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

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

The Great Wall and Beyond

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As I mentioned in my last blog, I traveled to China right before the Thanksgiving holiday to speak before the 2018 Jing-Jin-Ji International Insurance Forum in Tianjin. My presentation focused on the introduction of Vermont’s captive market, development and supervision. I also participated on a panel that discussed the captive rules in Asia, U.S. and Europe, best practice and the latest innovation, with insurance supervisors from Hong Kong, Singapore and Guernsey as well.  I focused on how Vermont regulators create a “partnership” with the captive insurance companies while keeping a strong regulatory hand on the tiller. I emphasized the support from Vermont’s political leadership as well. This message was well received by my Chinese captive insurance colleagues.

IMG_1613It was a great trip, especially to see and hear how the China captive market is emerging. As I mentioned last time, there is a relatively small number of captives in China right now – and mostly held by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) like COSCO shipping, Sinopec and China Railway. However, there is a growing interest in captive insurance for private enterprises and other SOEs looking to better manage their risk.

The Chinese captive industry is very limited in scope right now. Like most regulators when presented with a new-fangled way of doing business, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission is taking a go-slow approach to captive insurance. The industry in China is looking to pick up steam and get interested parties from privately owned businesses to consider captives. They are also interested in helping move Chinese regulators to broaden the limits on captives currently in place.  And while it may be a long-shot to get a Chinese captive to domicile in Vermont, the fact that they are looking at VCIA as a place to learn illustrates the continued leadership of Vermont in the growing worldwide industry.  I look forward to continuing this dialogue and seeing how the Chinese captive industry evolves.

IMG_1614I want to thank in particular my colleague Geoffrey Cao, President of the Chinese Captive Insurance Association, who invited me over and played gracious host while I was in China. And a HUGE thank you to Christina Kindstedt, Senior Vice President of Advantage Insurance Management (USA), who provided a go-between with me and my Chinese counterparts, as well as helping with my trip every step of the way.  Thank you both so much!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

What the Heck is GDPR and Why Should We Care?

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GDPR… sounds like a former communist country in Eastern Europe. But it is a recent development in cybersecurity that could impact us all; especially if your captive has European connections. And, as reported in Business Insurance in June, GDPR-like regulations could impact the US through a new California law.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect May 25, is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union and the European Economic Area. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas. The GDPR aims primarily to give control to individuals over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.

The regulation contains provisions and requirements pertaining to the processing of personal data of individuals inside the European Union, and applies to an enterprise established in the EU or—regardless of its location and the data subjects’ citizenship—that is processing the personal data of people inside the EU. With the prominent cyber hacks of Facebook and others, this type of regulation is gaining traction in the US.

California recently passed the California Consumer Privacy Act, which reflects some of the GDPR’s provisions, and is likely to be followed by other states. To the extent firms do business in California, they would be subject to the proposition.  While large companies that do business in Europe are already complying with the GDPR, passage of the California proposition would mean additional costs for smaller firms that do not operate internationally, as reported in Business Insurance.

Most experts say they do not anticipate there will be federal legislation on the issue, at least in the immediate future.  And if this type of data protection policy is pursued, the hope is regulators in the United States will continue to follow what he views as the more effective partnership mode, with industry and the government working together on the issue of privacy, rather than following the GDPR’s model.

On a separate track, the NAIC’s Insurance Data Security Model Act is in the process of being adopted by states, albeit fairly slowly. The model law establishes standards for data security and investigation and notification of a data breach in the insurance industry and applies to licensees, which includes not just insurers, but agents, brokers and other parties.

Data security is no doubt a real issue – and one that demands strong measures. It is usually rated the number one or number two risk worrying most CEOs these days. Since most of the data from a captive insurance company is its owners, we need to make sure any data security measures are commensurate to the size and scope of the risk. VCIA takes this very seriously and will continue to champion the right balance for responsible security regulations – wherever they come from. That being said, everyone in our industry needs to take a hard look at data touchpoints and what they are doing to properly protect them.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Credit Risk

Rich-monopoly-manWith the renewed tension between the US and China, well, lets’ face it, the World, on trade issues, it’s a good idea to look at a captive to help mitigate such risks. President Trump just announced $250 billion dollars in tariffs targeting Chinese products, on top of previous tariffs already announced. One could argue whether it’s a good policy or not, but the facts that there will be increased risks in international trade is a fact.

As countries ratchet up the rhetoric and retaliation, insurers are weighing how companies will deal with the pressure. Trade credit insurance protects companies from the risk that buyers will be unable to pay. If governments implement more tariffs, it could increase the cost of production and ultimately put stress on retailers and distributors to either raise prices on consumers or shrink profits. If the stress is enough to put the buyer out of business, the supplier would activate its trade credit insurance to get reimbursed for defaulted payments, for example.

As reported in Insurance Business America in June, the potential failure of an agreement on NAFTA also presents risks. If NAFTA fails or is dramatically renegotiated, companies will be forced to redraft their production models and their supply chains. That will take a lot of money, time and could significantly increase their credit risk.

Forward-thinking organizations with international exposure are now seeing the benefits of bringing their own captive insurance company into the equation as a way to control the risks. Thus, trade credit and political risk are joining the growing list of non-traditional lines that captive managers are now using to better leverage the benefits of their captive.  Structured many ways, using a mix of fronting and reinsurance, some of the benefits could be:

  • Diversification of the captive into trade credit risks, which are not historically correlated with property and casualty risks
  • Additional premium flow into the captive and resulting investment income
  • Non-cancelable trade credit insurance coverage
  • An additional set of experienced eyes on the credit risks that the customer is taking onto its balance sheet

Ultimately, trade credit insurance can help companies apply longer-term risk management strategies. However, the continuing trade war puts every part of the economy at risk, and any trade risk insurance can only help so much.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President