It’s a Wrap – Thank You!

Just a quick thank you to all of you who supported VCIA this past week helping and attending our annual captive conference. By all accounts it was a terrific success, and we could have not done it without the brains, sweat, and time of our volunteer members who made it all happen.

Tina Bukow from KBRA was our indefatigable 2021 Conference Chair, and she kept upbeat and enthusiastic no matter what was thrown her way. She led the wonderful VCIA Conference Task Force starting way back last September to last week’s triumph –  thank you, Tina!

VCIA’s Board of Directors rolled up their sleeves and jumped right into the fray as well. Thank you to Andrew Baillie from AES Global Insurance Company, Jason Palmer of Willis, Donna Blair, Dennis Silvia from Davies Captive Management, Lawrence Cook, Anne Marie Towle from Hylant, Tracy Hassett from EdHealth, Derick White from SRS, Jan Klodowski from Agrisurance Inc., and Board Chair Stephanie Mapes from Paul Frank + Collins.

And finally, to VCIA’s terrific staff! Diane Leach, Elizabeth Halpern, Peggy Companion, Janice Valgoi, Dave Rapuano, Meg Precourt, and our super intern Morgan McCuin. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be associated with such good people!  As Mike Meehan from Milliman and VCIA’s 2021 Industry Service Awardee said in his acceptance speech: it’s amazing that such a small staff can do so much.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks at the October 20th Member Mixer!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President  

Remembrance

With Memorial Day coming up this weekend I wanted to give pause for time to do something I do not do as often as I should: remembrance.

Usually, I am busy planning a BBQ or a bike ride or a trip to Lake Champlain this weekend, as Vermont explodes with spring blossoms, sunshine, and greenery. Like many of us, I treat Memorial Day as time off with friends and family. However, I do believe remembering those who have left us, and honoring those who put their lives on the line for the benefit of our country, our communities, and each one of us individually is important.

My father was one of those from the Greatest Generation – a vet from World War II who never really spoke of his time in the service, and if asked just said serving was what one had to do. Luckily for him, he was one of those who joined the war effort just as the hostilities were subsiding and was shipped out to the South Pacific after most of the Japanese forces had been pushed out. I remember him saying he was fresh out of high school and there was a sense of commitment – of doing the right thing – that permeated Americans back then, no matter their place in socie ty.

I do believe we owe a debt of gratitude to those who have served or are currently serving in the  armed forces. Their sacrifices, courage and commitment must never be overlooked. This year we also owe our respect and gratitude to those  who have been on the front lines saving lives during  the pandemic this past year plus. They have given so much for all of us, many times putting their own safety and security on the line to help others. Perhaps if there could be a silver lining from the COVID pandemic, it would be a renewed sense of the concept of the greater good, service to others, and recognition of true selflessness when the chips are down.

So, please have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend with all your loved ones but also take extra time to  remember and appreciate.  Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Captive Review Recognition

Captive Review hosted its annual Power 50 awards yesterday and I wanted to highlight some of the winners with strong connections to VCIA and Vermont.

First, they gave a shoutout to leaders in the captive owner category, two of VCIA’s board members were recognized: Andrew Baillie of AES and Tracy Hassett of EdHealth. Also recognized in this category were VCIA members Deyna Feng from Cummins and Julie Bordo of PCH Mutual Insurance Company (RRG).

New entrants to Captive Review’s Hall of Fame were former VCIA board member Steve McElhiney with Artex, former VCIA finance committee chair Michael Corbett with Pinnacle Financial Partners, and recent VCIA Industry Service awardee Mike Zuckerman of Temple University.  Also recognized were Captive Professionals to Watch including Alicia Miller of Crowe and Molly Hengtes of Gallagher Bassett.

Finally, congratulations to our colleagues who were named in the Power 50, including Greg Agnone of Midwest Employers Casualty (50), Mike Raybshteyn of EY (45), Rob Walling of Pinnacle Actuarial Services (39), John Prescott of Johnson Lambert (38), Nick Frost of Davies Captive Management (36), Paul Corver of R&Q (32), Renea Louie of Pro Group (31), Amy O’Brien of Gallagher Bassett (30), Phil Giles of MSL Captive Solutions (29), Mike Serricchio of Marsh Captive Solutions (25), Steve Bauman of AXA XL (24), Anj Fowler of Madison Scottsdale (23), Bob Gagliardi of AIG (21), Dan Kusaila of Crowe (19), Karin Landry of Spring Consulting (17), Mike Meehan of Milliman (13), Pete Kranz of Beecher Carlson (11), Anne Marie Towle of Hylant Global Captive Solutions (8), Sandy Bigglestone of Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation (7), Nancy Gray of Aon (3), and Brady Young of SRS (1).

Congratulations to you all… and even to you Dan Towle of CICA (9)!

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA

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

Mike Meehan

A belated “shoutout” to Mike Meehan’s matriculation (yes, big word) to Principal of the global actuarial and consulting firm Milliman Inc.

For those of us in the captive industry, Mike is one of our stars. He sat on the VCIA board of directors when I first arrived just over ten years ago. Not only did he provide excellent leadership and advice as I was making my way through my first few years, but he also provided something more important – friendship.

One of the things Mike does so well is support the growth and development of the entire captive insurance industry. Whether through its conferences, webinars, educational sessions, or articles in the press, Mike is the ultimate “uber-booster”. I seek him out at every captive event I go to because not only will I learn something, but he always brings a smile to my face. And if you have never heard Mike croon at a karaoke bar it’s a treat – the man can belt it!

So, congratulations Mike! I look forward to seeing you at the next captive event once we get through this year of covid – perhaps a rendition of Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” at our next stop?

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

I just received my first shot of the COVID vaccine yesterday, and it provided a real boost of optimism that we are heading out of this weird nightmare. I would never have guessed how excited I’d be about getting a jab in the arm with a sharp needle!

Governor Scott of Vermont, who has been incredibly disciplined about taking necessary precautions, has said he expects the state to be more or less open by July 4th.  As we start to head into nicer weather up here in the Great North, that is  good news. Still a lot to be worried about when I scan the news from around the world: huge spikes in Brazil, slow rollout of vaccines in Europe, the fact that many in the developing world won’t see vaccinations until next year.

COVID is indeed an international issue – not only is there a truly humanitarian issue at stake, but the pace of vaccinations around the world will impact us all.  That’s why it was interesting to hear about the new Global Health Risk Facility (GHRF). The GHRF is a highly collaborative undertaking that insures the transportation and storage of COVID-19 vaccines, and other critical health commodities, for the benefit of low, middle, and upper-middle-income countries. The GHRF has been developed by Parsyl, a Lloyd’s Lab alumni, in close partnership with AXA XL, Ascot and McGill and Partners. AXA XL will lead the risk management and local policy implementation.

What’s also interesting (though maybe not a big surprise) is that  many of the pharmaceutical companies involved with the development and manufacturing of the vaccines chose to base their captives here in Vermont. How cool is that?! Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca all domicile their captive insurance companies here, for good reason.

I look forward to learning  more about how captives were utilized in these extraordinary times. Which is exactly what will happening as part of the VCIA Signature Series, this coming Tuesday, April 13th! One of our sessions is on disaster (and unforeseen event) preparedness and recovery. We will learn from captive owners whose programs have navigated the treacherousness of the pandemic, sure to be fascinating. Also in the line-up for that day is a great session about cyber-risk and it’s ever-expanding nature of threat. The day ends with a private forum for captive owners to get together, see each other (via camera), share ideas and collaborate. Should be a great day and it’s not too late for you to register! More info at http://www.vcia.com.  

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Your Signature (Series)

Join VCIA for its Inaugural Signature Series Event on April 13th! The Signature Series is an online event consisting of two Captive Education Sessions, each followed by Guided Discussion Groups hosted by Industry Experts. The day also features a Captive Owners Forum.

The first session will be the dramedy  “Disaster! – What’s the Plan?” exploring the reactions, interactions, and strategies to prepare your company and captive program for the next unforeseen event. We’ll illustrate real time issues companies and captives faced in the wake of the declaration of the COVID-19 Pandemic and how to better prepare your company for future disasters and other major business challenges. Our cast of thespians will examine the importance of a disaster preparedness plan, its key components and how to craft such a plan for your company. The stars of this dramady are Julie Bordo, President & CEO of PCH Mutual Insurance Co. Inc. (RRG), Hugo Crawley, Chairman of TigerRisk Partners (UK), Gail Newman, Vice President of Risk Management for Bright Horizons Family Solutions, and Michael O’Malley, Managing Director of Strategic Risk Solutions.  It may be so good we take it into syndication!

Our second session will look to answer many questions around cyber risk and captives. As cyber-attacks become more frequent and increasingly harmful, are you prepared? What risk financing and management techniques are you using today to handle your cyber risk? Are you familiar with regulation and governance required to manage cyber exposure for your organization? How do you design a program which provides appropriate coverage cost-effective price, along with the associated vendor costs, to prepare if a cyber event occurs in your organization?

Elisabeth Case, Managing Director at Marsh, John O’Neil, Corporate Insurance Risk Manager at MassMutual, Dan Petterson, Director of Captive Examinations for Vermont’s Division of Captive Insurance, and Uso Sayers, Managing Director at Johnson Lambert, will share knowledge of best practices, and what coverages you need to ensure for, both in and out of your captive, to protect your organization from this ever-expanding threat.

And finally, for our captive owners only forum, two captive owners will lead a dynamic discussion with other captive owners exploring current industry challenges, solutions, new ideas and industry best practices. Melinda Young of NC3 and Brian Johnson of Alliance of Nonprofits for Insurance, RRG, will corral the issues most on the minds of captive owners using interactive technology.

Click here to register today!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Slippery Slope

Just as we here in Vermont are starting to pack up our skis (not the hardcore, of course), the captive insurance industry is facing a new slippery slope.

Legislation approved March 9 by the Washington State Senate would set new requirements for captive insurance companies licensed in other domiciles but doing business in Washington State.  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. Captives affiliated with public institutions of higher education would be exempt from the premium tax.

Besides being poorly drafted, the bill sets a terrible precedent whereby acquiescing some regulatory oversight by the Washington State insurance commissioner on captives domiciled in other states. This is the culmination of a battle over the past few years between Washington’s Office of Insurance (OIC) and reality. For whatever reason, the OIC has not liked that companies in Washington can set up captives to better manage the risks of their organizations. The OIC seems to have turned a blind eye on the benefits of captives to these organizations, and in turn to the State of Washington, and instead sniffly says “we don’t approve”.  

For the companies and organizations headquartered in Washington, it has been frustrating I know. Finding a solution that gives some clarity to their operations as well as boundaries around taxes and potential fines forced a deal that neither helps the State of Washington, the companies doing business there, nor  the broader captive community. At some point, this law if passed could discourage the use of captives by Washington State businesses and nonprofits. All it will do is limit control and add costs. Washington could have instituted a self-procurement tax like several other states – instead, the OIC chose pride over prudence.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Kickin’ it Off!

Great kickoff event for the 40th Anniversary of captive insurance in the State of Vermont this week. Each year in January, VCIA Members visit the Vermont State House for our annual Legislative Day. This special event highlights the successful working relationship between our Association and the State’s elected and appointed leaders.

This year, we switched to a virtual Legislative Day due to the pandemic and it was one of the most popular we have hosted! We started the day with a Q&A session from the leadership team at the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation’s Captive Division. They reviewed recent events and changes at DFR, as well as answered questions on what they saw on the regulatory horizon.

Midafternoon, DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak hosted an hour-long captive industry review, highlighting 40 years of innovation and superlative regulation in Vermont. Mike also talked about how members of the Captive Division and others in DFR had taken on important roles in tackling the COVID-19 emergency in the State – the Governor drew on the expertise and competence of Mike and his department in modeling the pandemic as well as assisting in the distribution of COVID resources to Vermonters.

DFR’s Dave Provost and Sandy Bigglestone provided an overview of the captive industry in Vermont to legislators, members and guests attending, followed by Brittany Nevins, Captive Insurance Economic Development Director at Vermont’s Agency of Commerce, who gave the economic and market report. Yours truly did a quick summary of VCIA, before passing the baton to Julie Bordo, President & CEO, PCH Mutual Insurance Co. Inc. (RRG), who hit it out of the park with a presentation of her captive program and the important role Vermont has played in its success.

The final event was a zoom meeting with VCIA members and the new leaders under the gold dome. Lt. Gov. Molly Brown, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski, and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint shared their valuable time with us talking about the issues and priorities they see ahead for the State of Vermont.  The enthusiasm they all brought to our meeting with our members contributed enormously to the success of the day.  Sen. Balint recounted the time as a new member of the Senate Finance Committee she reported out the captive bill on the Senate floor with a song! (Something she had to apologize to her colleagues for later 😊).

The cherry on top (literally) is that the State of Vermont provided a Lake Champlain Chocolate Thank You Gift Basket to a randomly chosen attendee of Legislative Day. The winner was our good friend Adam Dubuque of Johnson Lambert who has been in the industry for 18 years – almost half of the 40 years captives have been in business in Vermont! Yikes 😉

Thank you again to all of you who joined us this week. I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Black Swans for Thanksgiving

I, for one, am glad its Thanksgiving next week. First, I love the feast! Family and friends (well, er, no friends this year) gather for dinner and conversation – no gifts, no chocolates, no decorations. Just like me: boring but predictable. Second, like everybody I could use a break from the craziness that is 2020, and Thanksgiving does allow one the opportunity to take a reality “time out” at least for a day.

But as my mind drifted to turkey, another bird edged its way into my brain. The proverbial black swan that is at the top of mind for many of us in the insurance community. An article yesterday in the London Times by Alex Wright highlights how many in our world are working to create insurance solutions for things that historically have been labeled uninsurable, like the pandemic.

As Alex outlined in his article, traditionally, companies have mitigated against risk by taking out an insurance policy. Underwriters would spend hours poring over reams of historical data to determine the likelihood of the risk occurring before giving a quote.  But black swans don’t fit this mode well, as by definition they defy historical data – at least in the linear manner we usually think of.

The burgeoning world of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning is looking to change that. The key benefit of AI in insurance is that it can quickly process large data sets and identify significant trends that mere mortals are unable to do.

Dr. Marcus Schmalbach created the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) World Risk Index, a parametric index that uses machine-learning to gather data from a range of trusted and verifiable sources, many of which aren’t considered in traditional underwriting. That data is then rigorously analyzed alongside information the technology has gathered from previous experiences to look for patterns and links between events and determine the likelihood of a major event occurring. Among the areas his group has successfully modelled is business interruption loss in the event of a pandemic based on the data they crunched.

Climate change, natural disasters, political and trade conflicts, all could be better priced in the insurance world with new AI applications. AI can also reduce paperwork and the time taken to receive a quote or claim. Using parametrics, AI can also establish if an event has happened, thereby triggering payouts and avoiding any disputes.  Captives are well poised to take advantage of such innovation.

While nobody can predict the future with 100% accuracy, AI will allow insurers to detect anomalies that will help anticipate future events, like pandemics, and maybe better prepare us for the black swans. Perhaps roast black swan instead of turkey….

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President