Give Peace (Church) a Chance

 

boatsMy thanks to Phil Leaman and his board of directors at Peace Church Risk Retention Group (a reciprocal) for inviting me to join them for their meeting in Vermont last week. Phil is COO of Peace Church RRG, and spoke at VCIA’s recent Road Show in Philly.  Peace Church is part of a larger umbrella organization that provides services to approximately 140 organizations with programs for aging, disability and behavioral health.  Phil is also an active member of VCIA’s Legislative Committee and participates first hand in VCIA’s legislative and regulatory efforts.

I was on the panel with two absolute pros from Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation captive insurance examination office, Dan Petterson and Heidi Rabtoy. We gave an overview of DFR’s regulatory regime, VCIA’s activities on behalf of our members, and how both organizations work cooperatively for the industry.  What a great opportunity for the State and VCIA to get directly in front of a captive board to report on our activities and take their questions! I think they left with an even better feeling of being domiciled in Vermont and being a member of VCIA than when they arrived – at least I know I did!

In speaking with Dan and Heidi afterward (and Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost), we all agreed we would welcome other opportunities to get before captive boards of directors.  So, keep us in mind for your next captive board meeting in Vermont. Having us there makes Vermont look good and can make you look good, too!

On another note, thanks to everyone who came out Wednesday afternoon and evening for VCIA’s Board Meeting and Annual Spring Mixer. The evening on the deck of the Burlington Sailing Center overlooking Lake Champlain was absolutely gorgeous. Add in good food and drink, and great friends, and it was a super event! Thank you to Johnson Lambert LLP for sponsoring the mixer.

 

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Registration Open

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May 1st means only one thing around Vermont (well, maybe our particular piece of Vermont): registration for VCIA’s Annual Conference is now open!

With 1100 attendees joining us last year, the VCIA conference is the largest and most comprehensive captive insurance conference in the United States. Nearly 30 educational sessions will cover topics from those new to captive insurance and industry veterans.

A couple of new features this year include Captive Immersion which takes place on Monday, August 5th.  Captive Immersion will educate those new to the industry on the key services of captives, in a condensed time frame. Includes lunch, an afternoon of education, and a cocktail networking reception.

Also new this year are Learning Circles. Sign up for a Learning Circle to connect with 6 – 8 other attendees and a conference ambassador, where you’ll make connections, get acclimated to the event, and learn from each other!

Our two keynote speakers are NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino and Laura Drabik, Group Vice President of Business Innovation at Guidewire Software.  Mike will share his firsthand account of his missions to the Hubble Space Telescope and tell incredible stories of what it’s like to have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.  And Laura will provide keen insight on disruption, tech and innovation in the insurance industry. Her passion for insurance is rooted in purpose and her inspiring talk on August 6th is not to be missed!

Come join us this August to learn about captive insurance from the industry experts. Explore trends and strategies to use in your organization, collaborate with others, and earn credit from our thought-provoking sessions!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

At RIMS in Beantown

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I am down at the giant RIMS convention in my hometown – Boston – right now. There is a large contingent of Vermonters down here all being herded by Ian Davis, Vermont’s Director of Financial Services.

Our goal is to have Vermont stand out in a field of 10,000 plus attendees at this conference. Vermont brings down their “super” booth which draws a crowd every year for those who want to learn more about our innovative industry, to those who just want to come over and say “hi”. Janice Valgoi and I with a number of our members hold our own against the huge presence of many international insurance companies, brokers and service providers.

And sure, Bermuda gives out their bags every year (how many Bermuda bags can one own!), nothing beats Vermont maple syrup and the ice cream social we host every day. So, if you are at RIMS, please come by and say hello!

And speaking of conferences, online registration for the VCIA 2019 Annual Conference opens tomorrow! Some fantastic new features are in the works for this year including “Captive Immersion”, “Learning Circles”, an outing to Burton Snowboards for captive owners, and a longer exhibitor reception with samplings of Vermont spirits throughout the hall. We have two excellent keynote speakers; one is even an astronaut! It’s going to be a fantastic event. Check it all out at www.vcia.com and let me know what you think!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Lights, Camera, Act(ion)!

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Governor Phil Scott signs Vermont’s updated captive bill on April 18, 2019. Behind him from left to right are Ben Gould (Paul Frank + Collins), Ian Davis (State of Vermont Department of Economic Development) and Mike Marcotte (Chair of the House Commerce Committee)

As I mentioned in my blog a couple of weeks ago, the Vermont legislature passed this year’s captive bill pretty quickly and all we were waiting for was the Governor’s signature to make it officially
an Act.

Yesterday, at the Governor’s ceremonial office in the State House, Governor Scott did just that! Surrounded by VCIA members the Governor signed this year’s captive bill into law strengthening Vermont’s captive regulation in a variety of areas. This year’s bill proposed several updates, including modifications to the captive examination schedule and improvements to the statute governing group captive investments. The enhancements included in this year’s bill highlight the state’s ability to work closely in partnership with Vermont’s Governor and state legislature to ensure its captive law remains the industry gold standard.

Along with State officials, those participating included VCIA legislative chair Ben Gould of Paul Frank + Collins, John James from Performa, Mat Robitaille and Connor Duffy from KeyBank, Steve Killoran and Rich Litchfield from Maple Capital,
Michelle Ambrose and Linda Elliott of Marsh, and Christina Kindstedt
from Advantage Insurance Management.

Thank you all 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

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