Welcome Conference Summer Interns!

VCIA is lucky to have not just one conference summer intern this year, but two! We, like the rest of the industry, are putting in a big effort to find and engage the next generation of captive talent. That’s where our interns come in. One grew up in Vermont and decided to move to the Midwest for college (go Hawkeyes!); the other grew up in the Bluegrass State and fell in love with Vermont and the University of Vermont. These 2 are contributing in a major way to make your experience and the #VCIA2023 conference a success. Please meet VCIA Interns John O’Rourke and Marguerite Jouet!

John and Marguerite have been preparing the conference app for you!

University of Iowa Class of 2024 with a major in finance, John comes to VCIA as our technology intern. He is ready to troubleshoot any technology issues if needed, and he plays a big role in updating our conference app for attendees to use. On a sidenote, the app is humming along and should be ready for your use in mid July, so you can start networking with other attendees before the conference!

Last year John visited London and took a course on international finance. There, he toured the impressive offices of Lloyd’s of London, and when he learned about an opening at VCIA, he connected the dots to just how big the captive industry is in his home state. “It’s incredible,” John said, “discovering this global power of insurance right at my doorstep. I’m so excited to give it my all to make the conference a great experience for everyone.”

Marguerite joins VCIA as our event management intern and she works closely with VCIA’s Director of Education Diane Leach in perfecting the details of the conference. She studies marketing and data analytics with a concentration in global business at UVM, and last semester she went to the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona for an amazing study abroad experience.

Marguerite has already been a valuable staff member to VCIA as she’s done outreach to the Burlington Business Bureau and contacted city restaurants to provide information about our conference, demonstrating the great opportunity coming for them! Another sidenote: you will find some restaurants will have flyer with our logo on their window – please support these eateries! This was a great idea hatched by Marguerite. Says Marguerite, “It’s been wonderfully eye-opening to witness how a conference is created from scratch and all the planning that goes into it for a successful event. I’m so happy to be a part of it and can’t wait to see it all come to fruition in August!”

Whether emailing them or meeting them at #VCIA2023, please give John and Marguerite a warm welcome! And remember, book your lodging and register for the conference today!

Spring Member Mixer Recap and a BIG Thank you to Outgoing Board Members

Wednesday of this week featured an outstanding series of VCIA events in a blustery and damp Burlington. It brought together the many-faceted folks who play different roles in the Vermont captive industry and illustrated that indeed, we’re better when we’re together. We started with a VCIA Board meeting and then had the Vermont Captive Team available to give an update and take questions from our members. From then on it was time to relax with a spring cocktail and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being a VCIA Member.

The outstanding VCIA Board met in the morning for the regular spring meeting. In addition to their usual Board business of reviewing reports and plans there was also a preliminary strategic planning exercise to help guide the process that we will undertake going forwards.  To take a page out of VCIA Board Chair Tracy Hassett’s book, we were definitely aiming for the big blue sky in our strategic planning exercises. This is just the beginning and I look forward to providing more SP updates as we officially get underway at the start of 2024.

In addition there were also two open access sessions – firstly for members to question the Board about their meeting and the direction of the VCIA.  Then, the DFR’s Leadership team took the stage for a Q & A about the health of the industry and Vermont as a domicile, the changes to Vermont captive legislation and the actions of entities such as the IRS and the NAIC.  Despite the depth of the subject matter, the usually approachability and cooperative nature of the DFR team was very much in evidence. Check out the video below to hear about the positive direction the Vermont Captive team heads in.

Sandy Bigglestone explains how the Vermont Captive team will sustain its Gold Standard

Then it was on to the most important business of the day – the Spring Mixer!  Being indoors as a result of the aforementioned blustery and damp weather did not detract from the conversations among over 60 professionals – some of which were not Vermont-based.  A huge thanks to all that made the journey (long or short) for your support of the VCIA and our activities.

VCIA staff Joce Lamb and Ella Stevens registering members for the mixer
M&T Bank/Wilmington Trust’s Ian Davis and Aon’s Nancy Gray
Primmer’s Jesse Crary, Paul Frank + Collins’ Ben Gould, and VCIA President Kevin Mead
A BIG Thank You to 3 Outgoing VCIA Board Members

Poignantly, the Board and staff also said farewell to three outstanding Board members and long-term friends of the VCIA.  The Board recognized the insight, diligence and camaraderie that Stephanie Mapes, Dennis Silvia and Anne Marie Towle have provided to the VCIA and the broader captive industry.

Thank you, Stephanie!

President of Paul Frank + Collins Stephanie Mapes is not only stepping down from the VCIA Board, but she’s also retiring! She’s been a true pillar in the legal sector of the captive industry and was an integral part to VCIA’s legislative intelligence and operations. She brought us a great attention to detail, hard hitting questions, and a knack for finding solutions. On top of it all, Stephanie truly spearheaded our efforts to have a distinguished Strategic Planning process with the SOAR approach. VCIA is grateful how you are leaving us and extra appreciative for your strategic planning expertise and input.

Davies Captive Management expert Dennis Silvia brought a panoramic view of how VCIA fits and stands out in the captive landscape. His insights to the VCIA Conference Task Force and played a big role in why our conference educational offerings are top notch. He was committed to the nth degree – even phoning in from Hawaii in the early morning hours to make a Board meeting! Thank you Dennis for bringing perceptive suggestions – and actions to how VCIA functions and excels.

Last but not least, Hylant’s Anne Marie Towle. Hearing from her fellow Board members as well as staff, one attribute rises to the top – Anne Marie’s energy. She gave so much to VCIA as a Board member, thanks to her robust captive professional network and her own nonstop professional education. Whether it was bringing sponsors in to the conference, or building attendance for a roadshow in Indianapolis, Anne Marie really “connected the dots” as a VCIA Board member and expanded our reach and impact. Thank you, Anne Marie!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend to you all out there. Enjoy the long rest, and then let’s get back as our conference planning revs on for #VCIA2023!

#VCIA2023 Conference Preview III: Registration Strong Out of the Gate

We are launched! On Monday of this week registration opened for the 2023 VCIA Conference, and already over 160 attendees have registered to attend. On the outside, it looked like we just ‘flipped the switch,’ but in all honesty that could not be further from the truth! The lead up to the launch of registration has been a meticulous process, one that involved a significant amount of time on the backend to ensure that the registration procedure can run properly for everyone.

Over 160 attendees have already registered to attend and we can’t wait for you to join us! Register here: https://tinyurl.com/vciaaugust7-10

#VCIA2023: Where the captive world Comes to Meet

Many logistics go into managing the conference experience as well. It’s a big mark of logistical success when attendees don’t even notice because everything is running so smoothly, and that is our goal! A look behind the scenes shows that the VCIA staff have been working on the details that make the conference rev – from hotel contract to our great conference logo – reflecting the summer colors of Vermont.  From transportation to sampling the food offerings at the hotel (Somehow, I missed out on that job!)

Equally important to logistics, is the actual conference schedule that has been materializing for months. Since September of 2022 (Yes, less than a month after the end of the 2022 conference!), a dedicated group of captive professionals have been working as the VCIA’s Conference Task Force to solicit, evaluate, hone and finalize a broad range of continuing professional education. Working closely with staff, they have also addressed issues such as safety and security, and the integration of stellar social and networking events into the program. 

Staff and the Conference Task Force have also work hard on securing the keynote speakers who will bring something different and relevant to the attendees. This year we are delighted to have retained the services of Juliette Kayyem & Jeff Kreisler. Juliette is a CNN National Security Analyst, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, and a former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security. Jeff is the head of Behavioral Science at JP Morgan as well as being a former stand-up comedian!  That’s a combination I can’t wait to experience.

Get a preview of what Jeff Kreisler will bring as the keynote to the #VCIA2023 Conference!

So, come join us and about 1,000 of your peers as we explore new challenges and innovations. Build effective and useful contacts across the formal and informal events, and have an outstanding time in beautiful Burlington, Vermont!

P.S. If you haven’t yet, check out our conference video!

Emerging Leaders Launch Party Was a Hit, and It’s Just the Beginning

60 is a great number. After all, it represents the number of starting players on 4 rugby teams! And the ancient Babylonians used base 60 for their sexagesimal system of mathematics. Closer to home, it was also the number of folks present at the launch party for the Vermont Captive Insurance Emerging Leaders Group (VCIEL). This exceeded the preliminary target, but more than the numbers was the quality present. 

We attracted professors, students, rising professionals and a slate of key industry decision makers, including Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Kevin Gaffney, Sandy Bigglestone (#3 on the Power 50 Captive Review), Deputy Commissioner of the Captive Division of the DFR, and even Mike Pieciak, Treasurer for the State of Vermont and a dear friend of the VCIA. The launch party had it all: it was fun, dynamic, great enthusiasm, and the conversations around the group and its goals were outstanding.

In addition to being a meeting place for the Emerging Leaders, the group has set themselves some additional goals, and the greatest of these is to have a positive influence on the number and quality of talented individuals available to Vermont’s captive industry. With continued pressure in the competition for talent, and with Vermont lacking any formal college program addressing risk management, this will be a challenge, but I am strongly betting on this great pool of talented individuals to be able to make considerable headway here. 

How can it be done? Developing smart relationships. Though there may not be a risk management program at Vermont schools, there’s a strong contingent of people – students, professors, administrators – who are interested in developing relationships and opportunities with VCIA and VCIEL. This was on full display at the VCIEL Launch Party, and there are already irons in the fire in how we will take effective action. More to come on that. Education and outreach will be key.

It’s critical to note that while the VCIA strongly supports and has a partnership with VCIEL, VCIEL operates with autonomy and makes decisions by group consensus made up of the talented folks with various captive roles who provide great perspective. This is by design and is based on the strong belief within the VCIA that groups like this need to be empowered and resourced and not directed and controlled. 

As we near #VCIA2023 registration kick off (May 15th, mark your calendars!), you will see heightened visibility for VCIEL, which will play an integral role at the conference in August. They are already driving highly relevant content onto the agenda for that event, and will be a perfect resource for the students, rising professionals and those new to the industry who attend to the conference. 

I expect to be able to report on further development and partnerships for the group in the coming months, but for now, let’s give a hand for the great work done by VCIEL. The launch party was a smash hit! It’s just the beginning and VCIA is proud to be with VCIEL on this journey to a better captive future.

Happy 2023! Let’s Look Ahead with VCIA

Early in the new year seems to be a good time for predictions. Even though my abilities in prognostication may be somewhat limited, I can fall on the guidance and opinions of others to develop some ideas related to both the VCIA and the Captive industry as a whole that might stand a fighting chance of becoming reality.

Firstly, Marsh’s Ellen Charnley, speaking to Richard Cutcher in Captive Intelligence predicted that the just-closing 2022 would be another record year for captive formations, and that this growth, while still being driven by North America, is also global.  Certainly, that mirrors what we have seen in Vermont, with 2022 likely to deliver another year of over 40 formations.  And it seems like the pace is not slowing – owners seem to be seeking a number of things.

  • Speed to market
  • Innovation
  • Stability and reliability

Within the broader insurance market ratings agency, Fitch sees headwinds from inflation and a potentially weakening economy as factors driving a neutral overall assessment.  This was echoed by Swiss Re in their market outlook for 2023/24, in which they suggested that this volatility could cause “rate hardening to regain momentum.”  And while standard wisdom is that a hardening market assists captive growth, this could be tempered by an overall economic slowing.  The opinions of Swiss Re are at slight variance with those of WTW, who comment that “commercial insurance rates (are) rising at a moderating rate.”

Predicting for the VCIA is perhaps a little easier!  Staff and the Conference Task Force are already deep into planning the 2023 VCIA Conference, building on the success of a return to in-person last year.  We will take our first trade mission to Mexico on March 1st, as we seek to support and develop an increasingly sophisticated and growing market there.  A dynamic and involved Board will continue to challenge and inspire us to develop and deliver value for members.

The captive industry has a long history of responding to the needs of clients and potential clients through innovation. Vermont and the VCIA are a part of that, and we look forward to being able to deliver in 2023 and beyond. There are many ways to get involved, and I personally hope you do so with us this year.

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!

Your Perspectives of #VCIA2022

I finally came around to writing that personal $100 donation check to ICCIE. It’s in honor of A.I. Insurance’s Cameron MacArthur, who guessed the closest number to the #VCIA2022 attendee count, 986! I also want to acknowledge our friend George Levine of KPMG. He correctly answered all staff trivia at the conference and won the $50 Vermont Flannel Company gift card. We went through several wrong submissions before coming up with George’s! I hope George found something to clad himself in for the New England autumn. For the rest of the blog, I want to give it over to you, the fine folks that made #VCIA2022 a complete success. VCIA staff closely read over your post conference feedback, and we’ve already identified areas that we can improve on for next year. We also appreciate the support and gratitude, as we went all in to make it possible. So without further ado, here are some comments that really made us smile. (As a side note, if you haven’t filled out the conference survey and would still like to, get in touch with Francis at fmcgill@vcia.com)

Job well done, VCIA!  That was an incredible conference and I think anyone that attended would agree, you are clearly the best.

Thank you for all your, and your team’s efforts in putting this together. Excited to be here (1st-timer)!

The best organized conference I’ve attended. Keep it up!

A phenomenal opportunity for a young professional in the captive industry to become more integrated in the community at large!

I love VCIA! It truly is where the captive world comes to meet. Anyone doing captives is here so it’s a must-go.

The best US conference to attend.

Professional sessions with strong attendance of key players in the captive space.

Everyone’s willing to make new contacts and build out their networks at VCIA!

Excellent information from thought leaders in the captive industry.

Vermont Conference is the best.

Best in class!

The people and the good times make this a great conference.

The staff at VCIA is very supportive and helps make it one of the best conferences of the year.

At VCIA all attendees genuinely want others to have a positive experience.

If you do anything related to captive insurance, you have to come to VCIA. Simple as that!

#VCIA2022 in Pictures: Part I

Well, the dust has settled: #VCIA2022 is in the rearview, and we, as I hope you are as well, are thrilled with the results! This blog can’t begin to capture the captive industry’s energy, the networking, the learning that all happened in a few short days in Burlington, Vermont. What it can do, however, is share with you a first-glimpse batch of our official #VCIA2022 photos. Have any more photos you’d like to share? Send them to me at kmead@vcia.com. More official conference photo batches will be shared throughout the autumn. Now without further ado, I give you VCIA’s 37th Annual Conference, in pictures!

In Session: Focusing on Captive Education at #VCIA2022

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

Enjoying the Links at the VCIA Open

And a HUGE thank you from us staff for your attendance made #VCIA2022 one for the record books!