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

Back to the Future… with VCIA’s Annual Tax Update!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week and were able to spend it with friends and family. As we move into the continued uncertainty with COVID, it is always good to take a step back to appreciate and be with loved ones (or ones that at least like you).

One certain thing you can count on this time of year is VCIA’s annual captive tax update webinar, scheduled for December 15 at 2:00 ET. This year we present “Back to the Future” where our esteemed captive tax specialists review 2021’s most significant tax developments and explore the possible impacts of proposed legislative action by the current administration.

Our panel consists of Daniel Kusaila, Partner at Crowe LLP, Chaz Lavelle, Partner at Dentons Bingham Greenbaum LLP, and Brandy Vannoy, Partner at Johnson Lambert LLP. With the help from content advisors Stephanie Brassard of Johnson Lambert LLP and Dana Marino of Innovative Captive Strategies, the panel will provide an analysis of state and federal tax activity from 2021.

Our panelists will also provide an overview of recent, notable court cases and IRS actions. This includes a discussion on “lessons learned “ for large captives from small captive cases and a “fact or factors” segment highlighting key drivers that impacted the decisions made by the courts.

Our tax specialists will be monitoring the current tax landscape through the days leading up to this webinar to ensure the audience receives real-time updates on the state and federal tax environments.

Also, I want to say congratulations to Dave Angus, recently appointed as counsel to the captive insurance law practice at the firm of Paul Frank + Collins in Burlington, Vermont. Dave brings his captive insurance and transactional practice from The Angus Firm to PF+C’s captive insurance team and has been a long-time member (and twice chair) of VCIA’s Legislative Committee. Congratulations, David!

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

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

Thank You!

A HUGE thank you to all of you that joined us for our 36th annual captive insurance conference this past August 10th – 12th. With 500 captive professionals in attendance from across the globe, the event received high marks for its substantive opportunities to conduct business, learn and make meaningful connections.

The conference featured fresh ways for service providers to present their newest innovations and connect with potential clients, both during “Ignite Talks” and while hosting their “Solution Labs”. These features were crafted by VCIA to offer alternatives to the typical online exhibit hall and create an energetic approach for all parties to learn and connect.

The Association presented two significant awards this year, for two well-deserving captive professionals. The 2021 Industry Service Award was presented to Mike Meehan of Milliman, a true friend of everyone in the captive insurance industry. Mike was on the VCIA board of directors when I came on almost 12 years ago and provided me with his friendship and guidance as I worked my way thought those first years.  The Captive Crusader Award was presented this year to Sandi Prescott of Performa. Sandi is head of Performa’s client service, with primary responsibility for the firm’s global client relationships.  The moment she came into the captive insurance industry, Sandi has been involved with the success of VCIA on many fronts. She really showed her chops by chairing VCIA’s Conference Task Force a few years ago – something that Mike accomplished (are you seeing a pattern here?).

A big thanks to all our volunteers, speakers, and sponsors for which we would not have had a successful event. A special thank you to Keynote Speakers Michael Pieciak, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation and Hank Watkins, Regional Director & President, Americas for Lloyd’s of London, who discussed the implications of systemic risk. Altogether the event had an energetic synergy which was a breath of fresh air for attendees, panelists, and sponsors.

I look forward to seeing many of you at our in-person VCIA Mixers and other events beginning this October.  Until then, stay well!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

The British Are Coming… And It’s Cool

We in the captive insurance realm have fond relations with our British friends in the industry – I mean let’s face it, you can’t go to a captive event anywhere without bumping into an ex-pat.

But this past week, it was nice to meet Peter Abbott, Her Majesty’s Consul General at the British Consulate General Boston and members of his team to talk things captive insurance. The meeting was facilitated through Brittany Nevins, Director of Captive insurance for Vermont’s Department of Economic Development and included Christine Brown, Deputy Director of Captive Insurance for Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation.

Consul Abbott was making several virtual visits throughout the New England states to meet with leaders from key industries in each of the states – and naturally, captive insurance interested them the most out of all of Vermont’s industries.

We gave them the fascinating history of captive insurance in Vermont as well as discussed possible trade cooperation between the UK market and Vermont captives. And although there is already much collaboration between the U.S. captive industry and the London insurance world, it is always good to strengthen these ties.

Don’t forget registration is now open for VCIA’s Annual Conference this August. Click here for more information!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Trust

Vermont’s Governor, Phil Scott, declared that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in the state are lifted following a massive 80 percent vaccination rate among its eligible constituents.  Vermont is the first state to reach this important milestone and it has a lot to do with the competence of the Governor, his team, and the many folks involved with getting Vermont through this crisis.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Commissioner Mike Pieciak and his team at the Department of Financial Regulations were heavily involved with this critical mission.  The Governor relied on Mike and his team to assist with the modelling of the COVID numbers and analysis using actuarial science. The work and reports generated by Mike’s team were used to inform the Governor, Health Commissioner, and all Vermont citizens.

The success also has to do with Vermont and its citizens. We are a small state and there is a genuine feel for community that permeates the state regardless of which town you live in or what your economic status may be. This “we are all in together” with the trust of government leaders and workers – who are our neighbors – made reaching the 80% goal achievable. It was not easy, and there are still miles to go (to quote another famous northern new Englander), but having trust in one’s neighbors, one’s community, and one’s government is key. Its that same trust Vermont captive insurance owners feel when they domicile in the Green Mountain State.

And although VCIA will be holding our annual conference virtually this year – registration is now open –  I feel confident that we will see each other again by early fall if not sooner.

Thank you and I REALLY look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed a bill this past Wednesday that makes some tweaks to Vermont’s captive statutes.

Every year, without fail, VCIA works with our members and Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) to bring a consensus bill to the Vermont legislature that makes rational, sensible changes that allows our industry to thrive in this State.

Sure, some years there are some sexy items in the annual captive legislation, like the creation of dormant captives (slow down my heart!).  However, the changes usually look at streamlining and clarifying the law to make it both easier to navigate the rules to the game and do the business of captives.  This year was one of those years.

When starting a captive, there is a certain practical order to things, i.e., the captive needs to be incorporated before a license can be granted or needs a tax ID number before bank accounts can be opened.  The new law will bring the statute in line with modern practices and procedures. 

The act also reorders language regarding protected cells to make it easier to follow. Similarly, captive statute references the traditional insurance statutes when it comes to mergers and redomestications. With enough difference in the captive insurance merger and redomestication language, the new act creates a separate section within the captive statute.

Finally, the changes in Vermont law will make it easier for captives to merge, provided there is unanimous consent of the parties (shareholders, members, or policyholders).

There are a couple of tweaks, but like I said, there was nothing earth shattering in the new act. Just another piece of legislation advancing Vermont’s captive insurance industry.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Confirmed: Captives Are Hot

A couple recent reports confirm what we already know in the captive world: we are in a hot captive insurance market for the foreseeable future.

A new report by the Swiss Re Institute confirms that the disruption and uncertainty in global commercial insurance markets is prompting companies to explore captive insurance. “Exacerbated by uncertainty created by the pandemic, the current rate hardening is the strongest in 20 years and this is expected to continue into 2022.”  This coincides with a Marsh survey in September 2020 that found 59% of respondents expected to expand their captive use by adding more lines of coverage, increasing retentions in the captive.

Interestingly, the report also highlights the fact that there are now more captive insurance companies than traditional insurers globally, estimated at more than 7000 captives domiciled in more than 70 jurisdictions.  The US remains the world’s leading market for captive insurance, used by up to 70% of Fortune 500 companies. But with high saturation among large corporations in North America and Europe, the use of captives is spreading geographically to Asia and Latin America.

Another report confirming the continued growth in the captive space was recently released by the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) called A Comprehensive Evaluation of the Member-Owned Group Captive Option. It’s key finding has been a touchstone of the captive insurance industry since the beginning: Interest in captives flourishes when commercial insurance becomes more expensive and less available.

As I said, neither of these reports are a surprise to the captive insurance community. But it does confirm that the more traditional insurance world is taking notice!

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President