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!

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!

#VCIA2022 Keynotes To Give a Global View of Things

With our early bird period in the rearview, and 700 and counting registrants (!) , we gear up for one more month of celebrating all things #VCIA2022, before our flagship event takes center stage of the captive world in August. By now, you know how important the networking and educational sessions will be. Let me turn your attention to why our two worldly #VCIA2022 keynotes are worth your price of admission. For both history buffs and people interested in politics and economics…we have you covered!

History maker Admiral Michelle Howard will be at the VCIA Conference

First, let’s start with our Special Keynote Speaker who will be closing out #VCIA2022 on Thursday August 11th with an inspiring speech and luncheon. US Navy Admiral Michelle Howard has not only commanded ships at sea but also a deep respect from all branches of the military. She’s a groundbreaking leader who has seen it all, enjoying a distinguished career in national defense within the areas of operations, readiness, and strategic planning.

What stories can she tell? Plenty! A veteran of operations that included NATO peacekeeping, Indonesia tsunami relief, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, she was thrust into the international spotlight in 2009 as leader of the counter-piracy task force that rescued civilian Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates!

Hear from her a preview of what she’ll be talking about in her keynote address.

Her keynotes address leadership, cybersecurity, diversity, innovation and team building. To each, she lends experience gained from three decades on the front lines and highest levels of national defense. Bringing the empowering insights of an African-American woman who spent her career shattering glass ceilings and breaking new ground, she continues to motivate others with her highly inspirational presence.

This is what you’ll Get at #VCIA2022!

Next to an iconic military figure, The VCIA Conference has paired a geopolitical whiz as the second keynote speaker. Michael Weidokal, an internationally-recognized economic and geopolitical forecaster who helps business leaders and policy makers comprehend the issues and trends that are impacting the world today AND tomorrow, addresses #VCIA2022 attendees on Tuesday August 9th at 3:45pm.

Michael is the president and founder of International Strategic Analysis (ISA), a leading provider of economic forecasting, international market intelligence and geopolitical analysis with clients all around the globe. ISA is one of the world’s most respected economic and geopolitical research firms, providing research and support for thousands of the world’s leading businesses, governments and universities. Get a glimpse of what he will share at our conference below!

Michael’s ability to combine international economics, geopolitics and history allow him to have a unique perspective on the issues and events that are taking place throughout the world. His areas of expertise include the fields of international economic competitiveness, global market selection and geopolitical risk assessment. Furthermore, he has repeatedly proven to be able to accurately predict important trends and developments before they happen.

Get the Intel from Experts like Michael at #VCIA2022!
Happy Fourth of July!

Have a wonderful, long Independence Day weekend, everyone. Can’t believe we’re basically just a month out from our dynamic captive conference. Thank you to everyone who has worked hard to put it together and additionally to everyone has registered so far. We couldn’t do this without you. P.S👉 registration link for folks that missed the early bird bus. It’s still a great deal! And don’t forget to sign up for our golf tournament!

Young Professionals, Come to #VCIA2022 and Benefit!

As registrations for the VCIA’s August 2022 Conference climb, I am hearing feedback from members and non-members alike as to how pleased they are to be able to get back together again. In particular, there’s another large group that we are looking forward to seeing and serving at the event—the next generation of captive professionals. Here’s my pitch as to why they should come to #VCIA2022

Since our last in-person conference back in 2019, there’s been a considerable number of new entrants to the professions around the captive industry. Additionally, there is also a group that at that stage was early in their careers and have had limited in person networking opportunities. I am particularly interested in visiting with folks in these two groups— finding out what interests them, what they want to learn, and how our association can support them—because they broadly represent the future of the industry and of the VCIA.

A passionate advocate for captive careers and injecting the industry with youth and creativity, Brittany Nevins, the State of Vermont’s Captive Insurance Economic Development Director, thinks the VCIA Conference recognizes the importance of catering to a larger, newer base of professionals in our self-insurance industry. “There is a shift happening across the industry to intentionally focus more on bringing people into the captive industry as a career path. This shift in focus is visible throughout the VCIA Conference in various educational and networking opportunities. New professionals have more opportunities to speak on panels and share their unique and diverse perspectives, to ask one another how we can be more supportive, and how veterans in the industry can create opportunity. There’s much work to be done but it’s clear that this is a priority for the VCIA.”

There is a shift happening across the industry to intentionally focus more on bringing people into the captive industry as a career path. This shift in focus is visible throughout the VCIA Conference in various educational and networking opportunities

Brittany Nevins, Vermont’s Captive Insurance Economic Development Director

The carefully curated content of #VCIA2022 makes for strong professional development opportunities for young and new captive companies and employees. Captive Immersion on Monday 8/8 is a comprehensive program on the basics of the industry. There’s also Captive 101 the next day as well as a number of sessions categorized as “beginner” level that would be appropriate and beneficial to someone with limited experience under their belt.

Besides the important content for young professionals, there’s also the credit. In one place, you can earn numerous CPE credits and boost your value to your company. And as I mentioned above, networking—actually establishing relationships, face to face, with different people in all kinds of captive roles—is invaluable and has been sorely lacking these last few years. #VCIA2022 plans to fix that from the moment you arrive in Burlington.

At the cocktail reception for Captive Immersion, you can connect with some industry leaders and VCIA Board members. On Tuesday, check in at the Newcomers Orientation and a Conference Ambassador can give you tips on how to leverage your time at the conference. Then there’s the opening reception in the Exhibit Hall where everyone will be kicking off the week in good spirits. You can also participate in networking lunches and there’s plenty of space at the conference to set up private meetings. Finally, our evening reception at the snazzy Hotel Vermont will be special. It’s a farewell tribute to Dave Provost and anybody and everybody in the captive industry will be there.

So for young professionals, we want to make sure that you get the most out of the upcoming conference. Please seek out myself, other staff members and the VCIA board members and let us know how the event and the association can be more relevant to you as you grow within the industry. Many of you will attend with colleagues, but this is just a gentle hint to suggest that you step away from the people that you know and use the conference as your first and best opportunity to meet with and build relationships with others in the industry.

The VCIA Conference is helping usher in the next generation of captive professionals. We hope to see you in August

I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at the conference, and to hearing your aspirations for your career!

If you haven’t registered for the conference yet, you can do so here. And don’t forget to book your lodging and airfare, too!

Sandy Bigglestone: The Perfect Captive Successor to Dave Provost

Continuity. Experience. Expertise. 3 reasons (among many) for why Vermont is the Gold Standard for captive domicile decisions. The same 3 reasons describe Sandy Bigglestone, who this week was appointed as the new Deputy Commissioner of the Captive Insurance Division. Since the NBA Finals are underway, I’m inclined to say this is a slam dunk choice for everyone interested in captives in Vermont!

The Board, staff and members of the VCIA are delighted that Vermont Governor Phil Scott knew exactly where to turn to lead the division into a profitable future, and we join the entire industry, in Vermont and beyond, in congratulating Sandy. She is hardly a new face to the captive industry, and I hope that she will forgive me when I mention that she is 25 years into her career at the DFR. I said it once and I’ll say it again, Sandy will ensure stability, consistency, and quality that is the hallmark of regulation in Vermont, while also challenging staff and other stakeholders to develop and improve.

L to R: 2022 VCIA Conference Chair Ian Davis, appointed Deputy Commissioner Sandy Bigglestone, and retiring Deputy Commissioner Dave Provost

The upcoming VCIA conference from August 8 – 11 in Burlington offers a great chance for members and other stakeholders in the industry to meet up with Sandy and congratulate her. You can register for the conference here (and don’t forget to book your airfare and lodging soon, they go fast!) “Hot Topics with Dave Provost” on the last day of the conference, with incoming and outgoing Deputy Commissioners, will indeed be a hot ticket!

The upcoming VCIA conference from August 8 – 11 in Burlington offers a great chance for members and other stakeholders in the industry to meet up with Sandy and congratulate her.

Many major captive players enthusiastically received the news of Sandy’s appointment. Here are some snippets.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott: “Sandy has decades of experience in licensing and regulating captives in Vermont, the top domicile in the country. It made sense to look within for the best person to lead the industry and the obvious choice was Sandy.

Sandy’s soon-to-be predecessor Dave Provost: “Sandy will carry on the mission of the captive division and be a thoughtful regulator. She has the experience and skills and new ideas to help guide the industry forward.”

Mary Ellen Moriarty, VP of Property & Casualty at EIIA. “Sandy is a polished professional, goes the extra mile when necessary, and wants to see us thrive. She is the perfect person to guide Vermont.”

“Sandy is a natural leader, and we are happy to have her stepping into this role,” said Interim DFR Commissioner Kevin Gaffney.

Upwards and onwards to the Sandy Bigglestone and the Vermont Captive Industry…see you all in August!