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

Actuaries and Hang-gliding!

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Two of my favorite jokes about actuaries are:

  1. An actuary, an underwriter, and an insurance salesperson are riding in a car. The salesperson has his foot on the gas, the underwriter has his foot on the brake, and the actuary is looking out the back window telling them where to go; and
  2. Two actuaries are duck hunting. They see a duck in the air and they both shoot. The first actuary’s shot is 20 feet wide to the left. The second actuary’s shot is 20 feet wide to the right. The actuaries give each other high fives, because on average they shot it.

Funny? Well, a little bit any way. Actuaries kind of get a raw deal as being so geeky and numbers orientated that they have trouble fitting into polite company. But I don’t find that true, for the most part.  I did have an actuary friend of mine tell me in all seriousness that he dreams in numbers – really!

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Here’s where the hang-gliding comes in: we have a number of the best actuaries in the captive business speaking at our upcoming annual conference with the RRG risk management officer for the US Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. It’s shaping up to be one of our most popular conference sessions and is sure to be fascinating.

Recreation Risk Retention Group (RRRG) was created in 2016 to insure the unique risks faced by the hang gliding and paragliding industry. Tim Herr has over 30 years experience as a transactional and trial attorney in both state and federal courts and has represented the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association for almost 30 years.

Joining Tim at our session entitled Innovative Spotlight: Financing Unique Risk will be Bob Gagliardi, head of AIG’s captive management and US Fronting operations, and Rob Walling, Principal and Consulting Actuary with Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, Inc. Behind the scene we have Mike Meehan from Milliman and Aaron Hildebrandt from Pinnacle providing their guidance and actuarial expertise.

This session explores the process RRRG went through to add unique risks to their program and will include details of the expected and unexpected obstacles encountered in adding the unique coverage, and how the obstacles were overcome.   And here is the kicker that should grab your attention: actuarial considerations will be covered! So come and join us, learn something, and laugh a little…

OK, last joke: How much is two plus two? A marketing VP will say “22”. An accountant will say “4.00”. A mathematician will say “I can demonstrate it equals 4 with the following proof … ” An actuary will ask “What do you want it to equal?”

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you August 7 – 9!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

South Pacific…A Captive Story (Not the Musical)

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I read a news story back a few months which I thought was pretty cool. The government of the Pacific Island country Tonga had received a $3.5 million pay-out from a captive, the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Company (PCRIC), following Cyclone Gita that struck the islands on February 12, 2018.

The PCRIC offers member countries parametric insurance which is designed to payout within 10 days after a triggering event, providing those in need with valuable funds very soon after an event occurs. Something this vital for vulnerable regions when addressing the impacts of natural disasters and climate-related events.  The PCRIC purchased reinsurance from four international reinsurers, with additional capital contributions from the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, which includes contributions from Germany, Japan, the U.S., and the UK, and is managed by the World Bank. Sure enough, funds from the program were transferred after seven days of the cyclone event, providing the Tongan government with appropriate financing to support disaster-relief efforts and effective service delivery to the affected areas.

Gita reached its peak intensity as a Category 4 cyclone before making landfall on Tonga on February 12, where its destructive wind strength caused wide spread damage.  PCRIC chief executive David Traill said, “It is clear that the increased level of coverage provided to Pacific Island countries through the establishment and capitalization of PCRIC by our donor partners has made a positive impact on the support we are able to deliver to the Pacific Island region.”

To me, this story reinforces the growing recognition of climate change and related severe weather events to the insurance world. I believe captives can and will play a more important role as the world confronts this problem.  At the upcoming VCIA Annual Conference August 7-9 there will be a terrific session called Natural Catastrophes and their Impact on Risk Management, which will feature the following experts sharing information on the potential impact of natural catastrophes on risk management:

  • Gillian Galford, an Earth Systems Scientist at the University of Vermont and lead author of the Vermont Climate Assessment
  • Howard Kunst, Senior Modeler and Chief Actuary, at CoreLogic
  • Jason Shafer, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Lyndon State Colleges, who focuses on the valuation of weather information within the private sector
  • John Ferrara, FCAS, MAAA, senior manager at Ernst & Young

Register soon at www.vcia.com to get the best rates! Early rates expire June 30th. We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Vermont has built an ARC (Affiliated Reinsurance Company)

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At a cyber security roundtable hosted by Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation on May 17, Vermont’s Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill creating a new reinsurance option for U.S. companies affected by a key provision of the U.S. tax overhaul.

The half-day roundtable provided a discussion of emerging cybersecurity regulatory regimes of the banking, insurance and securities industries.  VCIA board member, Anne Marie Towle, Executive Vice President for JLT Insurance Management and the Captive Practice Leader, served on a panel that explored Innovation and Developments in the Cybersecurity Insurance Market and Risk Management Alternatives with a number of other experts, including Fred Eslami, Associate Director with the alternative risk transfer group at A.M. Best. It was an excellent presentation in the inaugural DFR series seeking to provide the insurance and financial services industry in Vermont with education and resources.

The bill the Governor signed (H.719) offers an onshore affiliated reinsurance alternative to insurance companies affected by the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax on reinsurance ceded to offshore affiliates.  The BEAT provision included in the tax reform package adopted in December aims to circumvent profit movement overseas by imposing a minimum tax on certain deductible payments made to a foreign affiliate, including payments such as management fees and royalties, but excluding costs of goods sold, beginning in tax years after Dec. 31, 2017. It applies a minimum tax of 10% of taxable income.

It started when Ed Koral, Specialist Leader at Deloitte Consulting (and recent VCIA board member – see, we are all over the place…) approached the State of Vermont with a need for an onshore alternative for those reinsurers offshore that will be impacted by BEAT.  The concept is very similar to the Special Purpose Financial Captive, without the requirement for a securitization transaction. One of the key provisions of the law is the investment flexibility it provides companies. Unlike more prescriptive investment rules, these new affiliated reinsurance companies will develop an investment policy that addresses diversity and liquidity concerns, and the Department of Financial Regulation will work with the company to approve it.

This new law once again represents Vermont’s ability to adapt quickly to regulatory changes in support of the financial services industry.

At the upcoming VCIA Annual Conference August 7-9 there will be terrific education for captive professionals, including Hot Topics with Dave Provost, who will undoubtedly talk about this new legislation. Other sessions include Innovative Spotlight: Financing Unique Risk, Economic Headwinds and Tailwinds Impacting Captives, Owner Lessons Learned in Establishing a Captive, and The Cognitive Captive: Artificial Intelligence for Smarter Insurance. Register soon at http://www.vcia.com to get the best rates! Early rates expire June 30th.

We look forward to seeing you in Vermont in August. Thank you all very much!

Rich Smith
VCIA President