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!

VCIA’s Captivated Blog Heads to the Capitol: A Recap of 2023’s Successful Legislative Day

I am not expecting a Netflix development contract to come my way after my TV appearance (well, YouTube – the recordings can be found here and here) testifying before Vermont’s Senate Finance and House Commerce committees, but you never know.  In fact, I was just the ‘warm-up guy’ for the real stars, VCIA Board Chair Tracy Hassett, and the VCIA’s Legislative Committee Chair, Ben Gould.  Tracy had a compelling story about saving millions of dollars for edHEALTH (a member-owned higher education group) through their medical stop-loss captive, while Ben detailed how the legislation that these two committees work on keeps Vermont as the Gold Standard of the industry. Both committees were very receptive to us, and look forward to updating and finalizing a captive bill for 2023. As soon as there is any progress, we will let VCIA members know!

Senate Finance Testimony
VCIA President Kevin Mead in conversation with House Speaker Jill Krowinski during Legislative Leadership meetings

Following committee testimony, VCIA’s legislative advocate Jamie Feehan organized a slate of a Legislative Leadership meetings, where nearly 30 VCIA stakeholders heard from House and Senate Minority Leaders, House Speaker, Lieutenant Governor and the State’s Treasurer on what their priorities are for the legislative session, how the parties work together, and why they will continue to be champions of the captive industry and optimize the legislation that supports it.

But I need to back up!  Before all of this, the VCIA’s Board held a public session where we heard from the DFR’s Sandy Bigglestone and the DED’s Brittany Nevins on the state of the captive industry in Vermont.  41 new formations (another ‘top 10 year’)! This was followed up by an informal lunch, where House and Senate legislators were able to mix with VCIA members and staff and learn about what we do. Attendees also heard comments from DFR Commissioner Kevin Gaffney and DED Commissioner Joan Goldstein, both of whom pledged support for and praised the Vermont captive industry and VCIA. The common question of the day from lawmakers: where can I find the next captive industry for Vermont? We didn’t have an answer, but we responded quite passionately that we will continue to protect and strengthen the actual captive industry in Vermont!

A productive Legislative Day lunch, as a number of new legislators learned about Vermont captives

Headcount restrictions in place at various locations precluded us from having a mass turnout as in past years, but rest assured that this was an effective and informative Legislative Day that we can build on after two years of virtual attendance.

Given that our advocacy work at a federal and state level is always rated as one of our strongest benefits, there’s no better time to become a VCIA Member.

We are starting a series of exclusive member reports with a Legislative Day Document that will share video and specific commentary made by Vermont Legislators, and we plan to deliver it to our members in the next week! If you’re not a member yet, connect with Membership Director Janice Valgoi and make that new year resolution come true by joining us – for we are strength in numbers!

VCIA Fact Sheet distributed to Vermont lawmakers. An exclusive, detailed report of the day will be sent to VCIA members in the near 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.

Photo Blog of VCIA’s Holiday Mixer!

VCIA Members had blast last night at ECHO Science Museum and Aquarium, right on the Lake Champlain Waterfront with views of the Adirondack Mountains! Great festive atmosphere with personal and captive catch ups interspersed. Thanks for everyone who came out!

Welcome!
Can you guess the fish?
Members could roam freely around the museum!
Thank you Aon! Glad we saw so many of you at the mixer
A happy crowd
Great to see everyone!
Happy faces all around!
VCIA President Kevin Mead was mixing and mingling with all members
A great turnout of young professionals and captive veterans!
Thanks for hosting ECHO!

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.

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!