In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Vermont Captive is featuring a series throughout the year highlighting companies and people that service the captive insurance industry.
“When nothing is sure, anything is possible.” That is a mantra that has driven and inspired attorney Stephanie Mapes throughout her career, pushing her to be unafraid of taking roads less traveled.
Stephanie leads the captive insurance practice at Burlington, Vermont law firm, Paul Frank + Collins (PFC). She began working in the captive industry over 30 years ago, pretty much before it could even be called an “industry.” As Stephanie tells it, she came to PFC right out of law school with the idea of being a corporate lawyer. Shortly after her arrival though, Alan Port, a partner at the firm and a pioneer in the captive industry, handed her the Vermont captive insurance statute and said, “read this.” After reading it, she came back to Alan and said, “I’m not sure I understand what these captives are, nor what I’m supposed to do with them.” Alan responded something to the effect of – Don’t worry, no one else understands either but we’re going to teach them. And from there a captive insurance practice was built.
The early years were spent putting flesh and bones on the statute – educating the government players about the nuances of captives as compared to other insurance or legal entities, creating various regulatory forms (some of which are still in use today), and, generally, becoming an expert in the field (she may have read the captive statute more than a few times). In the beginning, her time was evenly spent between captive insurance and intellectual property law. That changed to an all-captive insurance practice in 2000-2001, when captive insurance took off in response to a hard insurance market.
Since then, in addition to being a leading attorney in the captive industry, she served as the first female president of PFC, leading it with her strengths-based leadership style in a time of generational transition. More recently, having been a member of the Vermont Captive Insurance Association for years, she was elected as its board chair, and serves in the role today.
Stephanie enjoys the opportunities and rewards the captive industry provides. The job entails a variety of duties. From advising clients on captive formation and compliance matters, to providing counsel on acquisitions involving captive companies, to supervising the nuts-and-bolts documentation needs. So, everyday feels different.
Then there is the creativity and innovation that the job offers. Of course, there are regulations to follow and boundaries to stay within. But, within those parameters, are opportunities for innovation. As new risks and industries needing different types of coverage arise, Stephanie says it’s her role to use the law to help her clients manage risk and gain access to creative, alternative insurance solutions, which, ultimately, helps the businesses she works with thrive – and that’s exciting. It’s also rewarding. Stephanie likes knowing that her work is helping these businesses more readily fulfill their missions and reach their goals, many of which are making the world a better place. From higher education to healthcare, religious entities, charitable organizations, construction, manufacturing and more, she works to help ensure that these enterprises can operate in a sustainable fashion.
When asked about challenges the captive industry is currently facing, Stephanie acknowledges that there are concerns about an aging workforce, misperceptions of captives being just for tax shelters, an erroneous belief that the industry is a boring career choice, and more. But, Stephanie would prefer not to focus endlessly on these issues as a means of addressing them. Rather, it is her style to study, and build upon, the strengths of the industry, and, she feels strongly that the stories about the amazing things captives can be used to accomplish need to be told. Some stories she mentioned (not all of which are hers) are:
- The creation of a captive to assist the State of Connecticut in addressing the crumbling foundations natural disaster in part of the state by paying claims to homeowners who have suffered losses to their homes.
- Using a captive to build a pervasive safety infrastructure to help manage risks at a University academic medical practice, resulting in fewer injuries, lower losses, and more money for operating budgets to develop an even higher-quality practice.
- Through a hybrid captive insurance company and investment fund, covering the risk of eruption of 10 volcanos across 3 continents to support humanitarian aid in the aftermath of an eruption, if it should occur.
Stephanie believes there will be many more stories to tell. She sees an increasing trend of business leaders looking at their businesses as vehicles for helping solve societal and even global problems relating to their industries, in addition to the traditional roles these businesses fulfill. “We really need to focus on how business can make the world a better place for all,” She says. Captives will be there to support those businesses that are willing to step up, by helping them manage their risks and achieve their missions.
Stephanie also is very grateful for where she gets to live, work, and play. The Vermont captive community is a dynamic and collaborative group, she says. The service providers here are some of the best in the business. The Vermont Captive Insurance Association, with or without my involvement she says with a humble grin, plays a strong role in pulling the captive industry together through their educational programs and conferences, as well as their advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels. She adds that we are lucky to have them.
Stephanie says she’d be remiss if she didn’t mention the Vermont state regulatory team. She says, “They are a smart and extremely competent group. They do a beautiful job of walking the fine line between finding solutions for captive owners and appropriately regulating the industry. And they are fun and a pleasure to work with. Then, of course, there’s the fact that I get to work with clients all over the world while living in this beautiful state.”
“I’m so grateful that I took that unpaved road.”