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Your 6-Step Plan to Captive Optimization

Captives should adapt to their parent companies’ changing risk profiles. Following this plan helps risk managers identify and execute necessary changes.
By: | August 1, 2018 • 7 min read

You conducted a feasibility study before forming your captive, establishing long term goals and objectives, determining which risks to write, where to domicile, and how to finance it all.

But that was five years ago.

Since then, your company has made two acquisitions, expanded its workforce, implemented new technology, contracted with new suppliers, and been affected by a new federal regulation.  In short, the risk profile has changed considerably.

Is your captive keeping up?

“As with all other business matters, your company’s captive needs and goals are likely to change over time, especially with new and emerging risks sprouting up frequently,” said Karin Landry, managing partner, Spring Consulting Group.

“We recommend a ‘refeasibility’ study at least every five years to reassess risk appetite and exposure.”

A ‘refeasibility’ study ensures your captive insurance company is still serving your organization’s needs and furthering its mission, rather than holding it back. Unlike the initial feasibility study, this periodic checkup must consider your existing captive structure and financing strategies, and take into account how the captive has performed thus far.

To gain a holistic view of your captive’s performance and evaluate the need for change, captive owners should ask themselves these five questions:

1. Do your captive’s goals align with your risk profile?

Karin Landry, Managing Partner, Spring Consulting Group

Evaluating your captive’s goals in the first step of a refeasibility plan. And that begins with collection of data. Claims experience, reserve and surplus levels, loss ratios and other measures of efficiency indicate how successfully the captive has operated and where it has underperformed.

This indicates whether it has met initial goals, and whether those goals should change. This decision is also largely dependent on changes in the insured organization’s risk profile and the subsequent impact on insurance needs.

Moving employee benefits into a captive may be a more efficient way to provide coverage for a larger payroll. Greater reliance on automation or IoT technology may likewise increase the need for cyber coverage tailored to an organization’s specific needs.

“Emerging risks should be considered in this assessment,” Landry said. “For example, new technologies like driverless cars and drones and increasing automation will create both risks and opportunities across various industries.”

Performance metrics can help risk managers identify areas where resources can be shifted to support the coverage needs demanded by organizational change and emerging risks.

2. How will proposed changes impact other parts of the captive company?

The second stage of the study considers how adjustments to long term goals affect other pieces of the captive puzzle, such risk financing and use of reinsurance.

Adding new lines of coverage or expanding or reducing existing ones will necessitate an evaluation of risk financing strategies and could lead to changes in an organization’s investment mix or retention levels. This may also impact reliance on reinsurance as a component of the overall risk transfer strategy.

The best way to pinpoint the extent to which these changes should be made, Landry said, is through stress-testing.

“Running through scenarios with reasonable adverse case outcomes highlight where more or less financing is needed to service claims and maintain favorable loss ratios,” Landry said.

3. What specific implementation strategies will make your changes stick?

As with any enterprise-wide change, a detailed roadmap lays the groundwork for successful outcomes and can gain the confidence of stakeholders.

This stage identifies lines of insurance that could be moved into the captive or other coverages that would be more cost effective to insure through the traditional insurance market. Along with cyber and employee benefits, some of the most common risks to insure in captives include professional liability, auto liability, reputation, and business interruption.

Capital management strategies should also specify how surplus will be used going forward.

“There are several considerations in appropriately managing the capital and surplus levels over the life of a captive, including average cost of capital, retention levels, reinsurance use and taxes, among others,” Landry said. “A team of actuaries and consultants could review and develop strategy to address these.”

4. Does your existing captive structure still work?

Captives have taken on a number of different forms since their inception — single parent, group/association, rental captives, sponsored captives, non-controlled foreign corporations, etc. The primary differences between these structures center on the way risk is shared among the parties involved and how the captive is financed and regulated.

Sponsored captives, for example, offer a way for companies to take advantage of the established infrastructure of a traditional insurer and avoid the upfront costs of forming a captive — though they are not accepted in all domiciles.  Group captives allow companies with unrelated risks to spread out their exposure and reduce their total cost of risk, but can present management challenges.

A captive’s domicile, the scope of risk it seeks to cover, and the financial strength of its parent company all help to determine which structure will work best.

5. Does your captive account for recent case law and regulations?

The technology industry isn’t the only one that is always changing. Laws, regulations and court cases, especially lately, have an impact on captives and need to be considered as you are taking a fresh look at your strategy.

Firstly, there’s tax reform. The tax rate reduction under the Trump administration has had a direct impact on captives, and a consolidated tax return that includes a captive insurance company should have its tax sharing agreement reviewed.

Further, payments to a foreign captive should be reviewed to determine if the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) is applicable, and anyone in the U.S. with an owner’s interest in a foreign insurance company needs to review their holdings. IRS Notice 2016-66 with respect to microcaptives should also be considered, which leads us to our next point.

In light of two recent court cases – Avrahami vs. Commissioner and Reserve Mech. Corp. v. Commissioner – we now have more insight into what the IRS believes to be the criteria for a bona fide insurance company. As a result, we recommend going through a checklist of sorts to ensure the following regarding your captive:

  • Is the captive created for a non-tax business reason?
  • Is comparable coverage available in the market?
  • Are the policies valid and binding?

Domicile-related regulations are also changing. Is yours compliant with your current domicile, and have you looked at the new domiciles available? Lastly, it’s imperative to take a look at the Dodd Frank Act, specifically the self-procurement tax to ensure your captive is appropriately aligned.

6. Are the changes having the effect they’re supposed to?

You’ve identified new opportunities for your captive, supported proposed changes with data and stakeholder feedback, and developed detailed and holistic plans to move forward. But you’re not done.

The final step of any refeasibility study is to measure outcomes. Collect data again to see if newly established goals are being met and how the rest of the captive organization has been impacted.

“A great deal of this stage relies on solid industry benchmarks against which to measure current and future captive performance,” Landry said. “Furthermore, it’s important that the optimization team takes this data and edits their implementation plan accordingly to keep captive performance on track, making actionable recommendations for staff to follow.”

To execute your plan, turn to expert help

“These findings should serve as a baseline for measurement going forward,” Landry said. But look for a team of experts ranging from employee benefits, risk management and actuarial services to walk you through the steps and, ultimately, implementation. This is especially important as new risks continue to emerge and evolve; routine maintenance on your captive is important, just like it is on your car!

To learn about Spring’s services, please visit  http://springgroup.com/services/alternative-risk-funding-solutions-and-captives/captive-optimization/

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Spring Consulting Group. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.





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Spring Consulting Group, an Alera Group Company, LLC is a Boston-based employee benefits, risk management and actuarial consulting firm with clients across the globe.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Insurtech

Kiss Your Annual Renewal Goodbye; On-Demand Insurance Challenges the Traditional Policy

Gig workers' unique insurance needs drive delivery of on-demand coverage.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 6 min read

The gig economy is growing. Nearly six million Americans, or 3.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, now have “contingent” work arrangements, with a further 10.6 million in categories such as independent contractors, on-call workers or temporary help agency staff and for-contract firms, often with well-known names such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

The number of Americans owning a drone is also increasing — one recent survey suggested as much as one in 12 of the population — sparking vigorous debate on how regulation should apply to where and when the devices operate.

Add to this other 21st century societal changes, such as consumers’ appetite for other electronic gadgets and the advent of autonomous vehicles. It’s clear that the cover offered by the annually renewable traditional insurance policy is often not fit for purpose. Helped by the sophistication of insurance technology, the response has been an expanding range of ‘on-demand’ covers.

The term ‘on-demand’ is open to various interpretations. For Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO of pioneering on-demand insurance platform Trōv, it’s about “giving people agency over the items they own and enabling them to turn on insurance cover whenever they want for whatever they want — often for just a single item.”

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“On-demand represents a whole new behavior and attitude towards insurance, which for years has very much been a case of ‘get it and forget it,’ ” said Walchek.

Trōv’s mobile app enables users to insure just a single item, such as a laptop, whenever they wish and to also select the period of cover required. When ready to buy insurance, they then snap a picture of the sales receipt or product code of the item they want covered.

Welcoming Trōv: A New On-Demand Arrival

While Walchek, who set up Trōv in 2012, stressed it’s a technology company and not an insurance company, it has attracted industry giants such as AXA and Munich Re as partners. Trōv began the U.S. roll-out of its on-demand personal property products this summer by launching in Arizona, having already established itself in Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Australia and the UK were great testing grounds, thanks to their single regulatory authorities,” said Walchek. “Trōv is already approved in 45 states, and we expect to complete the process in all by November.

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group.” – Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group,” he added.

“But a mass of tectonic societal shifts is also impacting older generations — on-demand cover fits the new ways in which they work, particularly the ‘untethered’ who aren’t always in the same workplace or using the same device. So we see on-demand going into societal lifestyle changes.”

Wooing Baby Boomers

In addition to its backing for Trōv, across the Atlantic, AXA has partnered with Insurtech start-up By Miles, launching a pay-as-you-go car insurance policy in the UK. The product is promoted as low-cost car insurance for drivers who travel no more than 140 miles per week, or 7,000 miles annually.

“Due to the growing need for these products, companies such as Marmalade — cover for learner drivers — and Cuvva — cover for part-time drivers — have also increased in popularity, and we expect to see more enter the market in the near future,” said AXA UK’s head of telematics, Katy Simpson.

Simpson confirmed that the new products’ initial appeal is to younger motorists, who are more regular users of new technology, while older drivers are warier about sharing too much personal information. However, she expects this to change as on-demand products become more prevalent.

“Looking at mileage-based insurance, such as By Miles specifically, it’s actually older generations who are most likely to save money, as the use of their vehicles tends to decline. Our job is therefore to not only create more customer-centric products but also highlight their benefits to everyone.”

Another Insurtech ready to partner with long-established names is New York-based Slice Labs, which in the UK is working with Legal & General to enter the homeshare insurance market, recently announcing that XL Catlin will use its insurance cloud services platform to create the world’s first on-demand cyber insurance solution.

“For our cyber product, we were looking for a partner on the fintech side, which dovetailed perfectly with what Slice was trying to do,” said John Coletti, head of XL Catlin’s cyber insurance team.

“The premise of selling cyber insurance to small businesses needs a platform such as that provided by Slice — we can get to customers in a discrete, seamless manner, and the partnership offers potential to open up other products.”

Slice Labs’ CEO Tim Attia added: “You can roll up on-demand cover in many different areas, ranging from contract workers to vacation rentals.

“The next leap forward will be provided by the new economy, which will create a range of new risks for on-demand insurance to respond to. McKinsey forecasts that by 2025, ecosystems will account for 30 percent of global premium revenue.

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“When you’re a start-up, you can innovate and question long-held assumptions, but you don’t have the scale that an insurer can provide,” said Attia. “Our platform works well in getting new products out to the market and is scalable.”

Slice Labs is now reviewing the emerging markets, which aren’t hampered by “old, outdated infrastructures,” and plans to test the water via a hackathon in southeast Asia.

Collaboration Vs Competition

Insurtech-insurer collaborations suggest that the industry noted the banking sector’s experience, which names the tech disruptors before deciding partnerships, made greater sense commercially.

“It’s an interesting correlation,” said Slice’s managing director for marketing, Emily Kosick.

“I believe the trend worth calling out is that the window for insurers to innovate is much shorter, thanks to the banking sector’s efforts to offer omni-channel banking, incorporating mobile devices and, more recently, intelligent assistants like Alexa for personal banking.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.”

As with fintechs in banking, Insurtechs initially focused on the retail segment, with 75 percent of business in personal lines and the remainder in the commercial segment.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.” — Emily Kosick, managing director, marketing, Slice

Those proportions may be set to change, with innovations such as digital commercial insurance brokerage Embroker’s recent launch of the first digital D&O liability insurance policy, designed for venture capital-backed tech start-ups and reinsured by Munich Re.

Embroker said coverage that formerly took weeks to obtain is now available instantly.

“We focus on three main issues in developing new digital business — what is the customer’s pain point, what is the expense ratio and does it lend itself to algorithmic underwriting?” said CEO Matt Miller. “Workers’ compensation is another obvious class of insurance that can benefit from this approach.”

Jason Griswold, co-founder and chief operating officer of Insurtech REIN, highlighted further opportunities: “I’d add a third category to personal and business lines and that’s business-to-business-to-consumer. It’s there we see the biggest opportunities for partnering with major ecosystems generating large numbers of insureds and also big volumes of data.”

For now, insurers are accommodating Insurtech disruption. Will that change?

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“Insurtechs have focused on products that regulators can understand easily and for which there is clear existing legislation, with consumer protection and insurer solvency the two issues of paramount importance,” noted Shawn Hanson, litigation partner at law firm Akin Gump.

“In time, we could see the disruptors partner with reinsurers rather than primary carriers. Another possibility is the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Apple, with their massive balance sheets, deciding to link up with a reinsurer,” he said.

“You can imagine one of them finding a good Insurtech and buying it, much as Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods gave it entry into the retail sector.” &

Graham Buck is a UK-based writer and has contributed to Risk & Insurance® since 1998. He can be reached at riskletters.com.