Transitions and Moving Past COVID: VCIA President Kevin Mead on the 2023 Conference

The 2023 VCIA Conference will be held from August 7th to 10th in Burlington, Vermont. Vermont is the largest domestic captive domicile with over six hundred domiciled captives. Vermont is also the leading risk retention group domicile with 80 domiciled risk retention groups that reported gross written premium of $2,928.5 million in 2022—60 percent of all risk retention group premium.

The VCIA conference offers an expansive slate of educational sessions, and as one of the largest events focused on the captive insurance industry, provides attendees with the opportunity to network with regulators, service provides, and captive owners from around the world. The Risk Retention Reporter spoke with VCIA President Kevin Mead to discuss the planning of the conference, sessions of note, and how attendees can maximize their experience at this year’s conference.

Risk Retention Reporter: Kevin, you’ve been the VCIA president for almost a year and a half now, what are some of your takeaways working on the conference from start to finish this year?

Kevin Mead: For last year’s conference, the agenda was largely settled before I started my position as VCIA president—I provided input into one speaker, and that was one of the keynotes. This year, I’ve been there since the beginning, and I’ve seen the deliberative process of planning the conference agenda. We get feedback from 40 captive insurance professionals on what they think would work for the educational sessions. And then there is the democratic process of selecting the sessions—the folks on the committee get to vote on the relevance and applicability of the sessions that are being offered.

What sessions do you view as being a major draw at this year’s conference?

Mead: There are two sessions I’d like to highlight. The first is Sandy Bigglestone’s debut in the central hot seat, as it were, as the lead regulator for the state of Vermont—what we can still refer to as a hot topics session, but now goes by the official title of “The Situation Room with Sandy Bigglestone”. That will be a beneficial session from two points of view. First, attendees will get to see Sandy’s thought process as the lead Vermont regulator. But also, because Sandy is such a well-known quantity, and her support team at the Vermont DFR is also well-known, it will highlight the continuity that occurred during the transition period at the DFR.

And then, and this may be the most relevant to readers of the Risk Retention Reporter, is the discussion session on Wednesday addressing pressing issues in RRG world. This is one of the discussion groups that comes with no fixed agenda. We’re aware of some of the topics that might be coming up, such as whether Florida Bill 516 will get revitalized. As to the other topics, those will be defined on the day of the conference by the participants.

Ed. Note: “The RRG Discussion Group: Hot Topics for RRGs” will feature Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (a Risk Retention Group), President & CEO Timothy Padovese; Eastern Dentists Ins. Co. (A Dental Society RRG) CFO Daniel Belbusti; and College RRG, Inc. Vice President for Property & Casualty Mary Ellen Moriarty.

That’s a good approach to the RRG session. There have been a lot of developments this year—from the Florida Bill to the risk retention group industry seeing record premium growth—that make a fluid session an appealing approach.

I saw earlier this year that VCIA held its trade mission to Mexico after having postponed it due to COVID. The country is moving further away from COVID, and with that in mind, does the association have any goals going forward?

Mead: We want to execute on what I will call our first full conference out from under the COVID umbrella. Because even last year, we had COVID policies in place that we were asking people to follow and there were still corporations with travel restrictions. Those are now fully off. If there are any concerns regarding COVID, I just don’t hear it out there amongst the VCIA membership.

Any other thoughts on this year’s conference?

We’re expanding the opening reception to two hours this year, because in addition to the hours of continuing education available, the social side of the conference is valuable. You’re doing yourself and your organization a disservice if you have room service delivered, because every night there’s either a party put on by one of the exhibitors, or one of the vendors, or one of our own events. We want people at the events and attendees should be going to as many social opportunities as they can, because that’s oftentimes where you end up having a deep conversation with someone about a problem that you’re trying to solve. It’s valuable for attendees to immerse themselves into the conference, not just in the sessions, but the entire event.