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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.