VCIA Welcomes Two New Staff Members!

Please welcome Ella Stevens, front left, and Jocelyn Lamb, front right, two new VCIA hires!

Last week, I recapped VCIA’s successful Legislative Day and emphasized just how valuable our legislative advocacy is to our members and to the industry. Well, I offer another VCIA asset that’s just as and if not more valuable…and that’s our tireless staff! VCIA can proudly say we are fully-staffed and able to not only strengthen and grow our association, but meet the needs of our 400+ members. Not many other captive associations can say that. And so please give a warm welcome to Ella Stevens, VCIA’s new Bookkeeper and Administrator, and Jocelyn Lamb, our Accounting Manager! Let’s get to know them.

Meet Ella Stevens, VCIA’s Bookkeeper/Administrator Ella began working with VCIA earlier this month and she’s doing so while completing her last semester at Saint Michaels in Colchester. She will be graduating with an honors bachelor degree in accounting and business administration, and our staff and Board were extremely impressed about how she can handle such a workload while learning and absorbing so much at VCIA. Says Ella: “This is my first professional job out of college and I’m excited to get into accounting on a real-world basis, understand the Vermont captive industry, and interact with VCIA members.” Fun fact? She’s an avid runner and runs at least 3 miles a day every day of the week! I personally can’t say the same…

Meet Jocelyn Lamb, VCIA’s Accounting Manager Where Ella is new to the Vermont captive industry, Jocelyn Lamb is a veteran and has years of experience, thanks to her 11 years at Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation as an examiner and regulator. We’re lucky to add Jocelyn’s great talents, and she’s extremely happy to stay in the industry. Says Jocelyn, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to work with VCIA and to experience captive insurance from an additional perspective. I really look forward to hitting the ground running with our close-knit staff!” Fun fact? Jocelyn and her family operate a 3,000 tree sugar bush and sell maple syrup each year – you can’t get much more Vermont than that!

It’s a wonderful opportunity to work with VCIA and to experience captive insurance from an additional perspective. I really look forward to hitting the ground running with our close-knit staff!

VCia’s new Account Manager, Jocelyn Lamb

Please be sure to welcome Ella and Jocelyn as you see them in the year ahead; they will be an integral part of accomplishing our goals, not least of which is a successful Annual Conference in August. The work begins now!

At the Heart of What We Do: 2023 VCIA Legislative Day Preview

When the VCIA surveys members to find out what we do that provides the greatest value, it is our legislative advocacy that usually comes out on top. It is also a defining differentiator for us, as we are the only captive association to have active advocacy in place at both a state and federal level.  Additionally, we closely watch the proceedings at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) as they work on model legislation and standards that will affect the industry. I’m excited to get our advocacy work started this year with our annual Montpelier Legislative Day next week.

It’s our first in-person Legislative Day since 2020 before the pandemic, and the VCIA Board, staff, and legislative committee members are eager to engage with the lawmakers who will eventually finalize, pass and bring our 2023 captive bill to Governor Scott’s desk to sign and put into law.

The schedule of events for the day goes something like this: a Board meeting immediately before the Statehouse activities, with a general session open to the public at the tail end of the meeting; an informal lunch at the classy Capitol Plaza, a stones throw away from the Statehouse. This lunch will be a great opportunity to meet with select legislators and talk to them off the record about what VCIA does and why the captive industry is vital to the Vermont economy.

All our advocacy work has resulted in a ‘spend’ by the VCIA of $1.6M in the last 19 years and is one of the reasons why we consistently live up to the Gold Standard. It is through these efforts that Vermont’s statutes remain industry-leading, and that we have a strong voice in Washington DC and beyond.

Afterwards, we will head over to the golden dome and share official testimony in front of the Senate Finance Committee and then the House Commerce Committee. Board Chair Tracy Hassett will provide her company edHealth’s compelling captive story, explaining why Vermont was their domicile of choice. Legislative Committee Chair Ben Gould of Paul Frank and Collins PC will discuss the process undertaken by VCIA and the DFR in crafting a bill for the legislature to consider and amend. My job will be to tell the VCIA story: how we are the bridge between the Vermont captive regulators and our members and stakeholders; how we serve as in indispensable educational resource for the entire industry; and how we bring major tourism revenue to Burlington and Vermont through our Annual Conference, one of the largest in the state.

Both Senate and House testimony will be livestreamed on the respective Senate Finance and House Commerce YouTube channels. The Statehouse continues to have a visitor policy that prevents us from inviting all of our members; however, to make up for this, we will be providing an in-depth Special Legislative Day report exclusive to VCIA members.

With great turnover within the Vermont legislature after the November 2022 elections, this Legislative Day is an important educational mission that will enlighten new lawmakers on the scope and dearth of the VCIA and the Vermont Captive Industry. We will be providing updated Fact Sheets with the big numbers that back up our claims, while presenting new information to both committees ahead of their consideration of the 2023 captive insurance bill.

I am excited to represent your interests at this, my first legislative day for the VCIA, and I will be sure to keep you informed of all of our efforts in this area on your behalf. Please reach out to me directly with any feedback!

Our Captive Tax Webinar Will Be Fun. Hear Me Out.

An accountant, an auditor, and a tax lawyer walk into a bar…just kidding, no joke here. But have you ever had fun at a tax seminar? Well I think you just might at our Captive Taxation webinar next week. For real!

For those of you that think that high jinx might be a little lacking as you wade through IRS and state taxes for captives, then we may have the right antidote to put you in the mood for holiday cheer. 

I have been present as Chaz Lavelle and Dan Kusaila have been developing and practicing for next week’s VCIA tax webinar and it has been a total hoot to watch as these two long time thought leaders and contributors to the VCIA combine a review of the arcane backwaters of tax with anarchic humor. 

Perhaps most importantly, they know how to get the information across that you need without drifting and being obscure. If the execution is anything like the prep, it will be a great hour! Enjoy their company, hear some interesting captive tax anecdotes, and learn about what’s ahead for our industry, tax-wise, in 2023. If you haven’t done so, you can still register for the tax webinar here. You won’t be disappointed by Chaz and Dan!

Of course, we have a more typical way to get into the holiday spirit with our annual holiday party the day before the tax webinar.  Over 80 of your colleagues have already registered for this event, and I look forward to meeting friends old and new as we wind down what has been an exceptional 2022 for the VCIA with a great event at ECHO in Burlington. VCIA members can register for their free holiday mixer here.

I hope to see you at these events next week!

VCIA Goes Global

 After a brief break for the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re back to review Vermont’s renewed focus on business not only beyond state borders, but also outside of the US. 

The Vermont team at the European Captive Forum

Just before the Thanksgiving break, a Vermont delegation led by the DFR’s Sandy Bigglestone and including myself and Brittany Nevins as well as representatives from the Vermont professional provider community were present in Luxembourg for the European Captive Forum.  At the awards dinner we were naturally delighted to be named as the international domicile of the year, and beyond that we worked on building and establishing relationships across the captive industry in the EU, broader Europe and beyond.  With companies from outside of the US seeking to explore alternative risk management strategies for the US and Americas holdings, this was a great time for us to present Vermont and our preparedness to work with global business to a broader audience.

Historical landmark National Palace building at Plaza de la Constitucion in Mexico City, Mexico.

Looking forward into 2023, we are building on the international theme as our COVID-delayed roadshow goes to Mexico City on March 1st.  In addition to the roadshow, we are holding multiple meetings with the business, financial and insurance sectors within Mexico as the roadshow expands into a full-blown trade mission. The current lineup of speakers is found below, and Mexican business professionals as well as VCIA members are invited free of charge to this special event. (To register, send your name, title, and contact information to Sylvia.Montano@trade.gov. For questions reach out to Janice Valgoi at janice@vcia.com)

A great coming together of captive minds happens at the VCIA-Mexico Trade Mission, March 1 2023

Vermont already has Mexican companies domiciling their captives here, and as that market both grows and becomes more sophisticated, Vermont is ready to be the domicile of choice for Mexican business. 

Fun fact time – what do Thomas’s English muffins, Lender’s Bagels, CEMEX and Promised Land Dairy have in common – yup, Mexican owned!  Mexico has an economy of $1,150B according to the IMF, making it globally #15, so ahead of Spain, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands.  For these reasons and many others, Vermont and the VCIA is working to ensure that enterprises in this expanding economy have access to well- regulated and effective risk management tools.

As the year comes to a close, VCIA – its staff, Board members and stakeholders – reflect on where we are and where we are going. I’m confident an emerging theme that will continue to surface in 2023 and beyond is our global reach and how we can serve our worldwide members.

Success Only Fuels Our Motivation

These last few weeks I’ve spent more time in hotel rooms and airplanes than I’ve spent at home. Now, happily snug in my snowy–yes, already–Vermont headquarters, I can reflect on quite a trip the State of Vermont and VCIA had to Luxembourg for the European Captive Forum.

The trip, and the conference, had a perfect combination of networking and educational sessions. Deputy Commissioner Sandy Bigglestone led an engaging topic on “Why and How to Establish a Captive” and the Vermont team heard from stateside and international industry colleagues about opportunities for new captive formations in the Green Mountain State. I was personally happy to hear a recurrent point about how many people are eager for the business possibilities, networking values, and educational content of our annual conference…even if it’s more than 8 months away! Even so, we are already hard at work on creating an optimal experience for our attendees.

The “hard at work” phrase kept in my mind as we learned that Vermont won the International Domicile of the Year during the Captive Review European Awards. The announcement on LinkedIn read: “Moving on to the next category at #EUCaptiveAwards 2022 where we have the International Domicile…And it is of course Vermont who have earned our congratulations!”

I’m still less than a year in as VCIA President/industry representative, so it struck me that the “of course” preposition to describe our award reflects the healthy and productive infrastructure that VCIA and the State has built–and continues to strengthen. That’s why I responded to Captive Review’s post like this: ” ‘Of course Vermont’ is a delightful comment, but rest assured that the industry-leading regulators, service providers and managers, economic development professionals and the VCIA are NOT resting on their laurels as we all further develop the ‘Gold Standard’ that garners awards like these.”

We’re further developing our Gold Standard here at VCIA by starting a Strategic Planning process that will result in a comprehensive and innovative blueprint that will guide us into prosperous future in partnership with our members, stakeholders, and the industry as a whole. Our newly appointed Board Chair Tracy Hassett said it in a nutshell: VCIA will be thinking “blue sky big” in how we can provide more to our members, meet captive owner/industry needs, and increase our impact and reach. So I encourage you to join us. Become a member, join a committee, share your feedback. This is YOUR organization, and the success we experienced at ECF only motivates us to higher ground.

Bookmark this Benchmarking Webinar Happening Next Week!

I can’t tell you how many folks have shared their excitement with me about VCIA’s upcoming Captive Benchmarking Webinar taking place next Wednesday November 16th at 2-3pm EST. It’s been a few years since our last benchmarking program, so it’s high time to update everyone on the health of captive financials in the State of Vermont. This year’s event is gearing up to be one of our most-attended webinars, and you can still get the important data by registering here!

I am lucky enough to moderate a conversation with the above captive financial data wizards, and I wanted to hear from them beforehand why they are excited for next week’s webinar.

With negative year-to-date investment returns reducing both profitability and surplus for captives, it is an opportune time to discuss best practices in benchmark selection for insurance entities that not only considers investment risk tolerances, but also the connection to the risks being underwritten by the captive

Bill piel, President of Institutional Markets, Opus Investment Management

During the webinar, Amy Angell of Milliman, Inc., plans to review surplus levels, identify ways to monitor claims performance, and to evaluate whether risk management programs are having the desired outcomes on the loss experience. She’ll do this all by looking at the hard data of the financial records of the 2021 EOY domiciled captives of the State of Vermont, listed by type of captive and by industry type.

What’s revving her up for next week? She told me point blank: “Benchmarking is a powerful tool that provides meaningful and actionable insights to captive owners.” If you want to start game planning for captive’s financial goals, then there’s no better place to start than our Hot Topics webinar.

Next to Amy will be her accomplished colleagues, Becky Aitchison, Captive Insurance Examiner for the State of Vermont DFR, and Bill Piel, President of the Opus Institutional Markets.

Becky is basically the source keeper the data aggregated and shared annually by the DFR. She will explain the key ratios used by the DFR for the surveillance of your captive’s financial health, and what markers she looks for in determining how a certain captive may or may not be thriving.

From an investment perspective, Bill will let you in on the primary reasons for establishing an investment policy and how the DFR data can help assist with developing an appropriate asset allocation unique to your captive. He will also identify ways to monitor investment performance and evaluate whether results are having the desired impact on your financial statements.

What makes Bill excited for the webinar? “With negative year-to-date investment returns reducing both profitability and surplus for captives, it is an opportune time to discuss best practices in benchmark selection for insurance entities that not only considers investment risk tolerances, but also the connection to the risks being underwritten by the captive.”

So, we have the expert who comes up with the data, and the other experts who will explain how to use the latest data to your benefit. It’s a win win!

I look forward to facilitating a data-driven conversation that looks into how your captive – and the Vermont captive landscape at large – has faired in the last financial year, and what that may say about the future. Remember to register, and “see you” there!

New York City Impressed by VCIA Roadshow

My second VCIA roadshow and it was remarkable in so many ways. On LinkedIn, attendee Isaac Muller said, “It was a fantastic experience as we met industry experts from the insurance and  captive worlds. We listened to them, we learned from them and got to talk to many of them.”

Thanks for hosting, EY!

Immersive sessions had Andrew Baillie sharing his experiences at AES, delivered with his trademark gentle Scottish humor. Presenting with Andrew was Dianne Salter, and she added insight into captive usage in regional medical centers with multiple campuses and thousands of professionals. The regulatory environment was well-covered, and there was a fascinating peek into the future of captives with another panel led by Mikhail Raybshteyn.

Added to this was the view from EY’s new building – peering down 48 floors to the new Moynihan Train Hall and across to the Empire State Building. Not bad, for New York!

That’s it for 2022 roadshows, but our first for 2023 will be in Mexico City. We’re going global! And please, feel free to invite us to your city and learn what captives can do for you, your clients and risk management professionals.

A huge thanks to our sponsors – the State of Vermont, Marsh, AM Best and EY!

I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.

Truman Capote

A Cut Above the Rest: A Productive – And Creative – VCIA Fall Board Meeting

Board meetings – A rough count has me at over 100 of these, sometimes as a Board member and sometimes as someone reporting to a Board.  The VCIA’s Board just held its last meeting of 2022, and it is a good time to reflect on similarities and differences.

TopNotch Resort entrance

Similarities – A horseshoe table, a conference phone and water set. And that’s about it! 

The view from TopNotch Resort. Snow is coming!

Differences – Board members calling in from Hawaii at 5:30 in the morning. A view out on to the late fall landscape of Stowe, Vermont.  Great catering. But all of those are just superficial.  Here are the fundamental differences with how the VCIA Board operated at a marathon 7-hour Board meeting:

Staff are present for everything except Executive Session.  With 60+ years of accumulated staff experience their absence would have meant a less informed Board.  And please don’t get the impression that staff sat meekly to one side.  For a start this isn’t that sort of staff, and secondly the Chair actively sought comprehensive input from all staff members.

Every Board member participated, voiced opinions and created spirited discussion.  Clearly, 2022 is shaping up to be very successful for the VCIA operationally and financially.  But rather than seek to duplicate and develop, the Board questioned the fundamentals of VCIA operations and how we serve our members in a dynamic and growing market. 

The 2022-2023 VCIA Board

Absence of pride.  Lots of proposals and ideas were discussed.  The originators of those ideas actively participated as their original thoughts were discussed, refined, discarded (occasionally) or adopted.

Participation.  Every Board meeting since I have joined has had 100% attendance.  This is despite the travel commitment involved or getting up early to join virtually.

The Leadership within the Board meeting.  As the Chair position changes to Tracy Hassett from Andrew Baillie there is a continuing clear and effective leadership style from the Chair.  Opinions are sought, time is taken to explore options, conversations around critical issues are allowed to develop, but any ‘drift’ is gently addressed.  Both the past and current leaders (and I am sure that this applies to past Chairs as well) used their skills to extract productivity and consensus from a diverse group of leaders within the captive industry.

For staff members, it is empowering and enjoyable to be so close to the owners’ representatives through exposure to the Board.  For Board members, I would certainly hope that they believe that their Board membership, and they ways that they conduct themselves as a Board provides personal and professional value to them in addition to the altruistic goal of building a stronger VCIA. We all can’t wait to get to work on the Big Pictures Ideas for our association. It starts now!

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.

#VCIA2022 in Pictures: Part II

It’s been 57 days since the last day of #VCIA2022. Summer has come to a close here in Vermont, and we are in full-on foliage mode. That doesn’t keep me from counting how many days until our next annual conference! 304 to be exact. In the meantime, we have a treasure trove of high-quality photos and I want to share some with you. Looking for more, or want to see if you’re in any? Contact Francis at fmcgill@vcia.com and he’ll be happy to help you out. Now without further ado, I give you VCIA’s 37th Annual Conference, in pictures – Part II!

In Session: Focusing on Captive Education at #VCIA2022

Rekindling Friendships and Making New Connections: Business Networking at #VCIA2022

Hotel Vermont Reception!

And a HUGE thank you from us staff (and Monty the VCIA Bear!) for your attendance made #VCIA2022 one for the record books! See you in 2023!