-changing set of regulations from governments around the global compounds the difficulty of managing against cyber risks.

Join us to learn some positive ways to shield against cyber-attacks and respond to breaches if they do occur.  I look forward to seeing you all in August at VCIA Virtual! Register by June 30th for the lowest rates! View all the details here.

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

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

Go Big!

going-virtual

As you may have heard, VCIA decided this week to move our Annual Conference in August to a 100% virtual event.

This decision definitely was not made lightly. VCIA Board, staff and Conference Task Force members labored over the facts, sought outside advice, and kept you all foremost in our minds through all the discussions. Though the full social and economic impact of the pandemic is still unfolding, we believe it will require recovery time to get back to “normal” for all of society, including our industry.

Going to a fully virtual conference is consistent with the uncertainty the next few months brings and the need to put public health first, and it also ensures the industry will have an opportunity to share important and critical information – especially regarding future pandemic risk management.

The response from our members of going virtual has been very positive.  I know there are folks who think we may have made the wrong decision or that we should have waited longer before making the decision, and I understand their feelings. However, we knew if we were to bring you the best conference possible in a new virtual space, we needed to get out of the gate quickly.

By starting now, we are confident that VCIA will deliver a virtual event that satisfies your needs for top-level education and networking, our exhibitors needs to have their products and services seen, our sponsors desires to be associated with a leading enterprise, and the public health system’s need for social distance and caution. Presenting in a virtual space may also open up the conference to those who may not have been able to travel this summer. With corporate travel and finances being currently of concern, we hope this can be a helpful shift.

There will be much more information to come on conference specifics. For now, please bear with us and trust that VCIA has taken into account your needs. Your continued support will be key to the success of the conference, just as it has been for the past 30+ years.  We are successful in large part due to the enthusiastic and committed involvement of you, our members.

When times are tough, the captive industry has a way of adapting. We are fortunate to be among such innovative professionals, like you. We will all get through this together.

Thank you and stay safe!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Tough Mudder

Business Insurance recently ran a story “Extreme sports test liability protections” (Feb 17) which described the challenges extreme race organizations have with potential liability issues.

“Drowning,” “near-drowning,” “animal bites,” “permanent paralysis” and “death” are all listed in waivers for these events. Signage posted by the organizers of race Tough Mudder — a major name in the sport — famously tells participants sweating through the obstacles to “remember, you signed a death waiver.” Yikes!

According to the article, in parallel with the rising popularity of the events are a growing number of lawsuits alleging organizers are liable for injuries incurred on the courses of the events.  The article goes on to say several companies in the industry are suffering financial problems, although it is unclear whether liability issues are contributing to their troubles.

After reading the story, two things come to mind.  First, these organizations should take a page from the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. In 2016, the Association formed a risk retention group (RRG) domiciled in Vermont. With a risk retention group, many people, companies or organizations pool their money and insure themselves collectively. The key requirement is that they are like entities — in this case hang gliders and paragliders — but it could be extreme racing organizations just as well.

“Working with Vermont was wonderful,” Tim Herr, secretary and risk management officer for Recreation Risk Retention Group Inc., (RRRG) said. “They understand the small niche insurance market. The first meeting is always filled with trepidation, but we showed them our plans and they understood what we needed and wanted to do.”  RRRG now has 29 member groups covering the flights of more than 9,000 USHPA members, 83 USHPA chapters, and more than 30,000 hang gliding and paragliding students annually.

The second thing that comes to mind upon reading the BI story is this:  did you know that some members of Vermont’s very own Department of Financial Regulation captive staff participate in these crazy races?! Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost himself, and Director of Examinations Dan Petterson have regularly put themselves at great bodily harm in these extreme obstacle course events.  And I think Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captives, has tried it at least once too!

So, our two takeaways today are:

  1. Vermont regulators have personal knowledge of risks associated with extreme sports, and are willing and able to assist with unique risks from organizations of all sorts; and
  2. Don’t mess with Vermont (or at least, Vermont’s DFR)!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Zombieland

It’s a little unfortunate that months and years of good work to close the gap at the NAIC, and with others, on the misconceptions of the regulation of Risk Retention Groups can be set back in what amounts to an instant.

As many of you know, with the hard work and leadership of Sandy Bigglestone and Christine Brown of Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation, and Sean O’Donnell of the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, there was much progress on creating a common regulatory approach to RRGs and educating non-domiciliary states to that end under the auspices of the NAIC’s RRG Task Force.

Over the past year, the Task Force has been working diligently to provide additional guidance to both state insurance regulators and industry regarding the registration process for RRGs in non-domestic states. The process started last year with a letter from the National Risk Retention Association (NRRA) citing concerns regarding fees and delays in the review of registration forms, supported by a letter from the VCIA. The discussion that followed also raised concerns from non-domiciliary states, such as incomplete registration forms or potentially non-compliant RRGs. As a result, a drafting group was formed to develop frequently asked questions (FAQ) and best practices documents, and updates to the NAIC Uniform Risk Retention Group Registration Form, which made great progress toward the goal.

Unfortunately, in response to a bill that would expand the Liability Risk Retention Act to allow certain, narrowly defined, RRGs to provide property, zombie tropes about how well RRGs are regulated rose again from the grave. The NAIC sent a letter opposing H.R. 4523, the Nonprofit Property Protection Act, and stated in the letter “RRGs have historically had a higher insolvency rate when compared to admitted insurers.”  The letter was signed by the current NAIC president-elect, Ray Farmer, Director of South Carolina Department of Insurance, among others.

As a joint response from VCIA, CICA and NRRA pointed out, this is simply untrue.  According to a study conducted by the Risk Retention Reporter, which uses data from A.M. Best for the period 1987 to 2017, RRGs had a yearly insolvency rate of 1.2% as opposed to 1.5% for the entire property-casualty and life and health marketplace.  In brief, RRGs during this 30-year period were less likely to become insolvent that traditional carriers.

It is noteworthy that the NAIC did not cite any authority for its conclusion.  And at the actual hearing for the bill this week Chlora Lindley-Myers, Director of the Missouri Department of Commerce & Insurance, repeated the claim – again with no backup data!  RRGs are subject to a different regulatory regime than traditional insurers, but that does not mean that the standard is “lower”. RRG regulation by the domiciliary state is subject to the accreditation process by the NAIC itself.

I hope this does not mean a complete move backward at the NAIC regarding RRGs. I have immense faith in Vermont’s regulators, and other allies in the industry, to keep pushing forward – and finally burying these long-discredited zombies.

To view a copy of the joint letter click here.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President