Vermont Gets an A+… so come see us next week for Legislative Day!

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VCIA Members: Join us January 24th at the historic Statehouse in Montpelier, VT for Legislative Day!

According to a new report by the R Street Institute’s 2017 Insurance Regulation Report Card published recently, Vermont again has the best insurance regulatory environment.

Vermont has been named as having the best regulatory environment for the fourth straight year and the fifth time in six years and the report cites developments such as Gov. Phil Scott signing H. 85 to expand the state’s captive insurance regulatory regime to cover agency captives last May.  Vermont earned the only A+ in this year’s report card! Congratulations to DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak, Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost and their team.

What greater impetus is needed, then to join VCIA on January 24th for our annual Legislative Day in Montpelier, Vermont, the coolest state capital in the country? 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.

This special event, for VCIA Members only, includes the VCIA Quarterly Board Meeting, lunch with Vermont Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, Commerce Secretary Michael Schirling and  special guest speaker Jeff Carr, Vermont’s State Economist.

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 2018.

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!

2017 is on track to be a record-setting year for huge natural disasters in the U.S.

natural-disastersNot a surprise for anyone remotely following the news these days to understand the year we have had regarding natural disasters. For the first nine months of 2017, the United States has endured 15 disasters that each cost $1 billion or more and collectively claimed 323 lives, all linked to weather and climate, according to the latest data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

2011 set the record for billion-dollar disasters with 16 by year’s end, the National Centers for Environmental Information reported. With 15 major natural disasters this year, 2017 is on par with that record-setting year and shows no sign of slowing down. Clean-up and recovery efforts after one of those major hurricanes continue in Puerto Rico three weeks after Hurricane Maria roiled over the entire island for more than 12 hours.  And maybe I should not have been, but I was surprised to hear that there are still clean-up efforts from when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana 12 years ago.

Nationwide, one of the biggest gaps in preparation and recovery is whether or not states have long-term recovery plans. Most states don’t, according to a PBS report. After first responders have saved all they can save, few states have a plan in place to rebuild. And despite years of predictions from climate change experts who warn that rising sea levels will produce higher storm surges creating more devastating floods and damage, few U.S. homebuyers take disaster risk into account when they want to settle down. According to a February 2017 survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, only 22 percent of Americans thought about natural disasters when they thought about where to buy a home.

As an industry that focuses on risk mitigation and insurance financing, it is difficult to digest this unsettling statistic.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Thoughts and Prayers

Just wanted to add VCIA’s voice of concern to all those caught in hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  We often talk in abstractions about risk assessment and property damage and insurable risk in our business when natural disasters hit, but when you see the pictures of devastation and hear about the impact to people’s lives it puts into perspective the havoc these things bring.

A bunch of Vermonters were about to head to South Carolina next week for their captive conference and just got word that they had to cancel, which I am sure is the right decision. However, we understand what a difficult one it was and how disappointing to have to reschedule (to say the least) after so much planning and hard work. Our thoughts are with our friends Jay, Jeff and all others – stay safe, our Carolinian captive family!

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

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Back to work!

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Thank you to everyone who joined us in beautiful Burlington, Vermont, a couple of weeks ago for the VCIA Annual Conference! Without a doubt, it was a terrific 2 ½ days with great programs, networking and events. With over 1000 attendees from 44 States (plus the Virgin Islands) and 9 countries, where roughly 23% were captive owners and 18% first-timers, 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 enthusiasm for the captive industry shone throughout all aspects of the event.”  The learning formats and interactivity of the event were also held in high standing.  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. In case you missed it, we hosted a webinar Wednesday on the recent Avrahami decision regarding the use of the 831(b) tax election for small captives. Chaz Lavelle, Partner at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, and Dan Kusaila, Tax Partner at Crowe Horwath LLP, provided terrific analysis not only on what the opinion says, but also what it means. Avrahami is the first court case involving a captive taxed under section 831(b).   If you missed it, you can purchase a recording of the webinar through VCIA’s Captive EDU.

Other VCIA webinars on the docket include Short Duration Contracts coming up on September 14, State of the Union for Captives October 18 with Jim McIntyre and I summarizing all things legislatively current, Reinsurance Marketplace Trends in November and our annual Captive Taxation Update webinar December 14.  Notices will be sent by email once registration is open, or check our site.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Berlitz Phrasebook for Vermont

vermont-festivals4fun-imageI know most of you are busy preparing for next week’s VCIA conference – remember to pack comfortable shoes! – so I thought I would share a few tips on “Vermont-isms” that you may hear while you are here (and, yes, they sound a lot like “Maine-isms”, but don’t say that to a Vermonter):

Jeezum Crow – Commonly used in a state of anger or surprise, but it’s less offensive than yelling “Je$@$ Ch^!$&!”

Dooryard – This is the main entry way area into the house for people. Or rather, it hasn’t been taken over by the farm and used by animals.

Mounain – Not “mountain,” it’s “mounain” (pronounced without the “t”).

By the Jesus – Often said in a state of amazement, this is another way of saying “You betcha!”

Djeet? – A quick way of asking “Did you eat?”

Creemee – Forget Ben & Jerrys! When you are in Vermont this is ice cream (although it means a soft serve).

Upta – As in “Are you going upta the mountain?”

Yahd Aht – Or “Yard Art”. You’ll find all sorts of interesting things in yards in Vermont…

Flatlander – Someone (anyone) who wasn’t born in Vermont.

Woodchuck – A guy who lives and thrives in rural Vermont. Oh, and he can probably fix just about anything.

Keow – Those are the black and white animals that provide Ben & Jerry’s their cream.

I won’t be posting for a few weeks as I will be conferencing and then going on a nice, long holiday with the fam. I look forward to seeing many of you next week, by jeezum!

Rich Smith, VCIA President

Two Sides of the Same Coin

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Talk to most business people anywhere and the thought of “regulation” can make them bristle. And with good reason. Often times overzealous regulators help create overzealous regulations that are intended to protect citizens or the environment or fair markets but can instead create sweeping mandates that do more harm than good. To wit, the Trump administration’s proposal reducing regulations for American businesses by requiring that for every new rule proposed, two should be repealed.

This has reminded me of my old friend and former CICA President Dennis Harwick’s dictum he called the ‘regulatory imperative’: First and foremost, regulators live in terror of being accused of failing to protect consumers in whatever industry they are regulating. Second, they want everything and everybody they regulate to fit into a single template.

Captives—by nature and definition—tend not to fit within that regulatory dynamic. As Vermont’s chief captive regulator, Dave Provost, is fond of saying, ‘When you’ve seen one captive, you’ve seen one captive.’ Captives don’t usually fit into a template, due to the uniqueness of the risks and plans of their specific owners. Also, the consumer protection element is vastly reduced by the fact that the ‘consumers’ actually build and own the captive.

I think the anti-regulatory wave could be a double-edged sword for captives. On the one hand, rolling back regulations does open the door for more opportunity for American businesses.  And certainly for captives there have been numerous instances where regulations have had a deleterious impact on our industry, primarily at the federal level, but also in states with little or no understanding of captive insurance concepts.

But deregulation could introduce some uncertainty for underwriters as regulations often are created to reduce risk for businesses. In an article in Risk & Insurance by Katie Siegel this past April, she writes that if regulation goes away, some risk comes back. Maybe not right away, but with a lack of oversight in some key areas of safety and loss prevention, those risks may start to creep up again and result in unintended losses. And underwriters also rely on federal regulations to provide a reliable risk management framework by creating a reliable compliance framework for all companies to follow.

Good, strong regulation is consistent with the mission of the parent organizations that license their captives in Vermont. The best risk managers understand that adhering to high standards is as much about good business as it is about compliance.  After all, it’s their money at risk!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Sometimes it Works!

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There are too many horror stories about dealing with government bureaucracies, but here is a “shout out” to the State of Virginia as well as an important lesson to always keep trying.

VCIA and NRRA wrote letters regarding the proposed changes to the Virginia Fair Claims Act. The Act threatened to effectively eliminate any ability to write coverage on a “claims-made and reported” policy form and would have negatively impacted RRGs doing business in the state. Our letters addressed the fact that the language of the proposal could have been interpreted to include a requirement that all insurers must demonstrate prejudice in order to deny coverage based on the insured’s failure to comply with time-limited policy notice provisions.

Somewhat surprisingly, the letters generated a personal call to me from the Virginia State Corporation Commission the following day, and we were invited to work with them to fix the issue.  Drawing on the expertise of VCIA members Joe Holahan, Jon Harkavy, Kathy Davis and Skip Myers, we suggested a slight change to the proposal that satisfied the state’s needs while protecting RRGs. It’s heartening to me when a state responds quickly and openly to comments, and it’s a good reminder on just how vigilant we need to be!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President