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.

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.

In the Land of the Sound of Music to Reflect on VCIA’s Future

The VCIA is not one to rest peacefully on its laurels.  In addition to the fact that the Conference Task Force is already working on the 2023 VCIA Annual Conference, I also need to tell you about our future planning process.  Just this week, staff went offsite to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe for our annual planning retreat.  While we did not indulge in a Sound of Music karaoke session, we did have six hours of highly productive conversations concerning the future direction and initiatives for the VCIA. 

Lunch at the Mountain Von Trapp Resort of Austria…I mean Stowe!

We brainstormed big picture ideas as well as how to optimize our work systems. We discussed opportunities and how VCIA can better serve our members and the captive community as a whole. What else can we provide? What can we do different and new? What do our members want, and what do they want in the future? Overall, we identified key areas to explore, steps to take, and proposals to confer the Board on. A stroll in the misty mountains by the grazing cows was the perfect cap to the day.

The Family Trapp Lodge
The hills are alive with music with songs they have sung for a thousand years!
Some staff and friendly cows

Next up, in less than three weeks, is the fall meeting of the VCIA’s Board, where they will review staff input and also create a plan for member consultation as a part of a root and branch strategic direction consultation.

Then comes your part – member and stakeholder input in a variety of formats. I really hope that you make the choice to participate when asked. Your organization, the VCIA, can only grow and support you if we have clarity on your needs. Our goal will be to look at all ideas, from the incremental to the radical, through the lens of the question “will this build value?”

While our staff retreat generated strong themes and initiatives for the future of the VCIA, these need validation through our process, and I hope to hear from many of you as this process is rolled out. You can always contact me by phone or email. Until then, “my heart wants to sing every song it hears.”

Find a Wealth of Captive Education – And Networking – at VCIA’s Last Captive Roadshow of 2022 in New York City

A chill is in the air here in Vermont and autumn officially arrived yesterday. Time to get on boots and your long sleeve plaids! And after doing a deep dive on the results of our annual conference, we shift attention to Gotham – New York City – where Janice Valgoi and I host a cadre of experts who will answer your questions and point you in the right direction on how to properly form, manage, and serve a captive. Do you miss the buzz from our conference? Then catch it again in the Big Apple.

When: October 26th from 1-5:45pm.

Where: The beautiful EY US Headquarters. That’s 1 Manhattan West, 395 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001.

Why: An easy one: to see me. Or if you’re not keen on me regaling you about rugby or motorcycles, earn CPE/VT CLE credit, get your questions answered by the industry giants like Sandy Bigglestone, learn a step-by-step blueprint for captive success, and simply be in the room with high-powered captive players.

Where captive dreams are made

What: We break down the afternoon into three parts: 1) An overview of captives and their formations, and how to find a supportive domicile for your captive. Brittany Nevins and The State of Vermont will provide information in this respect. 2) Captive Success Stories. What makes a captive successful and how do you reach your captive goals? Dianne Salter, President of Mountain Laurel Risk Retention Group, will share specific facts and experiences that helped give shape to the high value of her captive. (There are many more erudite captive minds who will be speaking in Parts I and II. See below! 3) Networking Reception: Build relationships and find opportunities in the City That Never Sleeps. And be sure to find me and say hello!

Who: EY is generously providing the space and is a sponsor of the Roadshow, along with The State of Vermont, AM Best, and Marsh Captive Solutions. For the Roadshow speakers, VCIA, as always, presents a stellar lineup of seasoned professionals who have decades of experience to impart to you. I personally want to thank EY’s Mikhail Raybshteyn and Jim Bulkowski for working with us to put on this fruitful event.

How: By registering via this link!

Join us for a high-powered Roadshow in the heart of Manhattan

See you folks a few days before Halloween. I cannot confirm or deny I will be in costume. 🎃

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!

Collaboration and Innovation at #VCIA2022

From our planning committees and design process for #VCIA2022, two major themes emerged that we have cultivated and set to be front and center when the captive world comes to meet in Burlington August 8-11th (and coming quite soon, I may add!). We’ve had endless conversations with different key players and organizations in the captive industry and they identified these same elements that have been sorely lacking during the remote days of the pandemic. The big #VCIA2022 themes are: collaboration and innovation.

What is collaboration and why is it important? To me, it’s the exercise of bringing different perspectives and experiences together to solve an industry challenge or open up a pathway for new opportunity. Collaboration will take shape through conference educational sessions, and especially so with #VCIA2022 Discussion Groups. There are 7 Discussion Groups led by outstanding individuals who not only know their material, but are passionate about it. These will be engaging, back-and-forth discussions, with an emphasis on inclusivity and openness to making things work. That’s what collaboration is all about. See our LinkedIn posting below for more info!

Innovation–the Latin root of which comes from innovare for renew, or to make new–will be demonstrated by over 70 exhibitors at #VCIA2022. Whether it’s a new product or a reliable service, you’re bound to connect with companies that have come from all over the country to show you how they can help move your business forward. I’m personally excited for the conference opening reception, taking place in the exhibit hall at 4:30pm on August 9th. This will be the time to hear about the latest developments, to catch up with colleagues, make new connections, and get creative answers from a swath of talented people. Check out our exhibitor map below and make notes on who you want to see!

We’ve also built innovation into the conference through special Ignite Talks. Only in its second year, Ignite Talks are VCIA’s opportunity for the industry to distill important topics into a condensed and compelling presentation akin to the very popular TED Talks TM. The VCIA Ignite Talks are delivered by some of the finest captive minds we know and these bright folks will impart valuable knowledge relating to the captive insurance community. They serve as a platform to problem solve an issue or unpack a complex facet of the captive industry. This presentation model works precisely because it is time limited and keeps the audience’s attention with messaging that resonates. Plenty of time is reserved for a Q&A session to ensure your team directly engages with conference attendees. The Ignite Talks will take place at the Ignite Stage in the Exhibit Hall and the Amphitheater. Be sure to save some time to stop by one of these exciting talks and check out our incredible lineup!

24 days until #VCIA2022 week begins and we innovate and collaborate industry-wide! Be sure to share our registration page with colleagues/friends/other businesses who should be attending that haven’t signed up yet!