Captives

Lane Shift for Trucking Risk

A shrinking insurance market drives interest in captive solutions for the transportation industry.
By: | March 3, 2017 • 6 min read

Today there are more vehicles on America’s roads than before, driven by a trucking industry that grew exponentially to meet increased consumer demand.

Add in the advanced average age and subsequent deterioration in truckers’ health, the increased use of cell phones and more highway construction projects, and that resulted in a huge increase in accidents in recent years.

The number of crashes involving large trucks alone climbed by 9 percent between 2011 and 2014, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

As a result, commercial auto insurance rates spiked, some by as much as 30 percent in 2016, and they are expected to climb further this year.

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Fitch also reported last year that the commercial auto sector is a “chronically underperforming segment” due to overly aggressive pricing and a steep rise in claims severity, prompting many insurers to pull out of the market.

All of these factors, when added to already tight margins and other economic pressures including driver costs, forced many trucking firms and companies with large vehicle fleets to turn to captives to spread their risks and reduce insurance costs.

Captives also provide access to ancillary lines of coverage and limits, return of underwriting profits, improved risk management practices and the ability to manage marketplace fluctuations.

Collateral Squeeze

Geoff Welsher, managing director at Marsh, who runs two offshore captives, said that the increased interest in captives for commercial auto insurance is driven by a combination of some insurers pulling out of the market and others increasing rates.

Of most interest, he said, were group captives specializing in trucking companies, which provide a greater level of investment in claims management and loss control than traditional insurance coverage achieves.

Gary Osborne
President
USA Risk Group

Many of these captives also put a larger percentage of their premium toward staff training and employ full-time risk control specialists, he said.

“In a group captive environment, there are all manner of board and safety meetings and benchmarks against which companies can measure themselves,”
he said.

Rob Kibbe, executive director of Aon Risk Solutions’ transportation practice, said that these kinds of captives appeal most to companies seeking a return on their investment in safety technology.

He added that they also allowed owners to control their own rates and achieve greater risk rewards than with traditional coverage.

Todd Reiser, vice president and producer in Lockton’s transportation practice, said that the choice of captive depended on a range of factors including fleet size, ownership and corporate structure, tax considerations, credit capacity, estate planning and the number of owner-operators within the fleet.

“Single-parent captives allow for tax benefits, estate planning solutions, more efficient use of capital and the ability to write certain coverages in the captive independent of insurance market conditions,” he said.

“Risk retention groups and group captives, on the other hand, allow the members to share in certain risks, purchase reinsurance and potentially

limit the collateral obligations of traditional insurance.”

Chad Kunkel, executive vice president of group captives, North America at Artex, which manages more than 20 group captives or program solutions in the U.S., said that group captives are best suited to transportation companies wanting to lower their risk management costs.

“Good prospects for group captives are financially sound companies with above-average loss experience, good risk management practices and premiums beginning at $250,000 for workers’ compensation, general liability and auto lines of coverage,” he said.

“Group captives also offer another benefit — group purchasing power — which helps lower the overall cost of insurance for each member.”

Gary Osborne, president of USA Risk Group, said that RRGs are the most popular forms of captive because they allow owners to write insurance in all 50 states while only having to form in one.

Self-insurance also helps firms to reduce their collateral requirements and thus free up capital to invest in other parts of the business, he said.

Increased Interest

Such is their popularity, Kibbe said, that Aon almost doubled the number of captive formations in 2016 from the previous year and is continuing to see interest.

Most of the companies entering into captives are either smaller middle market trucking firms joining or forming their own group captives in order to take higher retentions, or large firms looking to reserve properly, said Sean Rider, executive vice president and managing director of consulting and development at Willis Towers Watson.

Vermont is one of the most popular states for setting up a captive, with more than one-quarter of active captives domiciled there writing some form of auto liability.

In total, Vermont houses six registered risk retention groups, two industrial insured group captives and four “pure” captives for trucking firms.

David Provost, deputy commissioner at Vermont’s Captive Insurance Division, said these ranged from auto wholesalers to large trucking companies with their own or several captives, as well as group companies that insure either their members or the association, or those operating as commercial trucking insurance companies for their truckers.

“Some of these larger trucking companies have to post multimillion dollar policies and prove that they have the financial assurance to operate a trucking company, so it’s often beneficial for them to do that with a captive,” he said.

Technological Advances

Safety technology also helps businesses to mitigate these risks by monitoring driver speeds, behavior and work practices.

In recent years, telematics has been one of the most effective ways to improve safety and bring down premiums, typically by 5 percent to 15 percent, according to industry estimates.

While take-up is relatively tepid largely due to budget constraints, with only 30 percent to 40 percent of all commercial and government vehicles fitted with the devices, the fuel, labor and maintenance costs savings can be substantial.

What’s more, from December this year, most trucks will be required by federal law to carry electronic monitoring devices to ensure truckers don’t exceed limits on time spent behind the wheel.

“The most significant development in the transportation sector has been cameras and monitoring of vehicles’ activity,” said Daniel Bancroft, transportation practice leader at Willis Towers Watson.

“Studies we have conducted have proven that they can reduce frequency of accidents by up to 50 percent.”

Osborne of USA Risk Group said that this was borne out by the National Independent Truckers Insurance Co., which consistently achieved a below 50 percent loss ratio for the last 10 years as a result of using cameras in all of its vehicles.

“The adoption of technology allied to greater control over the claims process through the use of captives has enabled companies to determine which claims to settle quickly and which ones to contest,” he said.

Aon’s Kibbe said that training has also played a part.

“Clients have been investing heavily in those aspects as well as dealing with driver fatigue, which has helped massively,” he said.

Willis Towers Watson’s Rider added that middle market trucking firms entering a group captive also had access to more sophisticated loss control safety, engineering and behavioral analysis and services than they would necessarily on their own.

Because a captive’s insureds put more resources into loss control and safety, they have had a bigger impact on reducing frequency, leading to better underwriting results, said Lockton’s Reiser.

“Technology plays a large part in safety and loss control for commercial fleets and is becoming more of a factor in the underwriting process,” he said. &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]

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R&I Profile

Achieving Balance

XL Catlin’s Denise Balan stays calm and focused when faced with crisis.
By: | January 10, 2018 • 6 min read

In the high-stress scenario of kidnap or ransom, the first image that comes to mind isn’t necessarily a yoga mat — at least, not for most.

But Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin, who practices yoga every day, would swear by it.

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“I looked at these opposing aspects of my life,” she said. “Yoga is about focus, balance, clarity of intent. In a moment of stress, how do you respond? The more clarity and calmness you maintain, the better positioned you are to provide assistance in moments of crisis.

“Nobody wants to be speaking to a frenetic person when either dealing with a dangerous situation or planning for prevention of a situation,” she added.

“There’s a poem by [Rudyard] Kipling on that,” added Balan’s colleague Ben Tucker. “What it boils down to is: If you can remain calm, you can manage through a crisis a lot better.”

Tucker, who works side by side with Balan as head of U.S. terrorism and political violence, XL Catlin, has seen how yoga influences his colleague.

“The way Denise interacts with stakeholders in this process — she is very professional and calm in the approach she takes.”

Yin and Yang

Sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected. In Balan’s life, yoga and K&R have become her yin and yang.

She entered the insurance world after earning a juris doctor degree and practicing law for a few years. The switch came, she said, when Balan realized she wasn’t enjoying her time as a commercial litigator.

Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

In her new role, she was able to use her legal background to manage litigation at AIG, where her transition from law to insurance took place. She started her insurance career in the environmental sector.

In a chance meeting in 2007, Balan met with crisis management underwriters who told her about kidnap and ransom products.

She was hooked.

Because of her background in yoga, Balan liked the crisis management side of the job. Being able to bring the calmness and clearness of intent she practiced during yoga into assisting clients in planning for crisis management piqued her interest.

She then joined XL Catlin in July 2013, where she built the K&R team.

As she became more immersed in her field, Balan began to notice something: The principles she learned in yoga were the same principles ex-military and ex-law enforcement practiced when called to a K&R-related crisis.

She said, “They have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.”

“K&R responders have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Many understand yoga to be, in itself, one type of meditation, but yoga actually encompasses a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices. Each is a discipline. Some forms of yoga focus on movement and breathing, others focus on posture and technique. Some yoga is meant to relax the mind and create a sense of calmness; other yoga types make participants sweat.

After having her second child and working full-time, Balan wanted to find something physical and relaxing for herself; a friend suggested yoga. During her first lesson, Balan said she was enamored with it.

“I felt like I’d done it all my life.”

She dove into the philosophy of yoga, adopting the practice into her daily routine. Every morning, whether Balan is in her Long Island home or on a business trip, she pulls out her yoga mat to practice.

“I always travel with my mat,” she said. “Daily practice is the simplest form of connection to routine to maintain my balance — physically and mentally.”

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She said the strangest place she has ever practiced was in Lisbon. She was on a very narrow balcony with a bird feeder swarming with sparrows overhead.

After years of studying and practicing, Balan is considered a yogi — someone who is highly proficient in yoga. She attends annual retreats with her yoga group, where she is able to rejuvenate, ready to tackle any K&R event when she returns.

In 2016, Balan visited Tuscany, Italy, where she learned the practice of yoga nidra, a very deep form of meditation. It’s described as the “going-to-sleep stage” — a type of yoga that brings participants to a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.

“It awakens a different part of your brain,” Balan commented. “Orally describing it doesn’t quite do it justice. One has to practice Nidra to fully understand the effect it has on your being.”

Keeping a level head during a crisis is key in their line of business, Tucker said. He can attest to the benefit of having a yogi on board.

“I’ve seen her run table-top exercises where there is this group of people in a room and they run an exercise, a simulation of a kidnap incident. Denise is very committed to what we’re doing,” said Tucker.

“She brings that energy. She doesn’t get flustered by much.”

Building a K&R Program

When Balan joined XL Catlin, she was tasked with creating the K&R team.

Balan during a retreat in Sicily, Italy, 2017

She spent time researching and analyzing what clients would want in their K&R coverage. What stuck out most to Balan was the fact that, in these situations, the decision to purchase kidnap and ransom cover is rarely made because of desire for reimbursement of money.

“I asked why people buy this type of coverage. The answer was for the security responders,” she said.

“These are the people who sit with the family. They’re similar to psychologists or priests,” Balan further explained. “Corporations can afford to pay ransom. They buy [K&R] because it gives them access to these trained and dedicated professionals who not only provide negotiation advice, but actually sit with a victim’s family, engaging deep levels of emotional investment.”

“I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Balan described these responders as people having total clarity of purpose, setting their intentions to resolve a crisis — a practice at the very heart of yoga. She knew XL Catlin’s new kidnap program would put stock in their responders.

“I’ve worked closely with the responders to better understand what they can do for our clientele. These are the people who run into danger — warrior hearts married to dedication to our clients’ best interests.”

But K&R is more than fast-paced crisis and quick thinking; Balan also spent a good deal of time writing the K&R form and getting the company’s resources in order. This was a huge task to tackle when creating the program from the ground up.

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“A lot of my day-to-day is speaking with brokers and finding ways to enhance our product,” she said.

After a few months, she was able to hire the company’s first K&R underwriter. From there, the program has grown. It’s left her feeling professionally rewarded.

“People don’t often get that opportunity to build something up from scratch,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience — rewarding and fun.”

“She brings groups of people together,” said Tucker. “She’s created a positive environment.”

Balan’s yogi nature extends beyond the office walls, too. Her pride and joy, she said, are her kids. And while it may seem like two large parts of her life are opposite in nature, Balan’s achieved balance through her passions.

“[Yoga] has given me the ability to see beyond only one aspect of any situation” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” &

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]