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

The Great Wall and Beyond

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As I mentioned in my last blog, I traveled to China right before the Thanksgiving holiday to speak before the 2018 Jing-Jin-Ji International Insurance Forum in Tianjin. My presentation focused on the introduction of Vermont’s captive market, development and supervision. I also participated on a panel that discussed the captive rules in Asia, U.S. and Europe, best practice and the latest innovation, with insurance supervisors from Hong Kong, Singapore and Guernsey as well.  I focused on how Vermont regulators create a “partnership” with the captive insurance companies while keeping a strong regulatory hand on the tiller. I emphasized the support from Vermont’s political leadership as well. This message was well received by my Chinese captive insurance colleagues.

IMG_1613It was a great trip, especially to see and hear how the China captive market is emerging. As I mentioned last time, there is a relatively small number of captives in China right now – and mostly held by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) like COSCO shipping, Sinopec and China Railway. However, there is a growing interest in captive insurance for private enterprises and other SOEs looking to better manage their risk.

The Chinese captive industry is very limited in scope right now. Like most regulators when presented with a new-fangled way of doing business, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission is taking a go-slow approach to captive insurance. The industry in China is looking to pick up steam and get interested parties from privately owned businesses to consider captives. They are also interested in helping move Chinese regulators to broaden the limits on captives currently in place.  And while it may be a long-shot to get a Chinese captive to domicile in Vermont, the fact that they are looking at VCIA as a place to learn illustrates the continued leadership of Vermont in the growing worldwide industry.  I look forward to continuing this dialogue and seeing how the Chinese captive industry evolves.

IMG_1614I want to thank in particular my colleague Geoffrey Cao, President of the Chinese Captive Insurance Association, who invited me over and played gracious host while I was in China. And a HUGE thank you to Christina Kindstedt, Senior Vice President of Advantage Insurance Management (USA), who provided a go-between with me and my Chinese counterparts, as well as helping with my trip every step of the way.  Thank you both so much!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Off to China!

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I am very excited to be heading off to China this week. At our conference this past August, VCIA hosted a delegation from China, including the head of the Chinese captive insurance association and the risk manager from COSCO, China’s enormous shipping company. Andrew Baillie, who runs the captive for AES (and a recently minted VCIA board member) moderated the panel with our Chinese guests with the able services of Christina Kindstedt of AIM providing translation services.

The Chinese delegation was so impressed with our conference that they invited me to join them this week in Tianjin on a panel at the 2018 Jing-Jin-Ji International Insurance Forum.  The topics on the panel will include the captive rules comparison in Asia, U.S. and Europe, best practice and the latest innovation. They have invited insurance supervisors from HK, Singapore, Malaysia and Guernsey to join the panel as well. They have also arranged a solo report for me on the introduction of the Vermont captive market, development and supervision.

Right now, there is a relatively small number of captives in China – and mostly held by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) like COSCO. However, there seems to be a growing interest in captive insurance for private enterprises and other SOEs looking to better manage their risk.  And while it may a long-shot to get a Chinese captive to domicile in Vermont, the fact that they are looking at VCIA as a place to learn illustrates the continued leadership of Vermont in the growing worldwide industry.

As they say in China: 我期待着您的回音

(I look forward to hearing from you!)

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Rocky Mountain High

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First, shame on you for thinking I was going to milk our VCIA Road Show to Denver next week with some type of cannabis-related pun or joke. John Denver television specials were a big part of my memories growing up, of course.

Second, yes we will be in downtown Denver on Wednesday, November 7th with our Road Show, at the IMA Corporate Office. Starting at 1:00 local time we will spread the good word about captive insurance to folks in the Mountain Time Zone.  The Original Captive Insurance Road Shows are structured for the maximum education and networking that four hours will allow. The afternoon includes two educational seminars featuring captive owners and captive professional panelists including the Vermont Deputy Commissioner of Captives, who document their companies’ experiences in forming and operating a Vermont captive. Our two owners are a couple of old hats at this game (I could get in trouble for calling them old hats).

Jan Klodowski is the vice president of Agri-Services Agency Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of America. She is the administrator for Agrisurance Inc., a Vermont domiciled Sponsored Captive that provides Workers’ Comp and Health coverages for the farming and agricultural industry in the United States. Part of Jan’s responsibilities includes the development and management of successful Captive/Alternative Risk Financing programs for their members. Jan is a licensed Insurance Broker and holds the designations of Associate in Captive Insurance and the Associate in Risk Management.

And Heather McClure is an executive director of operations at OU Physicians. She is a licensed attorney in Oklahoma and Texas with an LL.M. in Health Care Law. Heather has worked exclusively for hospitals and physicians for over 20 years. She is responsible for risk management, professional liability, and patient safety for the multi-specialty academic medical practice, which includes partnerships with multiple hospitals across Oklahoma and encompasses nearly every adult and pediatric specialty as well as 72 ambulatory clinics. Heather is also the Chief Operating Officer of OU Physicians’ captive professional liability insurer, Academic Physicians Insurance Company, which covers approximately 750 faculty physicians, 700 resident physicians and 700 medical students at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

The afternoon wraps up with a networking reception for all attendees. CPE / CLE credit available for seminar participation. VCIA members and nonmembers alike who have captives, serve captives or are exploring the formation of captives are invited to attend!  Go to www.vcia.com to get more information and register.

I can’t wait to feel the sunshine on my shoulders!  Ah, the grass is always greener…

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Congratulations Sandy & Ian!

sandyandIan2018Two of Vermont’s best in the captive industry have just been recently honored.

Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captive Insurance for Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation, has been named to the Business Insurance 2018 Women to Watch, that recognizes 30 women leaders doing outstanding work in risk management and commercial insurance worldwide.  Business Insurance readers nominated candidates for Women to Watch, and a panel of Business Insurance editors selected the honorees based on those nominations.  Also recognized in this list is Ellen Charnley of Marsh Captive Solutions. Sandy not only does outstanding work for the State of Vermont, but she has become a true leader in the captive insurance industry – someone who is sought out for her advice and her expertise on panels and forums across the country. And she does it all with a great sense of humor and aplomb!

Ian Davis took the reins at Vermont’s Department of Economic Development as Director of Finance only a short time ago and he has already made a name for himself. He quickly became the go-to guy for Vermont in its continuing conquest of the captive insurance world. Vermont Business Magazine named Ian to their 2018 Class of Rising Stars. Award recipients were selected by a panel of judges for their commitment to business growth, professional excellence and involvement in their communities. I couldn’t agree more!

Just two more reasons Vermont is the BEST place for captive insurance. Congratulations Sandy and Ian!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Credit Risk

Rich-monopoly-manWith the renewed tension between the US and China, well, lets’ face it, the World, on trade issues, it’s a good idea to look at a captive to help mitigate such risks. President Trump just announced $250 billion dollars in tariffs targeting Chinese products, on top of previous tariffs already announced. One could argue whether it’s a good policy or not, but the facts that there will be increased risks in international trade is a fact.

As countries ratchet up the rhetoric and retaliation, insurers are weighing how companies will deal with the pressure. Trade credit insurance protects companies from the risk that buyers will be unable to pay. If governments implement more tariffs, it could increase the cost of production and ultimately put stress on retailers and distributors to either raise prices on consumers or shrink profits. If the stress is enough to put the buyer out of business, the supplier would activate its trade credit insurance to get reimbursed for defaulted payments, for example.

As reported in Insurance Business America in June, the potential failure of an agreement on NAFTA also presents risks. If NAFTA fails or is dramatically renegotiated, companies will be forced to redraft their production models and their supply chains. That will take a lot of money, time and could significantly increase their credit risk.

Forward-thinking organizations with international exposure are now seeing the benefits of bringing their own captive insurance company into the equation as a way to control the risks. Thus, trade credit and political risk are joining the growing list of non-traditional lines that captive managers are now using to better leverage the benefits of their captive.  Structured many ways, using a mix of fronting and reinsurance, some of the benefits could be:

  • Diversification of the captive into trade credit risks, which are not historically correlated with property and casualty risks
  • Additional premium flow into the captive and resulting investment income
  • Non-cancelable trade credit insurance coverage
  • An additional set of experienced eyes on the credit risks that the customer is taking onto its balance sheet

Ultimately, trade credit insurance can help companies apply longer-term risk management strategies. However, the continuing trade war puts every part of the economy at risk, and any trade risk insurance can only help so much.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

It was a sizzling conference!

2018collagefinalThanks to all who joined us in Burlington, Vermont, earlier this month for another great VCIA captive insurance conference.  More than 85% of conference survey responses rated our conference the best or better than most. With over 1000 attendees from 44 States and 9 countries, where more than 25% were captive owners, our annual gathering in August has grown to be THE captive insurance forum!

The conference had great energy – people liked the fresh format changes and extra touches, and, as one attendee stated the conference is “the best congregation of the captive industry in the U.S.” while another stated it was “the perfect environment for meeting the alternative risk and captive community”.  Many thanks to our sponsors and exhibitors without whom we could not put on such an event, as well as to the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen.

Now after a little break, we are back to work again looking out for the captive industry. We have a bunch of webinars being planned for the rest of the year, including Regulatory Compliance on September 20th, Captive Benchmarking on October 17th, State of the Union for Captives on November 15th with Dave Provost, Jim McIntyre and me summarizing all things legislatively current, and our annual Captive Taxation Update webinar on December 13th so keep your eyes on our website!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President