Birthplace of Ben and Jerry’s, Vermont is not only famous for its pastoral landscapes and maple syrup, but also for its support to the captive insurance industry. For more than 40 years, Vermont has been at the forefront of the captive space, evident from it being home to more captives than any other state in the U.S. In 1985, the Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA) was formed as support of the burgeoning captive industry. The organization undertakes various initiatives for legislative advocacy, education, and networking. One such key initiative is an annual conference, which in 2019 was attended by more than 1100 industry professionals, providing a blend of resources for beginners as well as seasoned professionals.
As part of the Captive Management course I took this summer with Jim Swanke, Director of Risk Consulting with Willis Towers Watson and lecturer with the Wisconsin School of Business, I attended the VCIA conference. The experience illustrated for me the breadth of the sessions, networking opportunities, and infrastructure available to participants. Sessions were earmarked based on the proficiency with the captive world, and materials were made available prior to the meeting, allowing participants to choose among them prior to the start of the conference. In order to make sessions more effective, an option was provided to post questions to the speakers via the VCIA application, which were ranked by the audience and then selected up by the moderator. Each day of conference educational sessions was followed by a social gathering, hosted by VCIA member organizations, offering opportunities to connect with many of the participants, including regulators from other states, captive owners, and other professionals. They all showed deep willingness to share their knowledge.
One of the key reasons that Vermont has been successful as a captive domicile is the experienced and knowledgeable regulatory staff, who offer a well-defined and robust handling of various business activities. Turnaround time for some of the activities, such as approval for dividends, is as short as a single day. Recently Vermont began a pilot using blockchain technology, which aims to further streamline the processes. During my personal interactions with the regulatory staff, I was impressed with their knowledge and humbleness.
Overall the conference turned out to be a great learning and networking opportunity and I would recommend everyone to attend it. The experience has heightened my enthusiasm for seeking a permanent position in the captive industry following graduation in May 2020.