Captive Corner: VCIA Interview Series, 1. Joe Carter

Captive Corner: VCIA Interviews Industry Experts

Joe Carter, VP of Business Development and UE Experience at United Educators, and VCIA Board Member

ue.org / @UnitedEducators / United Educators LinkedIn Company Page

United Educators is a reciprocal risk retention group that provides the insurance coverage needs of more than 1,600 members ranging from large university systems to small, independent K-12 schools. Joe Carter’s responsibility is to set the strategy for UE’s growth. This includes planning the business development and distribution strategies that ensure success. He is also responsible for teams that manage UE’s brand and constituent experience strategy, the Voice of Constituent (VOC) program, digital experience, member support, marketing, and communications. Joe recently was elected to the Board of Directors at VCIA, and we sat down with him to ask a few questions.  

1. Tell us how you got involved with insurance and risk management. How did you come to UE?   The early days in my professional journey were rooted in large commercial insurance companies with fantastic training programs for new employees. I began by handling first and third-party claims in an environment best described as “rapid fire” for America’s second largest insurance company at the time. I had the rare opportunity to rotate through other functions of the company including underwriting, risk management consulting, front-line sales management, and leadership coaching. Then I started an independent insurance agency/brokerage that I grew and sold to a larger agency owned by a regional bank. After a couple of additional executive leadership roles, I found this wonderful Risk Retention Group (RRG) captive that focused on education, a sector that I think is so important to our world. Joining United Educators was a chance to apply all my experiences to lead UE’s business development strategy, marketing, and member experience – a home run opportunity for me.  

2. UE is celebrating its 35-year anniversary. What do you provide your members?   We continue to deliver the third-party liability coverages that drove our creation by educational institutions in 1987. A significant part of our work is delivered well before any claims call comes in. We research and build training, loss prevention courses, and risk management tools that not only help prevent bad things from happening, but also help institutions prepare for bad things that are likely to happen. We are proud that these risk management resources are highly valued and utilized by educational institutions. Our resolutions team partners with institutions as soon as there is a concern about a potential claims matter. They help strategize early, while taking a Cool Head, Warm Heart® approach to resolving claims that recognizes the value of the relationships our members have with their students, staff, and communities.  

All captives need to focus on their differentiation from commercial markets and think hard about why they exist. There needs to be a shared understanding about what captives are really accomplishing for their owners. I believe captives have a unique opportunity to help owners to see risks that lie ahead using trends from a purer set of data and experience.  


3. What have you seen in the time you have been there? Can you tell us a little about the culture at UE?    There are many liability lessons from education claims over the 35 years: preparation is as important as seeking prevention, active and early intervention usually is more effective than the “wait and see” tactics we’ve seen used by other carriers, and treating claimants with respect and empathy is an important part of loss mitigation, to name a few. Our culture is shaped by being member-owned. We’re serving members amid upheaval of the education sector, market fluctuations, and skyrocketing claims and defense costs. Enjoying a personal connection to our members drives an ethos of excellence in member service.  

4. What are some of the challenges you see today for your members and what innovations is UE bringing to them to meet those challenges? We see several challenges that have been pervasive with new ones emerging. In recent years, we’ve monitored how demographic shifts are affecting enrollments and the top lines for many institutions. And we all think about the financial and operational risks going forward for tuition-dependent institutions. There are also real concerns about keeping campuses operating as healthy and safe environments for in-person learning. Most campuses, including K-12 sites, are concerned about student mental health for good reasons. And many are concerned about employee mental health as we transition through the next phase of this pandemic. And there is the ever-present challenge that all employers face in managing risks such as employment and misconduct issues involving high-profile and highly-valued employees. In the education arena, these include coaches, researchers, faculty, presidents, or trustees. UE’s risk research and resolutions teams work constantly to develop useful tools that help break these complex exposures down into tactical and useful programs that help campuses effectively plan and train administrators, employees, and students on staying healthy and safe.  

5. What are some of the challenges facing UE as an organization and the captive insurance/RRG industry as a whole?   UE faces many of the same challenges that most providers do. We are seeing loss inflation that goes beyond just a rise in the average cost of a claim or even a category of claims. The rise in claims costs and awards reflects a societal trend that is punishing institutions of any type without regard to the nexus between bad verdicts and the rising costs of insurance going forward. Insurer investment strategies aren’t delivering much return in recent environments, so there is great pressure to underwrite and price your business accurately and on time. That is a hard pill for owners to swallow during times of rising loss costs. All captives need to do their best job of speaking this truth to their owners. And when we are doing this correctly, owners understand that the captive’s health is directly tied to their ability to manage risks and losses. All captives need to focus on their differentiation from commercial markets and think hard about why they exist. There needs to be a shared understanding about what captives are really accomplishing for their owners. I believe captives have a unique opportunity to help owners to see risks that lie ahead using trends from a purer set of data and experience.  

6. Why does Vermont fit UE’s mission and business plan as your domicile of choice?   I believe that one of the best things that Vermont does for domiciled captives is allowing and encouraging open dialogue. They do a really good job at getting to know the organizations doing business in and around the state. They show up at industry conferences not just to speak and deliver content, but to also listen and learn. That’s a level of engagement that allows them to be helpful to innovation while they ensure compliance. No one wants to see bad captives formed or operating in the market. I believe Vermont’s approach to engagement keeps the marketplace respectable and healthy for consumers of these services.  
All captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market.

7. What are you most proud of as you look back over the past 35 years for UE?   There are many things that I could talk about. It is impressive how our captive and its membership have grown so much since I joined. The staff I have the pleasure of working with and learning from every day are smart and bring a rich diversity of experience. They work collaboratively and challenge us leaders to think hard, consider much, and act decisively. We’ve also been working hard to foster and improve our culture of inclusivity. I am proud of how our teams contribute in many ways. And we’re just getting started. I know we will continue to grow our culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.  

8. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you wanted to talk about?    I think captive organizations represent the best in business relationships between owner and provider. Being able to do this constituent experience work on behalf of those that you serve just demonstrates a purity in relationship that cannot happen with the influence of third-party shareholders. And all captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market. In fact, there should really be no better experience available when an effective captive option is present. No other option can to focus and deliver like we do.

All captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market. In fact, there should really be no better experience available when an effective captive option is present. No other option can to focus and deliver like we do.

Make Sure Your Register Because This Is The Last Call for #VCIA2022 Early Bird Rates!

The Vermont state bird is the Catharus guttatus, more commonly known as the Hermit Thrush. However, the VCIA organizational equivalent is Primo Avis Mandare, for those not up on their Latin–the Early Bird! Leaving just as the Hermit Thrush arrives for its summer visit, the Early Bird’s call is ‘cheaper, cheaper!’ If you’re not quick you will miss its beautiful song because this seasonal visitor departs in just 6 days, having been seen by over 500 people. Primo Avis Mandare is certainly not shy and likes all kinds of attention, so grab your bird call whistle and binoculars and make sure you register for the 2022 VCIA Conference before the clock strikes midnight on Friday July 1st when Early Bird migrates away! I suggest you dally no longer and secure your spot at the captive industry’s biggest and best summer conference by booking your attendance via this link. 

The early bird gets the worm, or in #VCIA2022’s case, gets the best registration rates, which end June 30th!

VCIA’s 37th Annual Conference–our first in-person in 2019–promises to be an outstanding week of special events, productive networking, and, I’m not afraid to say it, the best captive education you’ll find on the planet.

The variety and depth of sessions, all incorporating the latest trends, emerging risks, and legal contexts, form the foundation of #VCIA2022. You will discuss captives and collaborate on ideas related to climate change, social inflation, tax developments, InsureTech (to name just a few). Simply put, nothing can match that experience without being on the ground in Burlington, Vermont the week of August 8th. Hundreds of captive professionals tend to agree with my perspective. We have attracted a strong crowd to register for the conference already, and we expect our current 500+ count to surge as the expiration of the discount approaches. 

Make memories at #VCIA2022. Register now to secure your early bird rate!

A major focus of mine as the new VCIA president is value. What value has VCIA brought to its members and stakeholders in the past and how can I improve upon that? I meet with people and companies on a regular basis to hear their needs and understand how VCIA can help. In the same way, #VCIA2022 is all about value. We’ve built into a week’s schedule as much as quality possible so you benefit from the value of the finest captive educational content and networking opportunities.

#VCIA2022 is all about value. We’ve built into a week’s schedule as much quality as possible so you benefit from the value of the finest captive educational content and networking opportunities.

VCIA President Kevin Mead

Don’t just take it from me. Dozens of talented captive professionals have been working hard for months to produce something special. I refer to the Conference Task Force and VCIA’s Director of Education and Programming Diane Leach. The 2022 Chair of the Conference Task Force, Ian Davis, Senior Vice President, Captive Insurance Relationship Manager at People’s United Bank, realizes the anticipation for #VCIA2022 is growing and can’t wait to share the fruits of our team’s labor. “We know how much it means for the industry to get together and you will see that on full display at the conference, guaranteed. We’ve designed the conference to emphasize engagement, to explore important ideas and how they can benefit our companies, and to celebrate how we all are moving the captive world forward.”

I for one am proud as hell for all the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve put into our Annual Conference. I’m also super excited. Together with some of you, this will be my first VCIA Conference, and I am really looking forward to being able to start and build relationships and connections that will mutually benefit the VCIA and the entire industry.

First step? Spot the early bird and register today! See you sooner than you think!

The Results Are In

You all saw it coming. The number of captives licensed in Vermont last year eclipsed 2020 – already a banner year. Sure, almost every captive domicile had a good year, but even with over 40 states establishing captive laws, Vermont stands head and shoulders above.

Here are the hard numbers: Forty-five new captive insurance companies were licensed this past year in Vermont, making 2021 Vermont’s 4th highest year of growth in its 40-year history. Vermont is now home to 620 licensed captives, consisting of 589 active and 31 dormant captives. Vermont’s 52 sponsored cell captives currently host nearly 500 cells and separate accounts, in addition to the licensed captive companies.

The new captives were licensed in 17 different industries, the main industries being healthcare, real estate, manufacturing, insurance, and transportation. At least 5 of Vermont’s new captives in 2021 were formed by companies with international roots, including Japan, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Vermont has been experiencing growth in the number of new cells within sponsored captives, at a similar pace as new company licenses, with nine of the 45 new companies formed this year being sponsored cell companies.

Vermont has licensed a total of 1,242 captive insurance companies since 1981 and remains, by far, the largest U.S. domicile for captive insurance and third largest in the world. With an active pipeline of prospective new captive insurance companies already underway for 2022, the state expects continued growth in the coming year.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Happy Holidays!

As we close out the year it is a great time to reflect on the last 12 months – or longer. It certainly has been a challenging year for all of us, but I can say without reservation how grateful I am to have been a part of this great industry for the past 12 years.

The friends I have made as head of VCIA are amazing. All of you have made my job joyful which is not something everyone can say, I know. You all know how fabulous the folks who work in the captive insurance space at the State of Vermont are – truly a pleasure to work with Dave Provost, Sandy Bigglestone, Dan Petterson, Christine Brown, Becky Aitchison, and Brittany Nevins.

VCIA’s Board of Directors day in and day out have provided their time, energy, guidance, and friendship through a year where they had to face many challenging decisions. My thanks to Andrew Baillie, Donna Blair, Joe Carter, Lawrence Cook, Tracy Hassett, Stephanie Mapes, Gail Newman, Jason Palmer, Dennis Silvia, Anne Marie Towle, and Derick White.

And to work with the great staff at VCIA in these tumultuous times has shown me just how wonderful they all are. Thank you so much Diane Leach, Elizabeth Halpern (who leaves us at the end of the year – sniff), Peggy Companion, Janice Valgoi, Dave Rapuano, and Meg Precourt for everything!

Even in these uncertain times, we are looking for a brighter future with 2022 and it gives me such comfort to know what good people there are out there.

Happy Holidays!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Hail to 40 Years!

Vermont’s 40th anniversary year of the inception of its captive industry is drawing to a close. Since 1981, Vermont has worked hard to be the top U.S. domicile and continues to strive for excellence. Currently, VCIA is working with Dave Provost and Sandy Bigglestone and their team at DFR to build another captive bill to be introduced into Vermont’s General Assembly.

Over the past two years of COVID challenges, the Gold Standard has never been so apropos as Vermont lead the captive insurance industry in incredible growth and resiliency. I could not be prouder to be a part of this great work.

Brittany Nevins, in her role as Captive Insurance Economic Development Director, has put together a terrific short film highlighting relationships, accomplishments, future goals—and really what it means to be part of the Vermont captive family. I hope you will watch and encourage you to share.

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

COP 26

As the world’s leaders conclude their two-week summit in Scotland it is good to see some of the leadership in the insurance industry involved in the most critical issue facing all of us today. Many in the insurance industry are working positively to promote policies that will help mitigate climate change – or at least don’t add to the problem – such as new ESG guidelines for the company, looking at the impact of placing climate risks in their portfolios, new modeling, and reassessing where to invest the huge assets the insurance industry has under management. Reinsurers rank climate change as the top risk facing the global insurance industry, according to PwC’s latest survey.

Climate policy is a risk management system, and the industry needs to provide a comprehensive vision for risk sharing going forward. There are many complex issues to be worked out for both the insurers and their insured for sure, however, a cleared-eyed approach by all parties can get us there.

Innovations like from AXA XL which has launched a tool that maps current and future flood hazards resulting from climate change and integrates the protective benefits of coastal ecosystems into insurance risk models, is a great example of where the industry can lead.

There is a theory in the risk management world, however, that insurance can be seen as a barrier to the kind of innovation needed to tackle the hard nut that is climate change. Providing P&C insurance, or D&O insurance, to a client without concern for the long-term impacts climate change can bring can remove the responsibility from the clients. Adding to this, innovative changes to infrastructure, along with the recent technologies used to build resilience, can be hard to insure as they rarely have claims history. This makes it difficult for the insurance sector to price the risk.

I think the basic principle behind captive insurance will accelerate solutions. With captives, organizations take direct responsibility for their risks – they now own it. The data on how to mitigate climate risk comes from their captive which allows them to be more focused on pursuing resilience at all levels. No longer is there a large, anonymous insurance company obscuring leaders from understanding and acting to better protect their own properties, employees, supply chains, and ultimately shareholders. And captives are innovative. They have the ability to take specific risks for an organization that might be looking at pioneering ways to use new technologies to protect from the impacts of climate change.

I remain hopeful that with a comprehensive and coordinated effort from all facets of society and industry we can turn the corner on climate change. Captive insurance will be part of that solution.

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

The People of Washington Have Spoken!

Captive Review reported that Washington State voters rejected a recent law that imposes premium taxes on captive insurance companies licensed in other states that are doing business in Washington State this past Tuesday! When asked to give their views on introducing the 2% premium tax, voters opposed it by a 19 point margin. It was just one of a number of new taxes rejected by voters under the advisory votes on tax increases that must be held under state law.

As you all have heard me say in an earlier post, the Washington State captive law passed earlier this year sets a terrible precedent whereby acquiescing some regulatory oversight by the Washington State insurance commissioner on captives domiciled in other states. Under the legislation, S.B. 5315, captives licensed elsewhere and operating in Washington would be required to pay an initial registration fee of $2,500 and be assessed an annual two percent premium tax on insurance provided to their parents or affiliates for Washington risks.

The reality is that the non-binding vote is unlikely to have an impact – the law will remain in effect unless state legislators vote to repeal the measure, which is unlikely to happen. I don’t think Washington State citizens delved into the issue of the captive tax and, after weighing the strong evidence of its inappropriateness, decided to reject it. No, this was a broad anti-tax vote on several taxation measures in the state, and the captive tax was dumped into a bunch of other unpopular taxes.

That being said, the vote did give me a moment of hope!

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Member Mixer

Thank you to all our members who joined us this past Wednesday evening for VCIA’s open board meeting, DFR Q & A, and Mixer. It was so nice to see people gathering once again, even if somewhat cautiously, for VCIA’s first in-person event since the beginning of COVID.

Besides hearing the litany on how many legislative items we are watching down in DC that will likely not move this Congress due to the continued gridlock, members got to hear Dave Provost and Dan Petterson from Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation provide an update on their work and changes in the future that they will see.  Brittany Nevins , Vermont’s Director of Captive Marketing, screened a new video she produced extolling the virtues as Vermont as a captive domicile for members. It was a terrific piece that will be used in the State’s marketing efforts going forward. One of the “stars” of the video was VCIA new board member, Joe Carter, from United Educators, who did a super job outlining what makes Vermont so special for captive owners.

Dave provided an update on the number of captives being licensed this year and it sounds like its going to be a record breaker. Over 40 have been approved to date and we usually see a wave of applications toward the end of the year as organizations scramble to get their captives licensed. That said, we could easily hit 50 new captives this year. A good year for new captives licensed in Vermont is usually around 25. Another interesting note, DFR is seeing far fewer dissolutions and redomestications out of Vermont then normal, meaning that current captives are not only happy but thriving. Dan reported that DFR was fully staffed and ready to take on the workload that these new captives promise.

The reception was a terrific way to cap off the day with an opportunity to see and say “hi” to many of our old and new friends alike. A special shoutout to former board member, and good friend, Ed Koral who traveled all the way from New York City to joins us that evening. I think the prize for the greatest distance traveled for the event was by Andrew Zoller, the new Head of International & Captive Solutions – US Commercial Insurance for Zurich North America, who flew in from Dallas.  Welcome to the family, Andrew!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Stay well and see you soon!

Is Gridlock Good for Captives?

Not surprising news that Capitol Hill continues to be the most dysfunctional place in the United States. Even must-pass bills or bills where there is broad consensus around the priorities, such as the debt ceiling or infrastructure support, are being held hostage by more acrimonious politics than ever before. I spent three years on Capitol Hill and loved my time there. Not that it wasn’t political and sometimes rancorous, but there was a general feeling that we were all there for the greater good.

Enough gloom on the situation – the question remains is this dysfunction in any way good for the captive industry? Since insurance policy is primarily state driven, it might seem not to matter. However, as we have seen in the not too distant past, actions in Washington can have an effect on our industry, usually as collateral damage. The passage of the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA) is one good example. NRRA was not intended to pertain to captives, but because it was poorly drafted and tacked onto a bill barreling through Congress (Dodd-Frank) it is now interpreted that way.

The positive effect of Congressional dysfunction is that almost nothing will pass in the near term. That’s not to say that there aren’t bills of interest to our industry, such as PRIA (a government-backed pandemic reinsurance program similar to TRIA), updates to the LRRA, or the cannabis bill that creates a safe harbor for financial services to provide products where pot is legal.

My take on it is that Washington gridlock is not good for captive insurance. Risk management is increasingly important, and taking more of a center stage in broader policy discussions at the national level. So it would benefit everyone (captive owners, the industry and the country) if Congress were a place where one could work with both sides of the aisle to move a good piece of legislation forward. Presently, nothing is likely to pass – unless it is tacked on to a bill that finally gets dislodged. And that is not the best way for good policy to take place.

Two bits of news regarding captive people: First, VCIA board member Lawrence Cook has joined Somers Risk Services as director of client services, where he will be responsible for enhancing client relations and services as well as special project work, marketing support, and partner company relations. Prior to joining Somers Risk, Lawrence was the director, program management, for Sedgwick. Congratulations, Lawrence!

Second, Jay Branum resigned from his position as the director of captives in the South Carolina Department of Insurance (SCDOI). Jay joined the SCDOI in late 2013 as captive director, a newly created position, and in his time there South Carolina experienced tremendous captive insurance growth. Even though Vermont and South Carolina are competitors in the captive insurance arena, Jay has always been helpful and willing to share his many years of wisdom with me. He is truly a class act, and VCIA wishes him all the best in his new endeavors.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our Member Mixer next Wednesday, October 20th at the Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain! Register here.

Stay well, and see you soon!
Rich Smith,
VCIA President

John Primmer

Sad to hear of the passing of another great name in Vermont’s captive insurance history last month. John Primmer was one of the legal minds behind the original captive insurance law passed in Vermont 40 years ago that almost every state that has adopted captive laws since has copied – for good reason!

John was a founding partner of the Vermont law firm of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, which not only being one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in Vermont, is still one of the powerhouses in the captive legal realm. Prominent captive lawyers such as Jeff Johnson, Randy Wachsmann, Jesse Crary, Ryan Gadapee, and Rusty Young are some of the most sought-after legal minds in the industry.  VCIA also has relied on the government affairs team at the firm lead by the estimable Jamie Feehan for many years.

Retiring a number of years ago, John lived in a part of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom – a place of great beauty even by Vermont standards.  He was a wonderful father and husband, great cook and great host, and a true friend of many in the captive insurance industry. Rest in peace, John.

Rich Smith
VCIA President