2011 Vermont Captive Insurance Association Special Section
VCIA’s 2011 conference probes “The DNA of captive insurance
Traditional educational sessions to be supplemented with captive board member boot camp
By Michael J. Moody, MBA, ARM
From August 9 to 11, the Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA) will hold its 26th annual conference in Burlington, Vermont. As in prior years, VCIA will present 18 educational sessions that will showcase more than 50 of the top captive insurance professionals from around the country. According to Dianne Salter, VCIA board chair, the conference is designed to provide both new captive owners as well as industry veterans the most recent and relevant information about captives in general, and more specifically about Vermont captives.
Salter points out that this year several innovative ideas will be introduced at the conference. Richard Smith, president of VCIA, also notes that the conference will mark the introduction of a number of new sessions and networking opportunities. "We are always trying to keep the programming fresh and responsive to the members' needs," says Salter.
New agenda items
This year's conference title, "The DNA of Captive Insurance," is appropriate since DNA is frequently referred to as the blueprint of all life, and the conference is considered by many as providing a blueprint for captives. After 26 years, it remains one of the major educational opportunities in the captive community. A key reason for the high quality of the conference is that it is nearly a year-round project. According to Salter, the selection process for the topics is quite intense. She says that each year VCIA receives more than 100 suggestions that the board members "pare down to those that have relevance to the greatest number of participants."
All of the first day's activities will be held at the Davis Center at the University of Vermont. This includes the Captive 101 and 102 sessions, as well as the new Captive Board Member Boot Camp. Additionally, VCIA will allow vendors to set up exhibits in the Davis Center for the first day's sessions. Smith notes that these will be limited to tabletop exhibits, but he says, "We are just seeing how this goes." And he notes that, based on participant feedback from last year, the movement to the Davis Center did not present any problems and, as Salter says, despite no parking there, it is "a walkable distance from the Sheraton." Additionally, shuttle service is provided.
Many of the standard educational offerings will remain in this year's conference. The conference features 50 presenters who will highlight the most current information and thinking on their respective topics. The first day will feature the popular Captive 101 class, which covers captive basics. The Captive 102 session will address the tax issues associated with captive operations. Since being introduced a couple of years ago, the 102 session continues to receive favorable responses from conference participants.
The conference has also scheduled sessions on several other popular topics:
• Fronting Arrangements - The Science of Success
• Employee Benefits, the Healthcare Bill and Beyond
• The Art and Science of Benchmarking Your Captive
• Mapping Collateral Cells
• Good Genes - Captives that have Cracked the Code
• A Predictive Diagnosis of WC Medical Costs
• Captive Taxation - Exploring the Strands
All of these sessions will be presented by professionals in the relevant practice areas.
One of the biggest changes at this year's conference is the addition of the Captive Board Member Boot Camp. This session, like many of the newer ones, was developed in response to member feedback, Smith says. He points out that "many of the board members come to the captive board with little or no insurance background. VCIA recognizes this issue and has designed a specific agenda item that will offer board members a common knowledge base. Since many captives hold their annual meetings during the conference, this appeared to provide the ideal opportunity for an educational endeavor for board members." Salter notes that for many board members, "there is an educational process that needs to take place," and the VCIA conference is a natural venue for that process to begin.
Feedback from last year's peer-to-peer sessions was also very positive. Three facilitators will be responsible for leading each of the peer-to-peer groups. This is designed, according to Smith, to give the participants "a chance to chat with experts in industry-specific areas." The three areas are manufacturing, financial services (banking and insurance) and health care. In addition to the peer-to-peer sessions for risk managers, there will also be a captive owners' roundtable, a group captive roundtable and a health care roundtable. VCIA realizes the value of face-to-face exchanges between risk managers in similar industries, and chose to expand these sessions this year.
The welcome and general session is another exciting event, says Smith. Vermont's newly elected governor, Peter Shumlin, has been invited. As in past years, this session will also announce this year's recipients of the Captive Crusader, Honorary Member and Industry Service awards. Following the announcement of the award winners, Dr. Robert Hartwig, president and economist of the Insurance Information Institute, will share his views as to where the industry is headed. Hartwig will provide a fast-paced session that will analyze recent trends, both micro and macro, as well as natural and man-made disasters that will affect the outlook for the U.S. property/casualty insurance industry.
According to Smith, the keynote speaker at the closing luncheon should also be well received. He is Kevin Carroll, author, entertainer and "agent for social change." Smith explains that it is Carroll's job "to inspire businesses, organizations and individuals by embracing their spirit of play and creativity." By doing so, Carroll is able to maximize human potential and sustain meaningful business and personal growth. He has helped turn creative ideas into reality for high-visibility organizations such as The National Hockey League, The National Basketball Association, ESPN, Nike, The Walt Disney Company and Starbucks. Smith says this inspiring event should be "well worth attending and allow the conference to end on a high note."
Salter believes that VCIA needs to design a program where the participants "continue to find value in going to the sessions." It is important, she says, "that we find ways to engage the membership." In that regard, "we need a flow of new ideas and thoughts" to keep the conference relevant. To support its commitment to quality programming, the VCIA will continue its tradition of offering a money-back guarantee.
A hot topic over the past few years has been the possibility that the VCIA would move the conference out of Burlington. This is no surprise to anyone who has attended the conference; the conference pushes the resources of the Sheraton to the limit. Gone are the days when the entire conference could be housed in the Sheraton. The VCIA board has had this issue under consideration for several years but decided that this year the conference would stay put.
Several other places have been considered as conference sites; Stowe has been the most frequently mentioned alternative. "Many people love Stowe," says Smith. However, he says, "There are some logistical issues since it is about an hour outside of Burlington." Additionally, he points out that this move would result in more expense for participants. Salter adds, "We did not think that was the right message for this economy."
So for this year, the conference will again be held in Burlington. "Everyone loves Burlington—our downtown, the waterfront, the restaurants. For now, using the Sheraton and the UVM Davis Center makes the most sense," notes Smith.
The VCIA annual conference is one of the oldest and best attended conferences of its kind. A hallmark of the conference has always been the excellent sessions that are well planned, researched and presented by top industry professionals. Additionally, networking opportunities abound at this event, both for newcomers to the industry as well as seasoned veterans.
This year's analysis of the "DNA of Captive Insurance" is certain to be another excellent program. With the addition of sessions to assist board members in better understanding their jobs, the conference will be attractive to an even wider audience than in the past. For those interested in the captive movement as well as the direction captives are headed in the future, the VCIA conference may well hold the answers.