7 Ways Captives Provide Clients a Competitive Edge

A recent report from AM Best concluded that, based on their ratings, captive insurance companies outperformed commercial market carriers yet again in 2017. This finding was based on a hard look at balance sheet strength, operating performance, and business profiles of captives as compared to their commercial counterparts.

As long-time captive consultants, we’ve seen a range of clients benefit from a captive structure and are well-versed in their advantages. The AM Best report is a testimony to the positive role captives can play and how they’re able to provide a competitive edge to the organizations using them.  Some of the key advantages include:

  1. Homogeneous Risks

Whether a Single Parent Captive or a Risk Retention Group (RRG), the insureds of a captive are going to have similar risk profiles and diversity. A Single Parent Captive insures the parent company, so all its risks belong to one entity. RRGs are made up of like companies with similar missions and business products/services, such as a group of universities. In both cases, the homogeneity of risk will benefit the captive by establishing a certain level of predictability which helps with the consistency of rates and an unsurprising loss ratio.

 

  1. Underwriting Profit/Results

According to AM Best, the Captive Insurance Composite (CIC) experienced a 86.4% five-year combined ratio, while the Commercial Casualty Composite (CCC) had a 99.9% five-year combined ratio. Captives enjoy such underwriting profits for a number of reasons, primarily the fact that risk management, control, prevention and mitigation are all at the heart of the captive’s purpose. Organizations are able to benefit from their own good experience. Captives facilitate transparency and more access to data. This allows organizations to act in a proactive manner and implement risk mitigation and control protocols in an almost real time basis. Comparatively, a fully insured commercial market policy may result in a delayed information transition – most commercial insurance arrangements provide reports a quarter after year-end.  In addition, frictional costs are lowered with a captive.Captive Insurance Advantages

 

  1. Return on Investment

A major advantage that organizations with captives have over commercial carriers is the opportunity to recapture part of the premiums. Captives require capital infusion to start and get off the ground. The profits/savings from the insurance carrier accumulate in the captive and can, over time, begin to yield impressive returns on investment. Most feasibility studies use an internal rate of return or a hurdle rate to help visualize potential savings. This makes captives a great alternative for deploying capital and earning a consistently positive return on income, in addition to being able to use it strategically for reinsurance purposes.

Another pro of captives is the ability to evaluate their ROI evaluated against  their hurdle rate as their internal rate of return. A company can determine if an investment will give them adequate benefit or savings over a given timeframe based on their rate of return, and then decide if that investment is worth following through with, or if another solution is more economically sound.

These factors combined allow captives a healthy sum of capital and positive balance sheets.

 

  1. Competitiveness

Commercial carriers are sometimes unable to understand the true needs of the insureds and are limited in their offerings. Captives create competitiveness in the market and can compel commercial carriers to offer better terms and costs by virtue of a captive’s existence. In many instances, commercial carriers are threatened by the captive’s ability to take on all the risk and become willing to create quota share arrangements. Captives are a unique, tailored solution for the insured(s) and offer an unbeatable level of customization and very little changes in premiums. They have the ability to insure unique risks and are able to fill in the gaps of coverage where commercial markets are unable to do so.

 

  1. Enterprise Risk Management

AM Best defines Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) as, “establishing a risk-aware culture and using tools to consistently identify and manage, as well as measure risk and risk correlations.” An organization that utilizes a captive is likely to have a stronger ERM system in place, when compared to its captiveless peers, since it is partaking in its own experience and thus is more motivated to better manage its risks. In most cases, the captive is a vital cog in the ERM wheel. This close alignment allows for better results for both parties, and a lower total cost of risk for the captive.

 

  1. Retention

Many rated captives have a retention rate of 90% or higher. This is, in part, because policyholders are routinely rewarded through dividend payments from the captive that are significantly higher than any seen in the commercial market. These profits can be used in a multitude of ways to further benefit the captive. For example, policyholders could underwrite additional lines of coverage without the need for more capital, or provide premium holidays on programs, or fund FTEs.Innovative Insurance Strategy

This, combined with the lack of competition means that captives don’t need to shop around for business each year, creating savings in acquisition costs which can then be returned to the captive (e.g. in the form of loss control) to further benefit the insureds.

 

  1. Ability to Identify Emerging Risks

A captive’s structure and foundation in ERM gives it an added advantage of foreseeing emerging risks. Typically, all key stakeholders and the entire risk team of an organization will be involved in the captive’s management and activity. Having a strong alignment between the parent company, the captive, the IT team, the risk experts, the actuaries and other main players means that everyone is on the same page. A captive can make long-term assessments while also flagging and resolving issues quickly. There is no fragmentation of knowledge in a captive setup, and all stakeholders have the same interests. In sum, captives allow organizations to be nimble and react to changing market conditions quicker than commercial market carriers.

 

Conclusion

As AM Best states, captives performed well in 2017, as did RRGs, and it’s projected that success will continue into 2018 and beyond. The US captive market has grown substantially over the past few years, with domiciles like North Carolina and Hawaii experiencing an uptick in captive formation. Further, we’re seeing captives being used more frequently for nontraditional lines of coverage, such as cyber and medical stop-loss, adding to the list of use cases.

Captives are a great tool for insureds to create unique, custom-made solution in partnership with the commercial markets. They facilitate better management of claims – their expenses and adjustments – through accurate estimations.

Lastly, one of a captive’s most important attributes is its flexibility and ability to be swift and proactive, without the typical issues in a commercial insurance relationship.

What You Need to Know About RFP’s

The Current State of ‘Employer vs. Insurance RFP’s

 

Employers today often find themselves undertaking a Request for Proposal (RFP). RFPs are an important tool that allow for greater insight into the market. RFPs are used as a mechanism by employers to test the market competitiveness of their insurance programs and collect market intelligence regarding new offerings. The bidding process aids accountability and provides market information on emerging risk management techniques, regulatory changes and recent trends. However, RFPs are a time consuming and an arduous task that require inputs from multiple stakeholders, who often have competing priorities.

Captive insurance companies provide an alternate solution for employers who are looking to escape the rut of undertaking an RFP every few years. Captives provide greater transparency and control to employers over their insurance programs and eliminate the often costly and time-consuming need to bid programs to ensure competitiveness. Captives allow organizations to have a clear understanding of their experience and thereby eliminate the arbitrariness of rate hikes by the incumbent carriers. An RFP can also be an expensive exercise both in terms of tangible and intangible resources. In monetary terms, there are the fees for advisors/brokers/consultants. Additionally, time and effort required by your team are also important factors to consider while evaluating the true cost of an RFP.Insurance RFPs

A bidding exercise is often seen as an opportunity to hit reset on an existing plan and evaluate if the program continues to meet the everchanging needs of an organization. In a dynamic and ever-changing business environment, waiting for an opportunity to bid the program to reevaluate its effectiveness and appropriateness for the organization can result in repairable loss. Businesses need to be able to constantly evolve and change to meet the needs of the market or risk losing its competitive edge.

Captives provide a clear line of sight to the working of the program, thereby allowing for customization in an almost real time basis. A captive framework leads to additional reports and information which further facilitate tweaks and adjustments that benefit an organizations insurance program.

A captive insurance company allows a company to gain true transparency and control of not only their loss exposure, but also the expense structure required to support their programs. This transparency promotes a sense of partnership between the employer and the insurance carrier. Employers with captives have often commented on the change in the relationship dynamic between the two entities, viewing the carrier as a partner than as a market option can have long term benefits.

Organizations that use captives are able to ascertain the need for a change or adjustment in rates without input from the market. Captives rid insurance transactions of opaqueness and thereby results in an open and honest conversations among all stakeholders – insurance carriers, brokers and internal organizational stakeholders.

An integral part of most insurance arrangements is the broker. Broker arrangements can, at times, create a degree of obscurity. Since brokers are usually commissions-based, decreasing premiums or making changes may sometimes not be in the broker’s best interest. This could potentially add another degree of complication and difficulty to the decision-making process. In a captive setting commissions paid to brokers are clearly visible. This clarity of fees generally leads to a clearly defined scope of work for the broker/consultant/advisor. Allowing employers to derive more value from their service providers.

Many organizations may feel pressure compelled to bid frequently, to continually create competitive pressures and achieve better rates. This approach can create an abrasive relationship between the organization, the broker and the insurance carriers. Insurance carriers are looking for long term partners and often may choose to not bid aggressively in cases involving organizations who have a reputation of constantly looking to bid, as this can be disruptive for all parties involved.

 

Case Study

Spring recently undertook an analysis for an organization whose incumbent broker initially quoted a 25% rate increase on the employee benefit program. When threatened with the possibility of an RFP, the incumbent carrier revised their quote to reflect a 10% increase in premium. The organization was disillusioned with the insurance carrier and decided to undertake an RFP – which resulted in an alternate carrier quoting a net decrease in premiums of about 15% along with a multi-year rate guarantee.Captive Insurance

While a 15% rate reduction is a seemingly positive result, the process and effort required to get there was expensive, time consuming and left the HR team feeling beholden to the wishes of the insurance carriers and the broker.

The employer requested Spring undertake an independent review of the information presented to them by their broker and insurance carriers. Spring’s analysis revealed that the organization had a much better loss experience than indicated in the rates provided. The organization is currently considering its options for the upcoming year, including potentially utilizing a captive to underwrite their employee benefit risks. This exercise could have been avoided if the employer was using a captive to insure its risks. At the time of the initial rate increase (of 10%) the employer along with their broker would have been able to quickly ascertain that the rate hike was unnecessary and could have been addressed with a quick discussion with the insurance carrier. Which could have saved the organization valuable time, effort and cost of disruption.

To conclude, companies that are financially sound and have a reasonably predictable insurance risk, are ideal candidates to evaluate the possibility of using a captive. If you are an employer looking for a long-term solutions should consider a captive. Captives provide the benefits of an RFP without disrupting a company’s day to day activities. It also helps bridge the gap of obscurity and trust between your company and your insurance carriers.

To see if a captive solution is right for your company, a captive feasibility study is the logical first step. The study identifies the organization’s goals and objectives, reviews the current state of programs, analyzes the data, and then estimates potential captive savings for each line of coverage. The study determines the most effective program design for the organization, including potential advantages or disadvantages of this alternate funding mechanism.

What the Microsoft Settlement Means for the Captive Industry

Recent legislation around captives have kept us and many of our colleagues on our toes. Last year, we had the Avrahami case. This year we had the Reserve Mechanical case. Now, we’re looking at an interesting turn of events between Microsoft, its captive, and the state of Washington.

For some background, tech giant Microsoft is based in Redmond, Washington. Its pure captive, Cypress Insurance Company, was formed in 2008 and is domiciled in Arizona.

Microsoft captive settlement

In May of 2018, the Insurance Commissioner of Washington state issued a cease-and-desist to Microsoft. This order, number 18-0220, required that Cypress stop selling insurance to its parent company and asked for about $1.4M in unpaid premium taxes.

The insurance Commissioner contends that:

  1. Microsoft/Cypress did not pay 2% premium tax for the business being underwritten by the captive. Within the ten years between the captive’s establishment and the cease-and-desist, Microsoft paid over $91 million in written premiums to Cypress. Washington state law mandates insurance companies to pay a 2% tax based on their written premiums.
  2. Cypress did not hold a certificate of authority to sell insurance in the state of Washington.
  3. The coverage provided to Microsoft through Cypress was not placed through a surplus line broker licensed in Washington.

Surplus lines typically come into play for lines of coverage not usually covered by other, commercial insurers.

The Commissioner argued that, because of the above points, Cypress was violating the following sections of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW):

  • RCW 48.05.030(1) (certificate of authority required)
  • RCW 48.15.020(1) (solicitation by unauthorized insurer prohibited)
  • RCW 48.17.060(1) (license required)
  • RCW 48.14.020(1) (failing to remit two percent premium tax)
  • RCW 4S.14.060(l)-(2) (failing to timely remit two percent premium tax)

On July 1st, Microsoft announced that it had established new policies for Cypress through a surplus line broker, but that didn’t negate the issue. Further, they settled the case with the commissioner in mid-August. The settlement involved a $867,820 payment ($573,905 in unpaid premium taxes and $302,915 in interest and penalties) from Microsoft to the Washington State Insurance Commissioner. As a result, the cease-and-desist has been lifted, and Cypress can continue operations. The Insurance Commissioner of Washington did note that it has its eye on other Washington-based companies using captives.

The announcement of the settlement came around the same time that New Jersey made some of its own captive legislative moves on medical and consumer-goods conglomerate, Johnson & Johnson. The organization, headquartered in New Jersey, has long been utilizing an out-of-state captive and paying taxes on the premiums written to the captive for risks located in New Jersey. However recently, the state decided that, according to the Non-admitted and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA), Johnson & Johnson and like companies should be paying taxes on premiums written for all risks within the U.S. , not just those residing in the state. While the company tried to argue that the NRRA uses vague language that seems to only apply to surplus lines of business, they ultimately lost the battle, along with the $55 million refund they were looking for.

What can we learn from these instances?

Captive owners should review their structure based on recent developments and business changes. In light of the changes in the tax code, regulatory changes and the recent case laws, regardless of the state of domicile, it would be prudent to review your captive based on its unique situation and circumstances. Doing so on a regular basis is an advisable business practice.

These recent cases are a step towards a maturing industry and should give captive and insurance professionals the motivation to be as diligent and cautious as they should always have been.

6 Buzz Words from CICA 2018

The Spring team has been participating in the CICA organization and events for about a decade now, and we find that their annual international conference yields one of the strongest turnouts and value in the captive industry. This year was no exception. Not only was the event enriching from a professional standpoint, but I was also pleased to have missed yet another Nor’Easter here in Boston as I soaked in some warmth in this year’s conference locale, Scottsdale, Arizona.

While it might take some time for me to put pen to paper to document all my thoughts, during such a busy conference season. As a team we like to recollect key learnings and themes from each event we attend. It helps us ensure we are up-to-date on industry trends, and, we hope, it helps you stay in the loop too! Here are my initial thoughts recapping of the 2018 CICA International Conference.

 

  1. Change

Given that the theme for this year’s conference was “The Challenge of Change”, I was not surprised that the topic was prevalent. The captive industry is just one of many that is facing changes on many aspects. One that everyone’s been talking about are the implications of the new tax law. Luckily we had a few speakers there to help and advice.Captive Insurance Innovation

The other major topic of discussion regarding change was the growing use of captives to address cyber risks. I spoke regarding the benefits of using a captive for cyber risks along with a high level overview of a survey Spring undertook with the objective of understanding captive owner’s outlook to cyber insurance and their interest in placing captive risks in the captive.

 

  1. Going Global

CICA, being the only non-domicile specific conference, is one that addresses issues both domestic and international. A session that particularly interested me was one where (insert names of the speakers) two representatives from the European Captive Insurance and Reinsurance Owners’ Association (ECIROA) provided a big picture overview of the European captive space, including domiciles and trends. A later session outlined lessons learned from setting up large captives for multinational organizations, going over things like baseline data and requirements, internal marketing, optimum capital retention and diversification. Further, Nicholas Frost, Gabriel Hoschneider and Esperanza Mead led a discussion on Latin American captives and other emerging markets, highlighting opportunities for growth and expansion.

 

International Captive Trends

 

 

  1. Future-ThinkingThe Future of The Captive Industry

     

It’s not enough to be armed for the present, but in all professions, captive and otherwise, it’s critical to be prepared for what the future might bring, and try to shape it positively. That’s why a panel from Butler University spoke to the CICA audience about recruiting and training millennials, emphasizing the importance of captives to further their knowledge of the insurance industry. The group went through a case study in which students conducted a captive feasibility study and established a process for implementation. They also offered tips on how to attract and retain young talent. On a similar note, Temple University students, staff and colleagues presented “Fueling the Quality and Quantity of the Next Generation of Captive Leaders”, which underlining mentorship as critical and explaining best practices for creating a mentor program.

 

 

  1. Actuarial

Actuarial work is obviously at the heart of risk management, but sometimes it doesn’t get a lot of spotlight at conferences. At CICA 2018, that wasn’t the case.

Firstly, a group of consultants, actuaries, regulators and captive managers offered a comprehensive view of actuarial reports – what should be included, how to pull it together, how it should be utilized and items often overlooked throughout the process. A later session, including legal and compliance professionals, provided a thorough review of risk distribution and how it can be achieved and measured.

Captives and Tax Reform

  1. Taxes

As I mentioned earlier, tax reform and its implications for captives were a major discussion items at the conference.

One group specifically addressed tax reform and how its code will affect captives and their entities, including tips on revisiting your strategy for sound tax efficiencies with your captive. A group of tax lawyers later closed out the conference with a presentation on the consequences of the Avrahami case, IRC modification due to tax reform, and tax provisions to consider state-by-state.

 

  1. Utilization

Due in part to emerging risks and markets, every captive needs a thorough review every now and then to ensure it’s having the maximum effect. This is what Spring’s Managing Partner, Karin Landry, presented on, along with Steve McElhinney and Brian Johnson. The group emphasized the need for regular captive refeasibility studies and highlighted new areas of opportunity for captives. Spring has led many projects involving captive optimization and refeasibility, and we have an effective, recommended process to help companies undergo such initiatives. From a needs assessment to new and emerging coverages, to restructuring your captive to allow for modifications, we are experts in finding a solution that’s right for you. You can learn more about our captive optimization practices and suggestions here.

Further, during “Expanding Your Captive Utilization”, a panel further expanded on the subject, pointing out the importance of regulatory changes, particularly when it comes to hospital-owned captives, in discovering and reassessing lines of coverage. Lastly, CICA attendees learned how to “spice up their captives” by exploring new benefits and advanced captive program placements that may now be an option due to changing tax and insurance landscapes. This session covered federal and state regulations, ERISA implications and more.

 

I hope you enjoyed my overview, whether or not you were able to make it to the CICA International Conference this year. I found it a valuable experience and particularly enjoyed meeting new people and visiting with existing clients and colleagues. As you can see, I wasn’t just in it for the Arizona craft beer tour that kicked off the three-day event. I was paying attention too!