The many sides of captives

Ever heard the Indian parable about the blind men and the elephant?  Each man was asked to describe the elephant based only on the part they could touch. The one who touched the leg said it was like a tree, the one who had the tail said it was like a rope, etc. According to the wise Wikipedia, it’s “about a range of truths and mistakes. It is also about the need for communication and the need for respect for different perspectives.”

In the eight months I have been with the VCIA I have started to become familiar with ‘our part of the elephant’ as it applies to Vermont-based captives, but this week I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge by attending the SIIA (Self Insurance Institute of America) annual conference in Phoenix, AZ.  There, I got to see a whole different part of the elephant!  It was standing room only for a session called ‘Captives to the Rescue.’ The participants in this session (80% of whom were from what we can call the ‘medical field’ – including benefit plans, insurers, hospitals, etc.) heard what captives can do for them and for the changing risk profiles.  While very few of those present were involved in Vermont captives, it was clear that, just like in Vermont, this is a growing industry as all sectors evolve to serve the changing needs of industries, services, and public organizations.

Just like in Vermont, this is a growing industry as all sectors evolve to serve the changing needs of industries, services, and public organizations

Kevin Mead on the Diverse IMpact of Captives

Next month, the Vermont DFR’s Sandy Bigglestone will be a presenter at the European Captive Forum in Luxembourg. (Obligatory plug: she’ll also speak at our October 26th New York City Roadshow, which you can register for here!)  Brittany Nevins of the Vermont DED and myself will also be there as we seek to show the capacity and capability of Vermont to a well-established group of risk professionals.  

From whatever angle one approaches the elephant that is captive insurance, it is an expanding and exciting place to be.  And while, just like the parable, no one person could ever have a full and complete picture of the industry, the range of options, services and expertise out there to assist entities in managing their risk utilizing captives is probably the best it has ever been. Add to the conversation by commenting, or emailing me kmead@vcia.com. I look forward to connecting.

Summer Conference Registration Opens!

Meticulously planning, securing keynotes and hammering out the schedule, we’ve waited all year for this and now the “gates are opened” for our first in-person conference in three years. We can’t wait to gather with the captive industry’s best and brightest this August in Burlington.

Our 2022 Conference is sure to be a memorable one!

We’re officially launched! Please visit our conference registration page to sign up for the biggest and strongest captive insurance event this summer on the global calendar. No matter your experience level, you will find so much in our conference that will develop you professionally and advance your career. We have a full slate of dynamic educational sessions, curated networking and benchmarking events, and an environment conducive for making business deals. Simply put, you are sure to add to you captive knowledge at the 2022 VCIA Conference, and more than that, it will be a triumphant celebration of the captive industry at large. Be sure to follow the #VCIA2022 hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn.

I should mention (before I enlist you in another conference prize opportunity!) that I highly recommend booking your hotel and travel flight plans as soon as possible in order to avoid any complications. There are rooms still available at the VCIA group rate, but they are going fast, so head to our conference lodging page and be directed to local hotels who carry our group rate.

I’m a horse racing fan and I enjoy placing some modest bets down when I’m at the track. In that spirit, we are expecting a banner year, and as insurance professionals you are all concerned with risk and the odds that something might or might not occur. So, I introduce you to the VCIA version of ‘How Many Jelly Beans are in the Jar?’  I believe that our total attendance count will be 1,048. Are you taking that over or under? My guess includes exhibitors, staff and all classifications of attendees – i.e. anyone with a name badge! Let me know your number, and if I’m the closest, I will make a $50 personal donation to ICCIE (www.iccie.org), the captive insurance industry’s educational non-profit.  If someone beats me, I will make a $100 donation in their name!  We will, of course, also recognize the best prognosticator! Send your guesses to kmead@vcia.com

Need a little help to formulate your guess? Check out our Conference Attendee page to see who has already registered!

How many people will be in attendance at our conference? Take a guess and email Kevin!

See you in August – if not before! 

Announcing the 2nd Keynote Speaker for our August Conference

Enjoy political thrillers? Then you will need to hear from Michael Weidokal, founder of International Strategic Analysis, at the VCIA Conference!

These days, it’s an understatement to say global geopolitical stability is being challenged—look no further than Ukraine. I often find it difficult keeping up with intricate and sometime disparate elements that bear consequences not just worldwide, but at home. Which is why I’m proud to announce that VCIA has secured a second keynote speaker for our conference in August—Michael Weidokal, founder of International Strategic Analysis, and a shrewd economic and political forecaster. His lecture will be timelier and more relevant than ever.

Founder of International Strategic Analysis and VCIA Conference Keynote Speaker Michael Weidokal

I’ve used Michael as a speaker three times in my career, and I kept coming back to him because he consistently received top marks from audience feedback. I think what makes him so effective is his facility at explaining and distilling global structural challenges, their historical backgrounds, and their potential economic fallout. To put it in a nutshell: Michael combines economic theory and geopolitical situations, rendering them into a real-life political thriller, all the while predicting, with sufficient evidence, how they impact you and your business. You will be both intrigued and informed—hallmarks of a successful and worthwhile keynote address.

Michael combines economic theory and geopolitical situations, rendering them into a real-life political thriller… while predicting… how they impact you and your business.

His deeply researched and vetted lecture, “Global Economic and Risk Outlook,” draws interest from many different industries and conference circuits. According to Michael’s website, the general theme of his speech investigates “factors that are driving or hindering economic growth in the United States and in all of the world’s major economies.” Utilizing the latest data and current events, Michael will provide VCIA Conference attendees “an in-depth analysis of all of the important issues and trends that will impact their activities in domestic and international markets, both in the year ahead and over the long-term.”  

We can’t wait for you to meet Michael Weidokal, and he’s excited too. Learning that our conference is the premier event of the captive industry, he added to me in an email, “I very much look forward to speaking at this year’s VCIA conference!”

Don’t forget he’s the second of two outstanding keynote speakers we now have. The inimitable Admiral Michelle Howard, the first woman in the U.S. Navy’s 236-year history to be promoted to four-star admiral who achieved the second highest-ranking in the service, will share her experiences and insights on national security, leadership, risk, and much more.

VCIA’s 37th Annual Conference Distinguished Keynote, Admiral Michelle Howard

If these two won’t get you to come to our first, in-person conference in three years, what will? I guarantee you amazing and topical presentations, plus wonderful networking and business development opportunities.  I also guarantee you the pleasures of summer in Burlington, Vermont—stunning views of Lake Champlain, the festive atmosphere of Church Street, and quick access away to the lush Green Mountains and the great outdoors. A perfect destination for you and your family.

Registration opens May 16th.

Water, Sun, Mountains, and Captive Insurance…

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

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