VCIA’s Captivated Blog Heads to the Capitol: A Recap of 2023’s Successful Legislative Day

I am not expecting a Netflix development contract to come my way after my TV appearance (well, YouTube – the recordings can be found here and here) testifying before Vermont’s Senate Finance and House Commerce committees, but you never know.  In fact, I was just the ‘warm-up guy’ for the real stars, VCIA Board Chair Tracy Hassett, and the VCIA’s Legislative Committee Chair, Ben Gould.  Tracy had a compelling story about saving millions of dollars for edHEALTH (a member-owned higher education group) through their medical stop-loss captive, while Ben detailed how the legislation that these two committees work on keeps Vermont as the Gold Standard of the industry. Both committees were very receptive to us, and look forward to updating and finalizing a captive bill for 2023. As soon as there is any progress, we will let VCIA members know!

Senate Finance Testimony
VCIA President Kevin Mead in conversation with House Speaker Jill Krowinski during Legislative Leadership meetings

Following committee testimony, VCIA’s legislative advocate Jamie Feehan organized a slate of a Legislative Leadership meetings, where nearly 30 VCIA stakeholders heard from House and Senate Minority Leaders, House Speaker, Lieutenant Governor and the State’s Treasurer on what their priorities are for the legislative session, how the parties work together, and why they will continue to be champions of the captive industry and optimize the legislation that supports it.

But I need to back up!  Before all of this, the VCIA’s Board held a public session where we heard from the DFR’s Sandy Bigglestone and the DED’s Brittany Nevins on the state of the captive industry in Vermont.  41 new formations (another ‘top 10 year’)! This was followed up by an informal lunch, where House and Senate legislators were able to mix with VCIA members and staff and learn about what we do. Attendees also heard comments from DFR Commissioner Kevin Gaffney and DED Commissioner Joan Goldstein, both of whom pledged support for and praised the Vermont captive industry and VCIA. The common question of the day from lawmakers: where can I find the next captive industry for Vermont? We didn’t have an answer, but we responded quite passionately that we will continue to protect and strengthen the actual captive industry in Vermont!

A productive Legislative Day lunch, as a number of new legislators learned about Vermont captives

Headcount restrictions in place at various locations precluded us from having a mass turnout as in past years, but rest assured that this was an effective and informative Legislative Day that we can build on after two years of virtual attendance.

Given that our advocacy work at a federal and state level is always rated as one of our strongest benefits, there’s no better time to become a VCIA Member.

We are starting a series of exclusive member reports with a Legislative Day Document that will share video and specific commentary made by Vermont Legislators, and we plan to deliver it to our members in the next week! If you’re not a member yet, connect with Membership Director Janice Valgoi and make that new year resolution come true by joining us – for we are strength in numbers!

VCIA Fact Sheet distributed to Vermont lawmakers. An exclusive, detailed report of the day will be sent to VCIA members in the near future!

Captive Corner: VCIA Interview Series, 1. Joe Carter

Captive Corner: VCIA Interviews Industry Experts

Joe Carter, VP of Business Development and UE Experience at United Educators, and VCIA Board Member

ue.org / @UnitedEducators / United Educators LinkedIn Company Page

United Educators is a reciprocal risk retention group that provides the insurance coverage needs of more than 1,600 members ranging from large university systems to small, independent K-12 schools. Joe Carter’s responsibility is to set the strategy for UE’s growth. This includes planning the business development and distribution strategies that ensure success. He is also responsible for teams that manage UE’s brand and constituent experience strategy, the Voice of Constituent (VOC) program, digital experience, member support, marketing, and communications. Joe recently was elected to the Board of Directors at VCIA, and we sat down with him to ask a few questions.  

1. Tell us how you got involved with insurance and risk management. How did you come to UE?   The early days in my professional journey were rooted in large commercial insurance companies with fantastic training programs for new employees. I began by handling first and third-party claims in an environment best described as “rapid fire” for America’s second largest insurance company at the time. I had the rare opportunity to rotate through other functions of the company including underwriting, risk management consulting, front-line sales management, and leadership coaching. Then I started an independent insurance agency/brokerage that I grew and sold to a larger agency owned by a regional bank. After a couple of additional executive leadership roles, I found this wonderful Risk Retention Group (RRG) captive that focused on education, a sector that I think is so important to our world. Joining United Educators was a chance to apply all my experiences to lead UE’s business development strategy, marketing, and member experience – a home run opportunity for me.  

2. UE is celebrating its 35-year anniversary. What do you provide your members?   We continue to deliver the third-party liability coverages that drove our creation by educational institutions in 1987. A significant part of our work is delivered well before any claims call comes in. We research and build training, loss prevention courses, and risk management tools that not only help prevent bad things from happening, but also help institutions prepare for bad things that are likely to happen. We are proud that these risk management resources are highly valued and utilized by educational institutions. Our resolutions team partners with institutions as soon as there is a concern about a potential claims matter. They help strategize early, while taking a Cool Head, Warm Heart® approach to resolving claims that recognizes the value of the relationships our members have with their students, staff, and communities.  

All captives need to focus on their differentiation from commercial markets and think hard about why they exist. There needs to be a shared understanding about what captives are really accomplishing for their owners. I believe captives have a unique opportunity to help owners to see risks that lie ahead using trends from a purer set of data and experience.  


3. What have you seen in the time you have been there? Can you tell us a little about the culture at UE?    There are many liability lessons from education claims over the 35 years: preparation is as important as seeking prevention, active and early intervention usually is more effective than the “wait and see” tactics we’ve seen used by other carriers, and treating claimants with respect and empathy is an important part of loss mitigation, to name a few. Our culture is shaped by being member-owned. We’re serving members amid upheaval of the education sector, market fluctuations, and skyrocketing claims and defense costs. Enjoying a personal connection to our members drives an ethos of excellence in member service.  

4. What are some of the challenges you see today for your members and what innovations is UE bringing to them to meet those challenges? We see several challenges that have been pervasive with new ones emerging. In recent years, we’ve monitored how demographic shifts are affecting enrollments and the top lines for many institutions. And we all think about the financial and operational risks going forward for tuition-dependent institutions. There are also real concerns about keeping campuses operating as healthy and safe environments for in-person learning. Most campuses, including K-12 sites, are concerned about student mental health for good reasons. And many are concerned about employee mental health as we transition through the next phase of this pandemic. And there is the ever-present challenge that all employers face in managing risks such as employment and misconduct issues involving high-profile and highly-valued employees. In the education arena, these include coaches, researchers, faculty, presidents, or trustees. UE’s risk research and resolutions teams work constantly to develop useful tools that help break these complex exposures down into tactical and useful programs that help campuses effectively plan and train administrators, employees, and students on staying healthy and safe.  

5. What are some of the challenges facing UE as an organization and the captive insurance/RRG industry as a whole?   UE faces many of the same challenges that most providers do. We are seeing loss inflation that goes beyond just a rise in the average cost of a claim or even a category of claims. The rise in claims costs and awards reflects a societal trend that is punishing institutions of any type without regard to the nexus between bad verdicts and the rising costs of insurance going forward. Insurer investment strategies aren’t delivering much return in recent environments, so there is great pressure to underwrite and price your business accurately and on time. That is a hard pill for owners to swallow during times of rising loss costs. All captives need to do their best job of speaking this truth to their owners. And when we are doing this correctly, owners understand that the captive’s health is directly tied to their ability to manage risks and losses. All captives need to focus on their differentiation from commercial markets and think hard about why they exist. There needs to be a shared understanding about what captives are really accomplishing for their owners. I believe captives have a unique opportunity to help owners to see risks that lie ahead using trends from a purer set of data and experience.  

6. Why does Vermont fit UE’s mission and business plan as your domicile of choice?   I believe that one of the best things that Vermont does for domiciled captives is allowing and encouraging open dialogue. They do a really good job at getting to know the organizations doing business in and around the state. They show up at industry conferences not just to speak and deliver content, but to also listen and learn. That’s a level of engagement that allows them to be helpful to innovation while they ensure compliance. No one wants to see bad captives formed or operating in the market. I believe Vermont’s approach to engagement keeps the marketplace respectable and healthy for consumers of these services.  
All captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market.

7. What are you most proud of as you look back over the past 35 years for UE?   There are many things that I could talk about. It is impressive how our captive and its membership have grown so much since I joined. The staff I have the pleasure of working with and learning from every day are smart and bring a rich diversity of experience. They work collaboratively and challenge us leaders to think hard, consider much, and act decisively. We’ve also been working hard to foster and improve our culture of inclusivity. I am proud of how our teams contribute in many ways. And we’re just getting started. I know we will continue to grow our culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.  

8. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you wanted to talk about?    I think captive organizations represent the best in business relationships between owner and provider. Being able to do this constituent experience work on behalf of those that you serve just demonstrates a purity in relationship that cannot happen with the influence of third-party shareholders. And all captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market. In fact, there should really be no better experience available when an effective captive option is present. No other option can to focus and deliver like we do.

All captives have that opportunity to focus forward to give owners more research, more knowledge, more attention, and better service than any other option in the market. In fact, there should really be no better experience available when an effective captive option is present. No other option can to focus and deliver like we do.

Vermont Captive’s Smooth Transition Proceeds: Christine Brown Named Next Director of Captive Insurance

Before we gather for #VCIA2022, a few major changes have been placed on the horizon for the State of Vermont and its preeminent Captive Insurance regulatory team–Mr. Captive himself, Dave Provost, retiring into the sunset; his heir apparent, Sandy Bigglestone, ready to assume the Deputy Commissioner role; and now Christine Brown, respected throughout the industry, promoted to Director of Captive Insurance. All three diligent, hard working, and great collaborators. And all three have spent years making Vermont the Gold Standard for captive domiciles. To me, that’s the definition of a stable “transition of power,” and it will only make more captives flock to the Green Mountain State.

Christine Brown

The official press released arrived in my email on Wednesday and you can read it in its entirety on the Vermont Captive website. The good folks at the State of Vermont quoted me on the appointment of Christine Brown to the position of Director of Captive Insurance at the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR): “The quality and stability within captive regulation in Vermont is proven yet again.  What an awesome choice to have Christine Brown succeed Sandy Bigglestone as the Department of Financial Regulation’s next Director of Captive Insurance. Christine has a long relationship with the VCIA and has served as a thought leader within the industry for many years. All of my colleagues here at the VCIA join me in wishing her the best in this appointment, and we look forward to seeing her in a few short weeks at the VCIA conference.”

And I meant every word of it!  In my short time with the VCIA I have already called in favors from Christine that I had not even built up – and she has always delivered. That Vermont has promoted from within for two critical positions speaks volumes of the talent its captive team has retained and cultivated.

During my 20+ year career in captive insurance, I have had the privilege of working with and learning from the best and brightest in the industry, most recently as Assistant Director supporting Sandy Bigglestone and Dave Provost.  I am honored to have been chosen for the Director position under Sandy’s leadership.  I look forward to continuing to grow and support the industry, together with my amazing colleagues at DFR and our valued industry partners as we promote Vermont’s standard of excellence.

Vermont’s Next Director of Captive Insurance Christine Brown

At this year’s VCIA conference you will find Christine at the State of Vermont booth, #40, and around conference events. She’ll be speaking at Captive Immersion on Monday and will cohost a discussion group on Tuesday. Be sure to connect with her and congratulate her on her well-deserved promotion!

Only 17 days until #VCIA2022 kicks off and I don’t want you or your colleagues, or frankly anyone you know related to the captive insurance industry, to miss out! Please be sure to register on our website here. See you in breezy Burlington in August in just a few short weeks!

Sandy Bigglestone: The Perfect Captive Successor to Dave Provost

Continuity. Experience. Expertise. 3 reasons (among many) for why Vermont is the Gold Standard for captive domicile decisions. The same 3 reasons describe Sandy Bigglestone, who this week was appointed as the new Deputy Commissioner of the Captive Insurance Division. Since the NBA Finals are underway, I’m inclined to say this is a slam dunk choice for everyone interested in captives in Vermont!

The Board, staff and members of the VCIA are delighted that Vermont Governor Phil Scott knew exactly where to turn to lead the division into a profitable future, and we join the entire industry, in Vermont and beyond, in congratulating Sandy. She is hardly a new face to the captive industry, and I hope that she will forgive me when I mention that she is 25 years into her career at the DFR. I said it once and I’ll say it again, Sandy will ensure stability, consistency, and quality that is the hallmark of regulation in Vermont, while also challenging staff and other stakeholders to develop and improve.

L to R: 2022 VCIA Conference Chair Ian Davis, appointed Deputy Commissioner Sandy Bigglestone, and retiring Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost

The upcoming VCIA conference from August 8 – 11 in Burlington offers a great chance for members and other stakeholders in the industry to meet up with Sandy and congratulate her. You can register for the conference here (and don’t forget to book your airfare and lodging soon, they go fast!) “Hot Topics with Dave Provost” on the last day of the conference, with incoming and outgoing Deputy Commissioners, will indeed be a hot ticket!

The upcoming VCIA conference from August 8 – 11 in Burlington offers a great chance for members and other stakeholders in the industry to meet up with Sandy and congratulate her.

Many major captive players enthusiastically received the news of Sandy’s appointment. Here are some snippets.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott: “Sandy has decades of experience in licensing and regulating captives in Vermont, the top domicile in the country. It made sense to look within for the best person to lead the industry and the obvious choice was Sandy.

Sandy’s soon-to-be predecessor Dave Provost: “Sandy will carry on the mission of the captive division and be a thoughtful regulator. She has the experience and skills and new ideas to help guide the industry forward.”

Mary Ellen Moriarty, VP of Property & Casualty at EIIA. “Sandy is a polished professional, goes the extra mile when necessary, and wants to see us thrive. She is the perfect person to guide Vermont.”

“Sandy is a natural leader, and we are happy to have her stepping into this role,” said Interim DFR Commissioner Kevin Gaffney.

Upwards and onwards to the Sandy Bigglestone and the Vermont Captive Industry…see you all in August!

A Captive Industry Icon Announces His Retirement

The State of Vermont’s Deputy Commissioner of the Captive Insurance Division is hanging up his gloves. Dave Provost leaves a permanent print on the robust infrastructure for domiciled captives in the Green Mountain State.

This week Vermont Captive Insurance set the captive world abuzz with a press release announcing Dave Provost’s retirement at the end of the summer. The Governor of Vermont Phil Scott could not sing Dave’s praise any higher by thanking him for “his immeasurable contribution to Vermonters and businesses around the world.” The Governor did pledge as well that Dave’s replacement would build on the “Gold Standard” for captives that Dave has helped create.

If you’ve been on the fence for registering for The VCIA Annual Conference August 8-11 in Burlington, Vermont, Dave’s news should get you over to attend. The conference will be a celebration of sorts for his career, and of course his insights during his “Hot Topics” on the last day of the conference is now simply a must see. Access Conference Registration here.

Mr. Captive himself, Dave Provost. Catch his last “Hot Topics” session at our Annual Conference this year.

I’m only three months on the job as VCIA’s President, and so it makes sense that I should be at the end of the line when it comes to reflecting on Dave Provost’s remarkable captive career. Nevertheless, as short as our relationship has been, we do make for a quick repartee pairing; it was only this Wednesday, during VCIA’s Spring Mixer, that Dave Provost shared his retirement news to the crowd. He was also quick to point out that I’m hitting my 100th day soon and that means my honeymoon phase will come to a firm end. This is true: Dave always has a joke in pocket.

The moment I met Vermont’s chief captive regulator it was instantly clear that his insights, approachable nature, and dedication to improving the captive industry are held in highest esteem and are things he deeply cares about. Dave Provost’s captive knowledge and technical and managerial skillsets will be major loses to recover, but it’s his dry wit and deadpan personality that most of us will miss just as much, if not more.

Dave Provost’s insights, approachable nature, and dedication to improving the captive industry are held in highest esteem and are things he deeply cares about.

Dave and some of his team in Vermont’s Senate Chamber

Dave achieved a lifetime of captive accomplishments during his 30 years of experience in the industry. He leaves the captive sector in Vermont (and beyond) larger, stronger and more visible than when he started. The VCIA, and indeed the whole captive insurance industry will miss Dave’s shrewd perspective, his fairness and his desire for effective and speedy advice and decisions. But mostly, the whole sector will just miss Dave. VCIA is honored to have his presence in his official capacity as Vermont’s chief captive regulator once last time this August. Let us toast to Dave!

Productive RISKWORLD RIMS Conference Concludes

My first RIMS Conference is in the bag. What an impressive production the Risk Management Society had. Indeed it felt like “the center of the Risk Management universe” as they say. The experience has further fueled my desire to make VCIA’s August 8th-11th annual conference the best yet!

From a Vermont captive perspective, our trip to San Francisco was very successful. There was a steady stream of captive owners on day one with potential new captives and service providers visiting us. Our travel-sized maple syrup swag and the ice cream rolling in at 10:30 may lured in some hungry prospects, because surely nothing beats ice cream with maple syrup drizzled on top.

Vermont representing strong at RIMS 2022

Even on the final day three the volume of traffic may have slowed, but the quality interactions continued. I still work as a captive student, absorbing as much information as I can about the industry and regulatory processes. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed building out my professional network with so many interesting people. All in all Team Vermont held many solid and productive meetings which generated innovative ideas on how we can help captives thrive in the Green Mountain State.

Shoutout to the State of Vermont’s Captive Insurance Economic Development Director Brittany Nevins who does a terrific job of demonstrating why Vermont’s captive insurance industry is the gold standard for an onshore captive insurance domicile. 

All in all Team Vermont held many solid and productive meetings which generated innovative ideas on how we can help captives thrive in the Green Mountain State.

One interesting aspect was the interest from Latin America – A good harbinger for our planned 2023 Roadshow in Mexico City. Stay tuned for more interesting programs as we continue to develop them!

Captive Madness

NCAA Forms a Captive— in Vermont!

Many Vermonters in the captive industry might have had an NCAA bracket that had UVM going all the way. Locals supporting locals is what we do here. Sadly, Arkansas stood in their way, and UVM came up a little short in the first round. They didn’t bust the nation’s brackets, but there were other perpetrators—I’m looking at you, Saint Peters Peacocks. The absence of the Catamounts from the Final Four makes it no less intriguing, but you might wonder, where’s the link with VCIA and captive insurance?

The Vermont Captive Insurance Industry is a Powerhouse Program

The answer lies in the fact that the NCAA, perhaps mindful of the hit that their marquee event took in 2020 and 2021, recently formed a captive, and not only that, but they have made its domicile in the Green Mountain State. Vermont’s most popular (and free) newspaper, Seven Days reports that the captive activated at the start of March and could “potentially save the association millions of dollars.” Taking on both D & O and event cancellation coverage, the entity has been funded with $175M, and will be consolidated into the financial statements of the NCAA.

The pandemic has raised the profile of Vermont’s captive insurance industry as more businesses have sought to self-insure, according to state officials.

ANNE WALLACE ALLEN, Seven Days

While the University of Vermont will not be crowned winners after this upcoming Monday’s championship, the State of Vermont surely won an impactful and lasting relationship with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. VCIA is happy to announce that their captive formation has joined our association on a free, first year trial basis.

My prediction for the Final Four winner (which is the sporting equivalent of a kiss of death)? Kansas Jayhawks. Who do you have?

Rich Smith’s Last Blog Post as VCIA President

Bon Voyage, Rich!

“Goodbye Always Makes My Throat Hurt” – Charlie Brown

This is my last blog as President of VCIA. I can’t tell you all what a delight and how meaningful the last 12 years has been for me. I have worked with such wonderful people and made truly great friends in the captive industry.

I remember in my first year as President the marvelous Tom Jones came up to me at an event. With his wry smile and baritone voice, he said to me, “Rich, the only thing you need to be aware of is that there is a ‘no a-hole’ rule in the captive industry.” I immediately laughed out loud but recognized over the years how true that is (OK, it’s not quite universal, but close enough!).

I have worked with such wonderful people and made truly great friends in the captive industry

Outgoing vcia President Rich Smith

With a deep sense of relief, I confidently know I am leaving VCIA in excellent hands. Kevin Mead brings a wealth of association experience along with great common sense and a wonderful sense of humor – all tools that will make VCIA continue to shine.

Rich and Vermont Governor Phil Scott

I want to thank all of you that have provided me with your wisdom, guidance, and friendship. It has meant the world to me. That is especially true of the 36 board members, past and present, that have given their time and energy to this great association – thank you so much. You are the superstars of the captive universe!

To have worked with the outstanding regulators at Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation these past 12 years has been an honor and a pleasure. The team lead by Dave Provost, Sandy Bigglestone, Dan Petterson, and Christine Brown is the reason Vermont is THE top captive domicile in the world. This may sound like bluster, but I am quoting what my colleagues representing other domiciles told me on a regular basis. Not only that, but Vermont DFR is certainly the nicest and fun-loving group of regulators you have ever met.

Rich and colleagues at the US Capitol Building

Most of all, a warm thank you to all the wonderful VCIA staff over my tenure that have made the Association the stellar organization it is (and made me look good to boot): Diane Leach, Peggy Companion, Janice Valgoi, Megan Precourt, Dave Rapuano, Elizabeth Halpern, Julie Brown, Barbara Casanova, and newcomer Francis McGill – you all rock!

I look forward to watching the Association thrive over the next many years. Please feel free to reach out to me to say “hi’ once in a while and I will do the same. My new email address is mykasmithvt@gmail.com.

Thank you all and I look forward to hearing from you.

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