Captive insurance is a sector few have heard of, but the benefits of working in this great industry and living in the beautiful state of Vermont are vast.
“Vermont is number one as far as licensed captives go in the nation and third globally.” Brittany Nevins, State of Vermont
“There needs to be a focus on making students aware of how great an opportunity there is in this industry.” Katie Haining, University of Vermont
When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, leaders of the captive insurance industry in the State of Vermont think they have a great story to tell. After all, what’s not to like about an industry where the average salary is $91,000 per year, job stability is substantial, you get to interact with business leaders across a wide spectrum of industries, and you’re mere minutes from great hiking, fresh farm food, and snowboarding.
Be that as it may, present realities are that finding qualified people to take existing positions is a struggle across the US economy. And insurance, specifically captive insurance, is no exception.
Brittany Nevins, the captive insurance economic development director for the State of Vermont, is convinced however that it’s just a matter of getting the word out to the right people, and Vermont will never lack for captive insurance talent.
In a nutshell, a captive is when a company creates its own insurance company for its own risk. Instead of paying insurance premiums to commercial insurers, companies pay those premiums into their own “captive”, manage their own risks and pay their own claims.
Better control over their own programme and the opportunity to realise investment returns on premiums paid in are just a couple of the business advantages of owning a captive.
An industry that directly benefits its host state
Nevins thinks working with captives in Vermont is a great career. One benefit statewide is the positive economic impact the industry, now in its 40th year, has had.
“According to an economic contribution study put out by the State of Vermont in 2019, the captive industry contributes to more than 400 direct jobs for Vermonters with great benefits,” Nevins said. “Not only do you get to live in this amazing state while connected to a global economy with a good work-life balance, you also make a great salary and can live your life without financial stress.”
The Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA) is the largest captive insurance organisation in the world. Through its emerging leaders group, the VCIA is dedicated to doing a better job of publicising the benefits of a career in captives and why Vermont is the very place to have that career.
Nevins said that as part of that effort she is networking with colleges and universities to make sure more students understand what a career in captives entails, and why it can be such a great career choice.
“We’ve been celebrating our 40th anniversary,” Nevins said. “This year I’ve been trying to highlight not just the past, which is really important, but to also imagine the future of this industry,” she added.
Young professionals who’ve found a home
For Michael Rubalcaba, a Vermont-based account manager with Strategic Risk Solutions, it’s not a matter of the captive insurance industry needing to reinvent itself. It just needs to make a focused attempt to educate young people about the advantages the industry offers. After all, not many people enter college with a career in insurance or captive insurance as their first career choice.
“I don’t think the industry needs to change at all,” Rubalcaba said.
“People who get involved in the industry tend to stay and innovate,” he said. “The problem I see is the lack of knowledge of the captive insurance industry as a whole.”
“As the industry continues to grow, connecting at the university or college level is the key to success and sustainability. The industry offers strong careers and unlimited advancement opportunities. It’s a matter of getting the word out there and educating the young workforce on what’s available to them,” he continued.
Like many in the sector, Katie Haining, the assistant risk manager for the University of Vermont, came to the industry by chance. After graduating from the University of Vermont, she took a job with a law firm in Burlington that provided legal services to captive managers. With the help of mentors, she soon found herself managing higher education risk retention groups.
“It felt like a logical next step to move into a risk management role where I could apply my claims and insurance knowledge,” she said.
Haining loves her career and thinks it’s just a matter of letting more people know about it for Vermont captives to continue to attract the talent they need.
“We didn’t really know much about the captive insurance industry early on in our education,” she said. “There needs to be a focus on making students aware of how great an opportunity there is in this industry and that there are a large number of jobs related to the captive industry right here in Vermont.”
Letting college students know about captives is exactly how Maigh Wright, an actuarial consultant and vice president with Marsh Captive Solutions, came to work in this industry. Wright was born in Northern Vermont, but it wasn’t until she was studying mathematics and statistics at the University of New Hampshire that a professor mentioned the actuarial career path to her.
Actuaries are the data-focused professionals in insurance who determine whether a given insurance company is charging the right amount of premium and holding the appropriate amount of reserves to take on a risk.
It was only a matter of time until Wright had taken and passed the exams that credentialled her as an actuary.
“Overall, I work with a range of companies and a range of industries,” she said.
“What I find engaging is the variety of work I get to do on a day-to-day basis,” she added. “I enjoy getting to work with risk management departments for large corporations and smaller companies across so many different industries.”
The breadth of that interaction also appeals to Nevins who, although new to her role, is relishing the challenge of marketing an industry that has earned her respect.
“Vermont is number one as far as licensed captives go in the nation and third globally,” she said. “I have this great opportunity to interact with businesses around the world that wouldn’t normally have a connection to Vermont.”
Consistent, innovative industry regulation
One key to the stability of the Vermont captive industry is the long tenure of its regulators. “We have a very stable department and low turnover in leadership and throughout the department,” Nevins said.
“There is a great culture of innovation, creativity and collaboration that is unique when you compare it to other departments in the country,” she added.
There are endless job possibilities within the captive insurance industry in Vermont and one thing is for certain: once you go into this industry few people ever want to leave.
This article is based on a webinar conducted by Risk & Insurance with the Vermont Department of Economic Development and service providers in the Vermont captive insurance industry. The article has been published on the Vermont government’s website.
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