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

John Primmer

Sad to hear of the passing of another great name in Vermont’s captive insurance history last month. John Primmer was one of the legal minds behind the original captive insurance law passed in Vermont 40 years ago that almost every state that has adopted captive laws since has copied – for good reason!

John was a founding partner of the Vermont law firm of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, which not only being one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in Vermont, is still one of the powerhouses in the captive legal realm. Prominent captive lawyers such as Jeff Johnson, Randy Wachsmann, Jesse Crary, Ryan Gadapee, and Rusty Young are some of the most sought-after legal minds in the industry.  VCIA also has relied on the government affairs team at the firm lead by the estimable Jamie Feehan for many years.

Retiring a number of years ago, John lived in a part of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom – a place of great beauty even by Vermont standards.  He was a wonderful father and husband, great cook and great host, and a true friend of many in the captive insurance industry. Rest in peace, John.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

It’s Hot!

Captivated – July 9, 2021

The record-breaking heat in western North America is just another example of the climate change challenge we all face in the years to come. The insurance industry, not surprisingly, will play a lead role in helping their clients –  and society overall – manage this risk in innovative ways.

One such innovation that is beginning to take off in the captive insurance arena is the use of parametric insurance. Parametric insurance is a non-traditional insurance product that offers pre-specified payouts based upon a trigger event. Trigger events depend on the nature of the parametric policy, which can include weather-related events as well as earthquakes, travel cancellations, and much more.

I know parametric solutions are getting more traction in the captive space because we have not one, but four organizations that are providing Ignite Talks at VCIA’s 2021 Annual Conference on the topic. Ignite Talks are short, TED-Talk style presentations on solutions to challenges facing captive insurers.

Not in any order, we have Aon presenting Parametric Insurance – An Alternative Solution, which will explain how captives supporting Parametric Insurance placements are helping organizations address a hardening market for Natural Catastrophe coverage, contingent and non-damage business interruption risks and other ‘difficult to insure’ areas.

Another session by AXA XL is entitled Parametric Solutions for Captive Owners where you can learn more about how parametric programs enhance risk management for captive owners, and the practical solutions offered through effective captive utilization.

X350 – Magnify Your Reinsurance Capacity to the World´s Largest Capital Market(s) With One Page presented by RYSKEX will explain how the future of buying reinsurance capacity as part of a blockchain-based Digital Risk Exchange (DREx) ecosystem will allow you to start selling your risks to the capital market with parametric risk trading.

And finally, Arbol presents Streamlined “Captive+Parametric” Solutions for Climate Change Risk Management which will explore how captives can play an active role in corporations’ responses to the climate change risk management mandate using climate data, online tools to structure and price parametric protections, and settle claims automatically via smart contracts.

Quite an incredible line up! The VCIA Annual Conference will be held online August 10 – 12th, which is fast approaching, so check it out here and Register Now!

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

The British Are Coming… And It’s Cool

We in the captive insurance realm have fond relations with our British friends in the industry – I mean let’s face it, you can’t go to a captive event anywhere without bumping into an ex-pat.

But this past week, it was nice to meet Peter Abbott, Her Majesty’s Consul General at the British Consulate General Boston and members of his team to talk things captive insurance. The meeting was facilitated through Brittany Nevins, Director of Captive insurance for Vermont’s Department of Economic Development and included Christine Brown, Deputy Director of Captive Insurance for Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation.

Consul Abbott was making several virtual visits throughout the New England states to meet with leaders from key industries in each of the states – and naturally, captive insurance interested them the most out of all of Vermont’s industries.

We gave them the fascinating history of captive insurance in Vermont as well as discussed possible trade cooperation between the UK market and Vermont captives. And although there is already much collaboration between the U.S. captive industry and the London insurance world, it is always good to strengthen these ties.

Don’t forget registration is now open for VCIA’s Annual Conference this August. Click here for more information!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Trust

Vermont’s Governor, Phil Scott, declared that all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in the state are lifted following a massive 80 percent vaccination rate among its eligible constituents.  Vermont is the first state to reach this important milestone and it has a lot to do with the competence of the Governor, his team, and the many folks involved with getting Vermont through this crisis.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Commissioner Mike Pieciak and his team at the Department of Financial Regulations were heavily involved with this critical mission.  The Governor relied on Mike and his team to assist with the modelling of the COVID numbers and analysis using actuarial science. The work and reports generated by Mike’s team were used to inform the Governor, Health Commissioner, and all Vermont citizens.

The success also has to do with Vermont and its citizens. We are a small state and there is a genuine feel for community that permeates the state regardless of which town you live in or what your economic status may be. This “we are all in together” with the trust of government leaders and workers – who are our neighbors – made reaching the 80% goal achievable. It was not easy, and there are still miles to go (to quote another famous northern new Englander), but having trust in one’s neighbors, one’s community, and one’s government is key. Its that same trust Vermont captive insurance owners feel when they domicile in the Green Mountain State.

And although VCIA will be holding our annual conference virtually this year – registration is now open –  I feel confident that we will see each other again by early fall if not sooner.

Thank you and I REALLY look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed a bill this past Wednesday that makes some tweaks to Vermont’s captive statutes.

Every year, without fail, VCIA works with our members and Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) to bring a consensus bill to the Vermont legislature that makes rational, sensible changes that allows our industry to thrive in this State.

Sure, some years there are some sexy items in the annual captive legislation, like the creation of dormant captives (slow down my heart!).  However, the changes usually look at streamlining and clarifying the law to make it both easier to navigate the rules to the game and do the business of captives.  This year was one of those years.

When starting a captive, there is a certain practical order to things, i.e., the captive needs to be incorporated before a license can be granted or needs a tax ID number before bank accounts can be opened.  The new law will bring the statute in line with modern practices and procedures. 

The act also reorders language regarding protected cells to make it easier to follow. Similarly, captive statute references the traditional insurance statutes when it comes to mergers and redomestications. With enough difference in the captive insurance merger and redomestication language, the new act creates a separate section within the captive statute.

Finally, the changes in Vermont law will make it easier for captives to merge, provided there is unanimous consent of the parties (shareholders, members, or policyholders).

There are a couple of tweaks, but like I said, there was nothing earth shattering in the new act. Just another piece of legislation advancing Vermont’s captive insurance industry.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.  

Rich Smith
VCIA President