Welcome Brittany!

I want to say a HUGE welcome from the Vermont captive insurance community to Brittany Nevins. As many of you have heard, Brittany recently joined Vermont’s Department of Economic Development as the new Captive Insurance Economic Development Director. She will be taking over from the estimable Ian Davis, now over at Peoples United (but still in our captive community!).

Brittany will be responsible for the marketing and business development of Vermont’s captive insurance industry, working closely with the Department of Financial Regulation and VCIA to continue to strengthen the state’s reputation as the premier onshore captive insurance domicile.  We have already had several calls and zoom meetings with hew and she is going to be great!

Located in Texas for the last 2 plus years, Brittany served as a community and economic development specialist for Travis County, Texas, managing its property tax rebate program for businesses that sought to develop in the Austin region. Prior to that, she was a policy specialist for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, where she provided support for a variety of agency regulatory programs.

On top of all that, having lived in Latin America for a little while, Brittany is also fluent in Spanish. And as VCIA and the State of Vermont continue to explore connecting the Vermont captive industry to the Latin American risk management marketplace, it will come in handy. Although, she did warn me translating our nomenclature, such as non-domiciliary reciprocal risk retention regulations, will not just flow off her tongue! And it coincides nicely with next week’s Online Captive Trade Mission with Mexico which VCIA and the State are hosting on September 30th.  By the way, this event is free for VCIA Members – details here.

So, please take a minute to say “hi” to Brittany and welcome her into our wonderful community, like you did for me ten years ago. Her email is brittany.nevins@vermont.gov.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support in these trying times. I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Vermont = Competence

I was looking at a LinkedIn message from Tim McQuiston, the editor of the Vermont Business Magazine, the other day and it reminded me of how important the competence of both leaders and agencies in the State of Vermont is to its citizens.

Tim reminded us that Vermont has used a combination of strict health protocols and impressive compliance by students to keep COVID case counts down, despite 40,000 college students back in the state and tens of thousands of tests conducted.

Vermont COVID numbers are low per capita and have been from the beginning. Not that there haven’t been challenges here and there, but Vermont’s Governor, Health Commissioner, and overall team (along with the Vermont General Assembly) have remained cool, calm, and collected. And part of the leadership in the Governor’s team is Mike Pieciak, Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) – which, as most of you know, includes captive insurance. The Governor relies on Mike and his team to assist with the modelling of the COVID numbers and analysis using actuarial science. The work and reports being generated by Mike’s team are being used to inform the Governor, Health Commissioner, and all Vermont citizens. With this useful pandemic knowledge and insight, we are all better equipped to make good decisions.

Vermont has a history of being practical. Even us flatlanders who came to Vermont from other places seem to adopt that attitude – maybe it’s the weather. That practicality permeates the state and provides a sense of quiet competence regarding our leadership.  And nobody does competence better than DFR – let us all take a moment to acknowledge the great work the DFR staff continues to do, no matter the circumstance.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support in these trying times. I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Come Together

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This week a group from the Captive Association Leadership Council (CALC) coordinated a visit to Washington DC to provide an educational baseline on the captive insurance industry to key policymakers and staff.  The idea is that providing a baseline on captives with the participation of numerous state captive associations will build a foundation for future discussions when presented with potentially adverse actions in Washington or opportunities to advance the industry as a whole.

CALC is an informal coalition representing most captive association leaders in the industry. This first visit as a coordinated group included me, Dan Towle from CICA, Joe Deems from NRRA, Joe Holahan representing the Captive Insurance Council of the District of Columbia, and Julie Bordo, President of PHC Mutual Insurance Company RRG (a captive owner and VCIA Member).

We met with staff members of key committees in the House and Senate (House Financial Services and Senate Banking) in the morning before heading over to Treasury to meet with key members of the Federal Insurance Office and Tax Policy. We explained the role of captives and the importance not only to the organizations that utilize them, but to the economy overall. We discussed some of the issues regarding the bad actors misusing captives, as well as tried to dispel myths regarding the industry. We heard directly from Treasury on issues they had concerning captives, which provided us with helpful insight.

This CALC trip to Washington DC is the first of what we hope will be many, to strengthen connections with key committee staff as well as home-state Senators and Members of Congress. Our inaugural trip was a success – connections were established with key staff who we will reconnect with if and when legislative issues arise regarding captives or RRGs.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Zombieland

It’s a little unfortunate that months and years of good work to close the gap at the NAIC, and with others, on the misconceptions of the regulation of Risk Retention Groups can be set back in what amounts to an instant.

As many of you know, with the hard work and leadership of Sandy Bigglestone and Christine Brown of Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation, and Sean O’Donnell of the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, there was much progress on creating a common regulatory approach to RRGs and educating non-domiciliary states to that end under the auspices of the NAIC’s RRG Task Force.

Over the past year, the Task Force has been working diligently to provide additional guidance to both state insurance regulators and industry regarding the registration process for RRGs in non-domestic states. The process started last year with a letter from the National Risk Retention Association (NRRA) citing concerns regarding fees and delays in the review of registration forms, supported by a letter from the VCIA. The discussion that followed also raised concerns from non-domiciliary states, such as incomplete registration forms or potentially non-compliant RRGs. As a result, a drafting group was formed to develop frequently asked questions (FAQ) and best practices documents, and updates to the NAIC Uniform Risk Retention Group Registration Form, which made great progress toward the goal.

Unfortunately, in response to a bill that would expand the Liability Risk Retention Act to allow certain, narrowly defined, RRGs to provide property, zombie tropes about how well RRGs are regulated rose again from the grave. The NAIC sent a letter opposing H.R. 4523, the Nonprofit Property Protection Act, and stated in the letter “RRGs have historically had a higher insolvency rate when compared to admitted insurers.”  The letter was signed by the current NAIC president-elect, Ray Farmer, Director of South Carolina Department of Insurance, among others.

As a joint response from VCIA, CICA and NRRA pointed out, this is simply untrue.  According to a study conducted by the Risk Retention Reporter, which uses data from A.M. Best for the period 1987 to 2017, RRGs had a yearly insolvency rate of 1.2% as opposed to 1.5% for the entire property-casualty and life and health marketplace.  In brief, RRGs during this 30-year period were less likely to become insolvent that traditional carriers.

It is noteworthy that the NAIC did not cite any authority for its conclusion.  And at the actual hearing for the bill this week Chlora Lindley-Myers, Director of the Missouri Department of Commerce & Insurance, repeated the claim – again with no backup data!  RRGs are subject to a different regulatory regime than traditional insurers, but that does not mean that the standard is “lower”. RRG regulation by the domiciliary state is subject to the accreditation process by the NAIC itself.

I hope this does not mean a complete move backward at the NAIC regarding RRGs. I have immense faith in Vermont’s regulators, and other allies in the industry, to keep pushing forward – and finally burying these long-discredited zombies.

To view a copy of the joint letter click here.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

And We Are Off!

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Thanks to all of you who joined us for another successful VCIA Legislative Day this week at Vermont’s State House in bustling Montpelier! Our members, including many who came from afar, got to hear from Vermont’s new Secretary of Commerce Lindsay Kurrle, as well as Vermont’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation Mike Pieciak during our luncheon. Later in the day our members met and heard from Vermont’s Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, and House Minority Leader Patty McCoy. Although these dignitaries represent different parties under the Gold Dome, what they do have in common is their unwavering support of the captive insurance industry in Vermont.

At our luncheon, special guest economist Jeff Carr unveiled a recently completed economic contribution study of the captive insurance industry in Vermont. Suffice it to say that this industry is a tiny powerhouse here in Vermont! Immediately following, the folks from DFR provided a Q & A session for our members on recent updates and activities at the department. We provided a live stream via Facebook for our members.

In the afternoon, we testified before the House Commerce Committee, where Vermont’s Director of Financial Services, Ian Davis, and I gave updates on VCIA and the state of the industry. New VCIA Board Member, Tracy Hassett, President of EdHealth, did a terrific job describing her organization and the reasons they formed a captive in Vermont. In Senate Finance, Ian and I repeated our testimony and Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost concluded with a review of this year’s captive bill, S-255.

The great news is that the following day, Senate Finance voted out the bill 7-0 clearing the first hurdle in the legislative process. There are several sections of the bill, including lowering the minimum capital for sponsored captives from $250,000 to $100,000. The bill also proposes to expand to sponsored cell captives what we passed last year to all captives: provide flexibility in investments by giving companies the option to follow the old rules or develop a plan for DFR approval. Finally, the bill proposes to clarify disclosure requirements for agency captives – we may have been too prescriptive in the disclosure requirement built into the statute when passed last year.

Please click here to access a copy of the bill.

Thank you again to all of you who participated, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Happy Holidays and See You in 2020

Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays to all of the VCIA family! It was another great year for captives in Vermont, and next year portends to be even better for the industry as a whole.

As I have talked to many of VCIA’s members in the course of the past month or so, “busy” seems to be the word that encapsulates the tone. I think that has been due to two main factors: the increasing sophistication of risk managers in smaller and medium-sized organizations, and the beginnings of a hardening insurance marketplace.

Vermont is set to add another 20+ captives to its stable of over 1000 licenses by year’s end, notwithstanding the competition, due in large part to Dave Provost and his team at DFR’s continued steadfast regulation, Ian Davis’ doggedness in pursuing captive leads, and captive service providers, who continue to recognize Vermont as the premier captive insurance domicile! Overall VCIA membership has increased 2% this year with 446 member organizations thanks to Janice Valgoi and her tireless work in adding to our roles.

I want to say thank you to VCIA’s Board of Directors for all their support and guidance over the past year to the association. I want to especially thank Wilda Seymour of Franklin Casualty Insurance Company RRG for her contribution as board chair starting in October of 2018, and welcome back Jan Klodowski of Agrisurance Inc. as our chair as of this past October.  Longtime captive expert attorney extraordinaire, Stephanie Mapes of Paul Frank + Collins, came on as our vice-chair.  Many thanks to Andrew Baillie of AES Global Insurance Company, independent consultant Donna Blair, Lawrence Cook of Sedgwick, Dennis Silvia of Cedar Consulting, Anne Marie Towle of Hylant, and Derick White of SRS. And on behalf of the staff, I would also like to welcome Tracy Hassett of EdHealth and Jason Palmer of Willis Towers Watson to the board.

We continue our strong focus on events and on legislative and regulatory issues on behalf of our members. Many thanks to Jim McIntyre, and his partner Chrys Lemon, in Washington and Jamie Feehan in Vermont for their wonderful service to VCIA.   And my great thanks to the VCIA staff! Without their hard work, smarts and enthusiasm, we would not be able to accomplish any of the wonderful things we do for our members.  Thank you to Diane Leach, Elizabeth Halpern, Peggy Companion, Janice Valgoi, Dave Rapuano and Megan Precourt – you are all terrific!

Most of all, thank you for all your support and another great year!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

CNN_SOTU_logoJoin me on November 20th for an informative and timely update on VCIA legislative activities on behalf of our members and the industry. The session is free, for VCIA Members only, and is not to be missed!

I will be joined by David Provost, Deputy Commissioner for Captive Insurance at the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, and Jim McIntyre, VCIA’s representative in Washington DC for an overview of new and pending regulations in the state and in Washington D.C. and the NAIC.  Between these two guys, they hold enough knowledge on captive insurance to fill an old UNIVAC 1107 mainframe computer (OK, admittedly an iPhone holds tons more data, but we old mainframes have to stick together)!

Learn about VCIA’s activities on your behalf, and the status of important current issues like:

  • What’s happening in Washington, DC
  • TRIA Reauthorization
  • Cannabis Safe Harbor Act
  • IRS Letters to 831(b) Captives
  • Update to the Liability and Risk Retention Act (LRRA)
  • Activities and updates from the NAIC, including the RRG Task Force
  • Non-domiciliary state actions: Washington State, Johnson & Johnson decision
  • Vermont’s captive 2019 bill and what’s ahead for Vermont’s 2020 captive bill
  • DFR legislation creating an insurance “sandbox” to test innovative technology or insurance models.
  • Vermont Department of Financial Regulation updates

I hope you will be able to attend this Members Only event.  If you aren’t already a VCIA Member, this would be a great time to join! Click here for more information and to register.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Great News: VCIA’s captive bill passes… but you knew that was going to happen

Thanks to the expert testimony of Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost, this year’s captive bill passed the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor for his signature. Unless there is a calamity, the Governor will sign it into law within the next week.

Here is a quick outline of what it will do:

  • Allows non-profit protected cells can issue dividends to its owners.
  • Eliminates the requirement for an attorney-in-fact bond of a reciprocal RRG in most circumstances.
  • The commissioner currently can waive the three-year exam period, but with the maturity of many of Vermont’s captives, it made sense to revisit the timeframe. This section makes default exam period 5 years, but commissioner can shorten if determined to be prudent.
  • Allows any type of entity recognized by the Secretary of State to be formed as a captive.
  • Allows groups and agencies to either comply with current statutory investment requirements OR come up with an acceptable plan (which DFR will keep confidential). Section 3463a – valuation methodology – still applies.
  • Re-writes the RRG independent director section for clarity.
  • Makes NAIC statutory accounting the standard for the new affiliated reinsurance company or ARCs.  Vermont didn’t need to meet accreditation standards, but wanted to avoid a repeat of the AXXX/XXX fights.

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

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)!

sov flag

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