Q&A with VCIA President, Rich Smith, on the 2018 annual conference

Author: Jill Hoffman

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR ANNUAL CONFERENCE.
“The Vermont Captive Insurance Association hosts our 33rd annual captive insurance conference from August 7–9, 2018, in Burlington, Vermont. True to this year’s conference theme, “Where the Captive World Comes to Meet!” VCIA will host 1,100 people from all over the world to experience its high-quality educational offerings and take advantage of its numerous networking opportunities. Nearly 100 companies exhibit at VCIA, featuring the newest industry product and service developments.

This year’s conference offers professional education credits (CPE/CLE/ICCIE) to those who attend the educational sessions. Attendees will learn from panelists who are captive owners from some of the most prestigious organizations in the world. A wide array of topics at varying levels, from basic to advanced, offer professional development opportunities for those new to captive insurance, those in accounting and finance, those in operations, and risk managers.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GOALS YOU HOPE TO ATTAIN THIS YEAR?
“Our main goals for this year are to facilitate collaboration and to offer solid education to people with any level of captive experience, including new professionals just ramping up their careers.

The goal to facilitate collaboration is reflected in the theme “Where the Captive World Comes to Meet.” We hear time and again from our attendees that the value of the VCIA conference lies not only in its educational offerings, but equally so in its opportunities to connect and collaborate with others. We are offering numerous ways for people to collaborate both inside and outside of the educational sessions.

We are featuring outstanding speakers and ensuring a diversified topic base, a variety of session formats and emphasis on interactive and participatory sessions. There is a good amount of professional development content as well, with sessions such as Presenting to Board and Management, Building Better Relationships, and a new Young Professionals Forum.

With the growth of group captives, we are offering a number of sessions for those involved in this area. For one session a panel of experts will explain the history and recent developments of RRG governance and related compliance standards, and their impact on RRGs’ operations after various domiciles adopted these standards in the last 3+ years (Governance Standards for RRGs). The Group & Association Captive Forum will be of interest to prospective captive owners, industry veterans, and all those in between. This open discussion will address pressing questions and provide an opportunity to hear and learn from captive peers.”

ARE THERE EMERGING TOPICS THAT YOU WILL FOCUS ON?
“Yes. One needs only to pick up the newspaper to see that big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence have crept into even the most mundane aspects of our daily lives. In The Cognitive Captive: Artificial Intelligence for Smarter Insurance a panel of consultants working in this space will discuss the growing role of machine learning and analytics in all aspects of insurance business: underwriting, claims, and importantly, displacement and relocation of the risks themselves.

We’re also offering a session on blockchain and distributive ledger technology, the technology behind Bitcoin. Blockchain is a cloud-based, fully synchronized financial ledger that can greatly reduce transaction costs. Our session entitled Blockchains & Distributed Ledger Technology: Scenarios for Captives will introduce the technology, identify its current insurance related applications, and explore innovative use scenarios for captives.

Another interesting session will be Natural Catastrophes and Their Impact on Risk Management. Many captives have significant exposure to property and natural disasters. Often capital modelling, catastrophe modelling, retentions and risk management functions are performed without stepping back, analyzing and challenging the particulars of why these functions are performed. In a year where there has been a significant level of catastrophe activity, this session will provide multiple and differing perspectives of the management of
catastrophe risk.

Our General Session keynote speaker, Jack Uldrich, is a renowned Global Futurist and award winning author, who will speak on trends transforming the insurance sector tomorrow. Jack began his career as an intelligence officer for the United States Navy and also served as the Director of the Office of Strategic Planning for the Governor of Minnesota. So as you can see, the conference is quite centered on emerging risks, new technologies and innovations happening in our world and within the industry.”

WHO ARE SOME OR YOUR OTHER SPEAKERS YOU HAVE LINED UP?
“We have some incredible captive owners who’ll provide their expertise and experience, such as Steve Legg from Starbucks, Stephanie Lampi from Microsoft, Andrew Baillie of AES Corporation, and Xiaozhe Zheng of COSCO Shipping Captive Insurance Co. Ltd., a captive insurer wholly owned by China COSCO Shipping Group, currently the biggest shipping company in terms of the total fleet and total shipping capacity in the world.

For the natural catastrophes session we have two experts in the field: Gillian Galford is a research assistant professor at Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources for the University of Vermont, and Dr. Jay Shafer is a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Northern Vermont University-Lyndon where he teaches the art and science of weather forecasting. His research focuses on getting the snow and ice forecast right in Vermont’s complex terrain, and he is an active practitioner of applying weather forecast information to help people make informed decisions.

Jeff Carr is President & Senior Economist at Economic & Policy Resources, and has more than 35 years of experience in economic analysis, economic and fiscal impact assessment analysis, economic forecasting, and preparing and presenting state economic-fiscal data to Wall Street bond rating agencies. Jeff has served as the consulting State Economist and Principal Tax Revenues Analyst-Forecaster for the past six Governors of Vermont.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE NETWORKING AND EXTRACURRICULAR OFFERINGS AT THIS YEAR’S CONFERENCE?
Captive owners are invited on a risk management tour of Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest utility, where they will hear firsthand from Green Mountain Power’s own risk managers. Locally and nationally known for being innovative, GMP was named #1 on List of Top 10 Innovative Companies in Energy by Fast Company.

VCIA’s Opening Reception in the Exhibit Hall at the DoubleTree, will be filled with captive industry peers from virtually every aspect of the industry, and this reception is a great way to surround yourself with those you’d like to meet. The following evening we join industry colleagues for a great reception on the beautiful Burlington waterfront at ECHO. Overlooking Lake Champlain, ECHO is Burlington’s own Lake Aquarium and Science Center.

The VCIA Golf Tournament tees off at 8:30 am on Tuesday, August 7th at the Vermont National Country Club. This is the perfect chance to enjoy Vermont’s only Jack Nicklaus designed course and make valuable networking connections while you’re in Vermont for the VCIA Conference.

At Thursday’s closing luncheon we welcome a very special keynote speaker, Joel Cohen. As the Emmy award-winning writer and producer for The Simpsons, the longest-running American scripted Prime Time television series in history, Joel has been a key part of the show’s success. Joel draws links between running a business and keeping a hit show fresh.

WILL THERE STILL BE SOME FAVORITES AGAIN?
“Yes, we still will be hosting our Captives 101 session the first day at UVM’s Davis Center. The goal of this seminar is to provide an active session exploring the many benefits of captives, why they are formed, and how they are successfully managed. The panel is comprised of four captive owners: two are from mature captives that have had years to season, and two are from new captives that were formed in 2017. The group will bring a wealth of experience regarding captive formation, as well as the wisdom of their captive’s years.

Tax Reform: Where the Dust Settled, also at the Davis Center, where our panel of experts will discuss the effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 on the captive insurance industry and provide an update of relevant guidance.

And finally, one of the most popular sessions is Hot Topics with Vermont’s own Dave Provost. Dave, Vermont’s Deputy Insurance Commissioner, and our other highly experienced panelists, will provide an engaging and interactive discussion on current hot topics impacting the captive insurance industry. It is a perennial favorite.”

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