Boom Times!

Finally, maybe a little good news in this difficult year. As we all know, the hardening of the traditional insurance market has produced a surge in interest in the formation of captives by new entrants into our industry, as well as an expansion of types and amounts of risks in current captives.

Anecdotally, all my recent discussions with VCIA members have circled around how busy they have been with inquiries and expansion plans since the beginning of the year. Ellen Charnley, president of Marsh Captive Solutions, reported not long ago that Marsh has broken records in the number of captives formed this year. Marsh formed a record 76 new captive insurance companies between January and July 2020, an increase of over 200 percent compared to the same period in 2019 – amazing!

Here in Vermont, DFR Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost and his staff have echoed the reports. Vermont has licensed over 25 captives already this year. For comparison, twenty-five new captives for the entire year is considered a good year normally! And usually the fourth quarter is the busiest for our friends at DFR, as organizations seek to form their captive programs before the new year.

Looking ahead, it doesn’t look like there will be much abatement in captive growth. With a continued hardening market forecast into 2021, and the impacts of the pandemic continuing to unfold, organizations will continue to seek the financial stability and cost savings that captives can often bring to their owners. Let the boom roll on!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

And the Winner is…

It’s award season in the captive community (aw, heck, it’s always award season…) and not unusually several recent awardees have deep connections with Vermont.

Captive publication, Captive International, named the winners of its inaugural U.S. Captive Awards this past week and many of the winners were from Vermont or had lasting connections to VCIA. I won’t list all the winners, but here is a smattering from Vermont. First and foremost, Vermont was named Domicile of the Year. Some of the Vermonters who won include Beecher Carlson’s Pete Kranz, named as Captive Management Professional of the Year; Stephanie Mapes of Paul Frank + Collins, who is incoming VCIA board chair, received the Individual Legal honor; and former VCIA board chair Tina Truax McCuin of TD Wealth received the Individual Banker of the Year – are you sensing a pattern here?

Captive Review also staged their annual U.S. Captive Awards this past week and Vermont was the winner again of Domicile of the Year for the 7th year in a row!  Pete Kranz won Captive Service Professional of the Year in these awards as well, and former VCIA board chair Heather McClure of Academic Physicians Insurance Company (Oklahoma University Medicine Hospitals and Physicians) was named Captive Risk Manager of the Year. Again, I am sensing a pattern…

Many of the great firms and people who received awards from these two esteemed captive publications have strong connections to VCIA and all have played a role in its growth. We are happy to have these professionals among us. Congratulations to all!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

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

Thank You!

Just a quick post to say a huge THANK YOU to all who participated in VCIA Virtual 2020!

It was quite an experience for us to transform our usual captive insurance conference into an online 100% virtual event. And although it was sad not to have been able to see everyone in Vermont this year, it was heartening to get so many nice comments from many of the participants.

I am proud of our staff and members for pulling this off in the short mount of time we hade to learn the ropes and make the conversion. To all our expert panelists who so gamely made themselves available to the attendees – thank you!

And a huge thanks to all our exhibitors and sponsors without which we would not be able to present all the great content that will now be available until the end of July next year. Special thanks to our Platinum Sponsors:

  • A.M. Best
  • Kroll Bond Rating Agency
  • Madison Scottsdale
  • Old Republic Companies
  • Performa
  • Sedgewick
  • and the State of Vermont

I look forward to seeing everyone in Vermont next year!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

The F.B.I.

fbi FThose of us of a certain age can remember with absolute clarity the start of the popular show in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The announcer, in a strong, determined voice would introduce, “The F.B.I… starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.” and then we would have an hour-long drama whereby the eponymous organization would hunt down one bad guy after the other.

Well, at this year’s VCIA 2020 Virtual we may not have such a dramatic opening, and the bad guys now hide in the dark web, but the thrill is still there. Joining us on August 12th will be FBI Special Agent Matthew Wabby, currently assigned to the white-collar squad in Albany, NY, investigating corruption, fraud, money laundering and related crimes.  With his panel, he will explore how companies should respond to an increasingly complex and changing set of rules as our business environment and society move ever more quickly into the digital sphere.

Special Agent Wabby will be joined by a group of highly placed cyber and captive insurance experts:

  • Chris Giovino, who leads a practice for Aon when clients have suffered a loss due to crime, employee malfeasance or fidelity related matters;
  • Heather McClure, JD, LLM, Chief Risk Officer, OU Medicine and Executive Director of Operations, OU Physicians, who leads their Vermont-based captive insurance company; and
  • Shiraz Saeed of Starr Insurance Companies, the national practice leader for Cyber Risk responsible for the strategic direction and expansion of the Cyber Risk products and services.

Cyber-attacks are becoming more sophisticated. Organized crime now uses former intelligence members for more sophisticated attacks, broadening the nature of their attacks, and increasing their frequency. An ever-changing set of regulations from governments around the global compounds the difficulty of managing against cyber risks.

Join us to learn some positive ways to shield against cyber-attacks and respond to breaches if they do occur.  I look forward to seeing you all in August at VCIA Virtual! Register by June 30th for the lowest rates! View all the details here.

A Dramedy Not to Be Missed!

dramedyspeakersLook, nobody wants to be caught in a crisis impacting their captive program and not be prepared. And as we are all dealing with the larger crisis of the pandemic, we can’t take our eye off the day-to-day issues that arise within a captive.  One of the education sessions at VCIA Virtual (our 100% virtual captive conference, if you haven’t kept up) will look at the steps in place to deal with a crisis situation, which can occur no matter how diligent we may be.

Instead of a dry dissertation on the elements of a good crisis management plan, our conference session, called “Crisis Management – A Case Study Dramedy” will explore the reactions, interactions, strategies, and machinations that are all set into motion when a captive or RRG has significant adverse development.  In this “dramedy”, which combines the elements of drama and comedy, the panel will illustrate a situation where adverse development leads to a material reduction in surplus that threatens the company’s stability rating and portends regulatory scrutiny. Various parties will respond to address the cascading circumstances, some more effectively than others.

The panel includes Julie Bordo of PCH Mutual Insurance Company RRG, as moderator, Tina Bukow of Kroll Bond Rating Agency, Gail Newman of Bright Horizons (a captive owner), Dan Petterson of Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation, Kevin Seabury of Opus Investment, Robert Walling of Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, and Troy Winch of Risk Services LLC.  A great group of thespians to give you clarity through observing crisis management in action!

I look forward to seeing you all in August at VCIA Virtual! Register by June 30th for the lowest rates! View all the details here.

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Better Together

I know all of us have been absolutely appalled at what we are seeing across the United States in many of our cities. As we have been digging deep as a nation to try and get a handle on the pandemic gripping the world, the vast underlying racism that permeates our society is a more enduring scourge we all face.

It’s hard for me to opine on the issue. As a white man of a certain age, I know I have benefitted from the too often unnoticed privilege that was laid before me, whether consciously or not.  And, as the father of two young men, I certainly do worry about their future; but I have never had to worry on a daily basis that my sons might not be safe due to the color of their skin. That is a situation that no human should ever need to endure. I too often take for granted living here in Vermont which is its own little bubble of serenity – a bubble that often hides from view the systemic racism in our state and the U.S.

As risk management professionals grappling with the impacts of the COVID-19 virus among a number of other issues facing our organizations, let us be aware of the risk facing so many among us, day in and day out.  Addressing it honestly and working for change is the only way forward for our nation.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Summer’s here and it’s Grillin’ Season

 

I know last week I said summer has finally arrived here in Vermont after a tough spring with 80 degrees and sunny, well that’s nothing to the 90 degrees we had the past couple of days. And like I said that means it’s grilling season.

That reminds me that I am looking forward to my grilling of Vermont’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation, Mike Pieciak! Well, not that I am planning on a “grilling”, perhaps just a light “sautéing” instead. Mike is going to join me at the end of the first day of VCIA’s Virtual Conference to discuss.

Commissioner Pieciak will join me in a conversation with me on major issues impacting the captive insurance industry in Vermont, at the NAIC and beyond. We will hear Mike’s thoughts on transformative changes due to the COVID-19, the current regulatory environment, and other things I plan to spring on him.

Now Mike is a very smart guy and pretty unflappable, but I am going to do my best Mike Wallace on him (for all of you old enough to know the famed 60 Minutes reporter). More information to follow – I hope you can join us this August!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Memorial Day

Summer has finally arrived here in Vermont after a tough spring. 80 degrees and sunny – it makes me yearn for a barbeque this weekend.

As we all take time to be with our loved ones as best we can this weekend, we must also think about the folks on the front lines dealing with the pandemic on a daily basis. Everyone from  ER nurses and doctors (who went into their careers knowing these risks) to grocery store workers, hardware store clerks, social workers and public transportation workers (who have been thrust into unforeseen and at times impossible positions during this time). We owe each of them an enormous debt of gratitude. As I sit here safe at my kitchen table (now my executive suite), I recognize that I am privileged in this scenario, and that others are not.

If you haven’t done so already, reach out to those in your community who are on the front lines.  They might not be able to spend this weekend with loved ones, friends, and family. A sincere thank you to a minimum wage store clerk may be extra appreciated at this time. And, of course, reach out to your own family and friends and stay connected. Human contact, no matter how much social distancing is required, is more important than ever. And being appreciative of others who are in harm’s way to keep us all safe, is paramount.

Have a peaceful Memorial Day weekend. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President