“ICCIE has given me the vocabulary to understand the nuances when I’m speaking with Vermont’s captive insurance companies.”
-Brittany Nevins, Vermont’s Department of Economic Development
The Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA) is taking action to bring more young people into the industry. At the 2022 VCIA Annual Conference, workforce challenges were cited as one of the top three issues facing captive insurance. So, in March 2023, the VCIA launched the Vermont Captive Insurance Emerging Leaders Initiative (VCIEL), to raise awareness about captive insurance as a career path and to support fellow new and emerging captive insurance professionals in the domicile.
Brittany Nevins, captive insurance economic development director in Vermont’s Department of Economic Development, brought together 30 emerging captive insurance leaders located in Vermont from various roles in the industry to make an impact locally.
“It was clear that no one person or company could make the broader impact that was needed, but together anything is possible,” says Nevins.
With Vermont’s recent rise to being the number one captive insurance domicile worldwide, it’s clear Vermont has the expertise to regulate and service captive insurance companies. Now it’s helping to boost the captive workforce by attracting young and new talent.
The unintended path
Very few people in the captives sector intended to work in it. Indeed, many of them never studied insurance. Many employees find their way to captive insurance through someone they know who works in the industry and speaks highly of it. Nevins recalls that she stumbled upon the posting for her job and gave it more weight when she learned that her mother had worked in the industry for a period of time.
VCIEL is made up of professionals, some of whom grew up and graduated college in Vermont. Nina Hurley, senior account executive at AIG, graduated from Saint Michael’s College.
“I didn’t know anything about captive insurance when I was in college. I was recruited by an audit firm that focused on captive insurance audit and tax, and as they say, the rest is history!” says Hurley.
Jenni Gagnon, a paralegal at Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, had no captive insurance experience when she started at her firm, a common story across the industry.
“I was in a job previously that was very difficult, draining and depressing so I decided to apply for an open position as a legal assistant in the firm’s captive insurance practice. Over time I have grown my knowledge and am currently working towards becoming a captive insurance attorney,” says Gagnon.
“This was not ever something I would have planned for in my life, but my path led me this way and I’m very happy with the work I do.”
“I especially love the opportunity to work with and learn from experts at parent companies in countless industries.”
-Maigh Wright, Marsh Captive Solutions
Benefits to working in captives
According to a 2019 comprehensive economic study conducted by the State of Vermont and the VCIA of the economic benefit of the captive insurance industry to the state’s economy, there are about 400 direct jobs in Vermont in the captives industry. Those jobs pay on average $92,000 a year, a number that has probably grown since then. It’s one of the few industries with consistent, high salaries for Vermonters. But that’s not all—there are many other perks to working in this industry.
Gagnon says part of what she loves about captive insurance is the people she works with. “I love working with my team at Primmer. They are kind, intelligent, and wonderful people to work with. And the industry as a whole is full of driven, smart, interesting people who I am pleased to interact with regularly.”
“I love the variety of work: always different coverages, industries, sizes of captives, etc. I truly feel that I learn something new almost every day,” says Maigh Wright, actuarial consultant at Marsh Captive Solutions.
“I especially love the opportunity to work with and learn from experts at parent companies in countless industries, everything from small startups to Fortune 100 companies.”
For Vermonters, the reasons can hit closer to home. They know they are making a big impact on the local economy. “I love living in Vermont, and this industry is very important to the overall wellbeing of the state,” says Hurley.
Maeghan Thurston, CPA audit senior manager at Crowe, adds that she’s “been fortunate to have travel opportunities while working in the captive insurance space” but when it is time to come home she is grateful to return to Vermont’s beauty and simplicity.
A vibrant infrastructure of opportunity
Working with people is a common theme in captive insurance. The robust captive infrastructure contributes to Vermont’s “Gold Standard”, a term coined in the industry. The various roles that make up the industry all provide essential and unique services to captive insurance companies in Vermont and each is a career opportunity.
Peter Wernhoff, examiner-in-charge at the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, enjoys his work regulating captive insurance companies in Vermont. “We get to work with pretty much all the roles in the industry in some way or another.”
There are many roles within this niche industry including captive managers, auditors, actuaries, investment managers/bankers, attorneys, and regulators.
“Having good working relationships with these individuals allows all of us to do our job more effectively,” Thurston says of her work in auditing companies.
“The best part of my job is that I get to work with a variety of clients and I am constantly learning, not only about changes in the captives sector, but about the industries my clients are involved in,” says Monica Birchmore, senior captive account manager at Hylant Global Captive Solutions.
The importance of captive insurance education
With few insurance programmes in colleges and universities around the country, let alone captive insurance-specific education, access to education is essential. VCIEL is grateful for organisations such as the VCIA and the International Center for Captive Insurance Education (ICCIE). ICCIE was founded in Vermont and is essential in filling the gaps in captive insurance education for professionals already in the industry.
“I was fortunate enough to receive the VCIA Distinguished Scholar Award in 2019 which allowed me to pursue the Associate in Captive Insurance (ACI) Designation,” says Wernhoff. “I received my designation in 2022 and have found the variety of topics covered to have been very helpful in my day-to-day work.”
Nevins is one class away from completing her ACI Designation. “ICCIE has given me the vocabulary to understand the nuances when I’m speaking with Vermont’s captive insurance companies and service providers.”
“The process of obtaining my ACI was greatly beneficial not only from an educational standpoint, but also for networking,” says Birchmore. “It introduced me to people in the captive insurance industry that I may not have met otherwise.”
“Staying up to date with captive insurance education is extremely important,” says Thurston. “There are so many benefits to forming and maintaining a healthy captive—and just like any profession, you have to stay well educated on the industry’s specifics.”
Gagnon, who is the chair of the Education Committee of the VCIEL, is leading the charge of connecting with educational institutions in Vermont and working to get captive insurance on the curriculum in Vermont colleges and universities.
“Captive insurance education gives a great baseline for the day-to-day understanding of what captives are and how they work, and it allows you to understand the usefulness of these entities,” says Gagnon.