Remembering George Chaffee


A true giant of the captive insurance industry has recently passed away. George Chaffee, Jr., founding director of VCIA, (shown above at the VCIA Annual Conference) died on February 6, 2021 in Vermont. Though he was a Harvard graduate with a degree in Engineering & Applied Physics, George worked in the insurance field all of his life, starting as an adjuster with Kemper Insurance in Boston in 1961.  I remember him as being kind and welcoming to me as a newbie in the industry over 10 years ago.

George became Deputy Commissioner of the State of Vermont Banking & Insurance Department in 1977 and was appointed by VT Governor Richard Snelling as Commissioner of the department on March 21, 1980. This being the 40th anniversary of Vermont as a captive domicile, it is especially poignant to note that George introduced landmark legislation in 1981 creating the Vermont Captive Insurance industry, eventually ensuring that the State of Vermont would become a domicile for the captive industry.  VT Governor Jim Douglas cited George for his significant contributions to the State of Vermont, and recognized that he was one of the world’s leaders in the captive industry, in addition to contributing in a major way to Vermont’s economic development.  George was also the founding Director of the Vermont Captive Insurance Association and was instrumental in the growth and success of VCIA.

Throughout his life, George touched many people in Vermont and the captive industry. So many of the industry’s leaders today have strong connections to him. He will be deeply missed. George was also known for owning various motorcycles and enjoyed many trips with friends throughout Vermont and beyond.  He was a licensed pilot and even built two of his own planes, both of which he flew avidly.  There is at least one story of him landing one of his planes in a tree – unscathed of course!

All of us at VCIA send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, LouAnn, and his many loving family members, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends.  Farewell, George.

Thank you, 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

And We Are Off!

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Thanks to all of you who joined us for another successful VCIA Legislative Day this week at Vermont’s State House in bustling Montpelier! Our members, including many who came from afar, got to hear from Vermont’s new Secretary of Commerce Lindsay Kurrle, as well as Vermont’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation Mike Pieciak during our luncheon. Later in the day our members met and heard from Vermont’s Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, and House Minority Leader Patty McCoy. Although these dignitaries represent different parties under the Gold Dome, what they do have in common is their unwavering support of the captive insurance industry in Vermont.

At our luncheon, special guest economist Jeff Carr unveiled a recently completed economic contribution study of the captive insurance industry in Vermont. Suffice it to say that this industry is a tiny powerhouse here in Vermont! Immediately following, the folks from DFR provided a Q & A session for our members on recent updates and activities at the department. We provided a live stream via Facebook for our members.

In the afternoon, we testified before the House Commerce Committee, where Vermont’s Director of Financial Services, Ian Davis, and I gave updates on VCIA and the state of the industry. New VCIA Board Member, Tracy Hassett, President of EdHealth, did a terrific job describing her organization and the reasons they formed a captive in Vermont. In Senate Finance, Ian and I repeated our testimony and Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost concluded with a review of this year’s captive bill, S-255.

The great news is that the following day, Senate Finance voted out the bill 7-0 clearing the first hurdle in the legislative process. There are several sections of the bill, including lowering the minimum capital for sponsored captives from $250,000 to $100,000. The bill also proposes to expand to sponsored cell captives what we passed last year to all captives: provide flexibility in investments by giving companies the option to follow the old rules or develop a plan for DFR approval. Finally, the bill proposes to clarify disclosure requirements for agency captives – we may have been too prescriptive in the disclosure requirement built into the statute when passed last year.

Please click here to access a copy of the bill.

Thank you again to all of you who participated, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

It’s Your Reputation on the Line

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On Monday, August 19, a group of high-powered American executives, including seven of the large commercial insurers, published a statement on the role of shareholders in corporate governance that departs sharply from tradition.  The “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” put forth by the Business Roundtable asserts that corporations have greater obligations beyond generating profits for shareholders. In short, they are responsible for creating better lives for all their stakeholders.  Putting these parties first and treating them ethically is ultimately what keeps businesses going and the economy growing.

Shareholders have long been corporations’ top priority because disappointing them means withdrawal of their investment at best, and at worst, the potential for securities class action lawsuits. Businesses now operate in an environment of heightened reputation risk that has a tangible impact on income statements. Loss of customer loyalty and diminished brand value are real consequences of social irresponsibility, and these ultimately impact revenue and profit.  As important as the change in priority might be overall, it will add to the growing reputational risk profile of every organization.  That is one of the main reasons VCIA is hosting a webinar on reputational risk and how captive programs can help mitigate it, on October 23rd.

It can be said that reputation is a product of expectations. Often misunderstood and inadequately addressed, reputation risk is the peril of economic harm from leaving stakeholders disappointed and angry. Negative media and social media coverage are often a byproduct, amplifying that disappointment and anger. When reputational crises occur, they impact businesses commercially and financially, and their leadership personally. The August 2019 Business Roundtable declaration raises the stakes.

A captive program can be an effective vehicle for insuring reputational risk. A captive is in the unique position of being able to fund potential losses associated with stakeholder anger and disappointment, and by doing so signal to key stakeholders (employees, creditors & analysts, and regulators) that the company’s governance apparatus is very aware of the peril, and is confident that it is managing the risk well. And if the captive is at least partially reinsured in the open market, it then also demonstrates that an objective third-party has reviewed the company’s practices and is essentially “warrantying” the company’s governance.

So, join us on October 23rd for our webinar featuring Dr. Nir Kossovsky, CEO of Steel City Re, a leading source of integrated reputation risk mitigation solutions and insurances, and Machua Millett, Chief Innovation Officer for FINPRO U.S. and the General Partner Liability Product Leader at Marsh.  Ably moderated by Maigh Wright, an associate actuary with Milliman, this webinar is guaranteed to burnish your reputation!

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Lights, Camera, Act(ion)!

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Governor Phil Scott signs Vermont’s updated captive bill on April 18, 2019. Behind him from left to right are Ben Gould (Paul Frank + Collins), Ian Davis (State of Vermont Department of Economic Development) and Mike Marcotte (Chair of the House Commerce Committee)

As I mentioned in my blog a couple of weeks ago, the Vermont legislature passed this year’s captive bill pretty quickly and all we were waiting for was the Governor’s signature to make it officially
an Act.

Yesterday, at the Governor’s ceremonial office in the State House, Governor Scott did just that! Surrounded by VCIA members the Governor signed this year’s captive bill into law strengthening Vermont’s captive regulation in a variety of areas. This year’s bill proposed several updates, including modifications to the captive examination schedule and improvements to the statute governing group captive investments. The enhancements included in this year’s bill highlight the state’s ability to work closely in partnership with Vermont’s Governor and state legislature to ensure its captive law remains the industry gold standard.

Along with State officials, those participating included VCIA legislative chair Ben Gould of Paul Frank + Collins, John James from Performa, Mat Robitaille and Connor Duffy from KeyBank, Steve Killoran and Rich Litchfield from Maple Capital,
Michelle Ambrose and Linda Elliott of Marsh, and Christina Kindstedt
from Advantage Insurance Management.

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

Rich Smith
VCIA President

 

Great News: VCIA’s captive bill passes… but you knew that was going to happen

Thanks to the expert testimony of Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost, this year’s captive bill passed the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor for his signature. Unless there is a calamity, the Governor will sign it into law within the next week.

Here is a quick outline of what it will do:

  • Allows non-profit protected cells can issue dividends to its owners.
  • Eliminates the requirement for an attorney-in-fact bond of a reciprocal RRG in most circumstances.
  • The commissioner currently can waive the three-year exam period, but with the maturity of many of Vermont’s captives, it made sense to revisit the timeframe. This section makes default exam period 5 years, but commissioner can shorten if determined to be prudent.
  • Allows any type of entity recognized by the Secretary of State to be formed as a captive.
  • Allows groups and agencies to either comply with current statutory investment requirements OR come up with an acceptable plan (which DFR will keep confidential). Section 3463a – valuation methodology – still applies.
  • Re-writes the RRG independent director section for clarity.
  • Makes NAIC statutory accounting the standard for the new affiliated reinsurance company or ARCs.  Vermont didn’t need to meet accreditation standards, but wanted to avoid a repeat of the AXXX/XXX fights.

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

VCIA Legislative Day – Cyber-up!

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As we all know, cybersecurity is one of the main issues facing society today. From data breaches that expose personal information to malware that can infect computer systems, in our growing IOT (internet of everything) world it’s the problem of the day. The insurance industry, including captives, have focused on cybersecurity for some time now. Both to provide their clients with the proper mitigation policies and to protect their own data systems, our industry continues to be in the forefront.

Who would have figured that in our small state, Vermont hosts one of the top cybersecurity institutions in the nation! Located in Northfield, Vermont (just south of our State’s capital, Montpelier) Norwich University hosts the NU Applied Research Institutes (NUARI).  NUARI was federally chartered in 2002 to address cyber incident management challenges through research, training programs and technology development and has been a global leader for more than a decade in developing cyber war gaming, distributed learning technology, distributed simulation technology, critical infrastructure exercises, and cybersecurity curriculum.  Norwich provides a truly unique program utilizing state-of-the-art forensic tools unheard of at other institutions of this size.

We are honored to have the President of NUARI, Phil Susmann, address our members at next week’s VCIA Legislative Day in Montpelier. Phil will speak at lunch in the Capital Plaza Hotel on January 23rd along with DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak and a welcome from Lt. Governor David Zuckerman.

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.

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 2019.

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!

Rich Smith
VCIA President

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

Fred Hackett 1933 – 2018

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An early photo of Fred Hackett, in the 1980’s, second from left. Fred was instrumental in the foundation of the captive industry in Vermont.  (From left to right: VCIA Members and captive industry participants Julie Boucher, Fred, Mark Boll, Kathy Davis and Dan Labrie.) 

Former Vermont captive insurance founder and director of VCIA, Luther “Fred” Hackett, died of Alzheimer’s disease on October 8, 2018 at the Wake Robin Continuing Care Retirement Community in South Burlington, Vermont.

After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1955, he served in the Air Force before returning to Vermont to join his father in a new insurance business. He was Chairman of Hackett, Valine and MacDonald Inc., Champlain Captive Management, Inc. and Benefit Investment Advisors, Inc. He was an advisor to the Vermont Captive Insurance Association Board in the early era of the captive industry in Vermont.

In 1965 Fred was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives from South Burlington. He served on the Appropriations Committee, and as Chairman from 1969-1970 and served as republican majority leader from 1967-1968. He was Chairman of the Joint Fiscal Committee of the Vermont House and Senate in 1969. In 1972 he won the Republican Primary for Governor. He lost the Governor’s race to Thomas Salmon in the general election.

Fred was an environmentalist. He proudly assisted with the legislation in 1969 for preservation of certain land abutting the Camel’s Hump State Park, creating a state-owned Forest Reserve that formed Camel’s Hump State Park. He was instrumental in the creation of ACT 250 and heavily involved with the Clean & Clear Task Force for Lake Champlain.

Fred was a sixth generation Vermonter and spent most of his life building a business and aiding ventures he felt would make a positive difference to the future of his beloved State of Vermont. Over the many years Fred received numerous awards and recognition for all he did for our state, but I remember him as a man willing to give excellent advice to an upstart in Vermont (that would be me) with no trace of condescension, and being treated as an equal. I believe that graciousness and community spirit has been successfully imprinted on Vermont’s captive insurance community.

If VCIA had a flag, it would be lowered to half mast today. Thank you for all you did, Fred.

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