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.

The many sides of captives

Ever heard the Indian parable about the blind men and the elephant?  Each man was asked to describe the elephant based only on the part they could touch. The one who touched the leg said it was like a tree, the one who had the tail said it was like a rope, etc. According to the wise Wikipedia, it’s “about a range of truths and mistakes. It is also about the need for communication and the need for respect for different perspectives.”

In the eight months I have been with the VCIA I have started to become familiar with ‘our part of the elephant’ as it applies to Vermont-based captives, but this week I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge by attending the SIIA (Self Insurance Institute of America) annual conference in Phoenix, AZ.  There, I got to see a whole different part of the elephant!  It was standing room only for a session called ‘Captives to the Rescue.’ The participants in this session (80% of whom were from what we can call the ‘medical field’ – including benefit plans, insurers, hospitals, etc.) heard what captives can do for them and for the changing risk profiles.  While very few of those present were involved in Vermont captives, it was clear that, just like in Vermont, this is a growing industry as all sectors evolve to serve the changing needs of industries, services, and public organizations.

Just like in Vermont, this is a growing industry as all sectors evolve to serve the changing needs of industries, services, and public organizations

Kevin Mead on the Diverse IMpact of Captives

Next month, the Vermont DFR’s Sandy Bigglestone will be a presenter at the European Captive Forum in Luxembourg. (Obligatory plug: she’ll also speak at our October 26th New York City Roadshow, which you can register for here!)  Brittany Nevins of the Vermont DED and myself will also be there as we seek to show the capacity and capability of Vermont to a well-established group of risk professionals.  

From whatever angle one approaches the elephant that is captive insurance, it is an expanding and exciting place to be.  And while, just like the parable, no one person could ever have a full and complete picture of the industry, the range of options, services and expertise out there to assist entities in managing their risk utilizing captives is probably the best it has ever been. Add to the conversation by commenting, or emailing me kmead@vcia.com. I look forward to connecting.

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!

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?

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

Hail to 40 Years!

Vermont’s 40th anniversary year of the inception of its captive industry is drawing to a close. Since 1981, Vermont has worked hard to be the top U.S. domicile and continues to strive for excellence. Currently, VCIA is working with Dave Provost and Sandy Bigglestone and their team at DFR to build another captive bill to be introduced into Vermont’s General Assembly.

Over the past two years of COVID challenges, the Gold Standard has never been so apropos as Vermont lead the captive insurance industry in incredible growth and resiliency. I could not be prouder to be a part of this great work.

Brittany Nevins, in her role as Captive Insurance Economic Development Director, has put together a terrific short film highlighting relationships, accomplishments, future goals—and really what it means to be part of the Vermont captive family. I hope you will watch and encourage you to share.

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

Back to the Future… with VCIA’s Annual Tax Update!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week and were able to spend it with friends and family. As we move into the continued uncertainty with COVID, it is always good to take a step back to appreciate and be with loved ones (or ones that at least like you).

One certain thing you can count on this time of year is VCIA’s annual captive tax update webinar, scheduled for December 15 at 2:00 ET. This year we present “Back to the Future” where our esteemed captive tax specialists review 2021’s most significant tax developments and explore the possible impacts of proposed legislative action by the current administration.

Our panel consists of Daniel Kusaila, Partner at Crowe LLP, Chaz Lavelle, Partner at Dentons Bingham Greenbaum LLP, and Brandy Vannoy, Partner at Johnson Lambert LLP. With the help from content advisors Stephanie Brassard of Johnson Lambert LLP and Dana Marino of Innovative Captive Strategies, the panel will provide an analysis of state and federal tax activity from 2021.

Our panelists will also provide an overview of recent, notable court cases and IRS actions. This includes a discussion on “lessons learned “ for large captives from small captive cases and a “fact or factors” segment highlighting key drivers that impacted the decisions made by the courts.

Our tax specialists will be monitoring the current tax landscape through the days leading up to this webinar to ensure the audience receives real-time updates on the state and federal tax environments.

Also, I want to say congratulations to Dave Angus, recently appointed as counsel to the captive insurance law practice at the firm of Paul Frank + Collins in Burlington, Vermont. Dave brings his captive insurance and transactional practice from The Angus Firm to PF+C’s captive insurance team and has been a long-time member (and twice chair) of VCIA’s Legislative Committee. Congratulations, David!

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President

COP 26

As the world’s leaders conclude their two-week summit in Scotland it is good to see some of the leadership in the insurance industry involved in the most critical issue facing all of us today. Many in the insurance industry are working positively to promote policies that will help mitigate climate change – or at least don’t add to the problem – such as new ESG guidelines for the company, looking at the impact of placing climate risks in their portfolios, new modeling, and reassessing where to invest the huge assets the insurance industry has under management. Reinsurers rank climate change as the top risk facing the global insurance industry, according to PwC’s latest survey.

Climate policy is a risk management system, and the industry needs to provide a comprehensive vision for risk sharing going forward. There are many complex issues to be worked out for both the insurers and their insured for sure, however, a cleared-eyed approach by all parties can get us there.

Innovations like from AXA XL which has launched a tool that maps current and future flood hazards resulting from climate change and integrates the protective benefits of coastal ecosystems into insurance risk models, is a great example of where the industry can lead.

There is a theory in the risk management world, however, that insurance can be seen as a barrier to the kind of innovation needed to tackle the hard nut that is climate change. Providing P&C insurance, or D&O insurance, to a client without concern for the long-term impacts climate change can bring can remove the responsibility from the clients. Adding to this, innovative changes to infrastructure, along with the recent technologies used to build resilience, can be hard to insure as they rarely have claims history. This makes it difficult for the insurance sector to price the risk.

I think the basic principle behind captive insurance will accelerate solutions. With captives, organizations take direct responsibility for their risks – they now own it. The data on how to mitigate climate risk comes from their captive which allows them to be more focused on pursuing resilience at all levels. No longer is there a large, anonymous insurance company obscuring leaders from understanding and acting to better protect their own properties, employees, supply chains, and ultimately shareholders. And captives are innovative. They have the ability to take specific risks for an organization that might be looking at pioneering ways to use new technologies to protect from the impacts of climate change.

I remain hopeful that with a comprehensive and coordinated effort from all facets of society and industry we can turn the corner on climate change. Captive insurance will be part of that solution.

Stay well and see you soon!

Rich Smith,
VCIA President