VCIA special section
2009 VCIA Annual Conference—One word: innovation—Topics broadened to reflect current events and recent feedback
By Michael J. Moody, MBA, ARM
“Building a Better Captive” is the theme of the 2009 Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA) Annual Conference, August 11-13 in Burlington, Vermont.
This year’s conference has scheduled 18 top-quality educational sessions that will appeal to every level of industry experience. In total, more than 60 of the industry’s most well-known speakers will provide current information on the changing economic and regulatory world of captives. Additionally, the conference attracts a variety of industry service providers and other interested parties. The opening and closing evening receptions are again scheduled at Shelburne Farms and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center.
Innovation takes center stage
This year’s conference will be remembered for the numerous innovative changes that are being introduced. One is VCIA’s money-back guarantee. VCIA believes that the quality of the educational sessions has really driven the success of the conference over the years. Diane Leach, director of education and programs for VCIA (and interim president), says, “We are very confident in what we are producing with our educational programs.” However, Leach says, “If an attendee with a conference pass does not feel that they gain useful knowledge from the educational seminars that they attend, they simply need to let us know in writing, prior to the end of the conference.” VCIA will refund their conference pass fee by August 31.
Michael J. Bemi, VCIA’s board chair, notes that this idea came from VCIA staffers; and when it was presented to the board, they immediately agreed it was a great idea. VCIA thinks this feature is fully consistent with one of their mission statements to provide quality educational opportunities to the members of the industry. “The Association feels that its conference is unmatched as an educational experience and, as a result, the board is very comfortable making this offer,” Bemi says.
Also new this year is the expansion of educational session locations. Previously, all educational sessions had been held at the Sheraton Hotel. This year, however, the conference will utilize the UVM Davis Center, which is a state-of-the-art facility located at the nearby University of Vermont campus. Pre-conference workshops, Newcomers Orientation and seminars on the afternoon of closing day will be held at the Center.
“We took a lot of time to talk to our members and attendees last year and tried to gain some insight to ensure that participants gained advantages from any changes to the conference format. Utilizing the new facility at UVM is one of the ideas that was warmly received,” she says.
Leach adds that the Davis Center is a new green building that will represent an attractive addition to the overall venue. However, the exhibit hall at the Sheraton will continue to be the hub of the conference.
The VCIA also has been working on “developing new sessions that will keep the program fresh,” says Leach. The Pre-Conference Workshop “Captives 102” session is a good example. Because attendees at last year’s “Captives 101” session said they would like more information regarding tax issues, this year’s conference offers the 102 (tax) session that provides a 2 1/2-hour in-depth discussion of the topic.
Several other new sessions are being introduced on the conference’s final day, August 13. A new session that came about as a result of last year’s survey, according to Leach, is “Meet the Reinsurers.” Attendees requested more focused meetings with various providers of captive reinsurance. Leach points out that the session is specifically designed so reinsurers can provide information regarding their available products and services. Participants will move among tables to hear presentations and ask questions of the reinsurers. According to VCIA, the majority of reinsurers that specialize in captives will be on hand for the event.
Another new session that is certain to attract attention is “Toolbox Talk.” Leach explains that this is a fast-paced, star-studded panel discussion that will be moderated by Derick White, president of Strategic Risk Solutions. The session will utilize a “Tonight Show” format. Each speaker will have five minutes to address a specialized topic. Leach indicates that this session will also feature presentations by some of the most innovative captive owners who will provide insight into their captive programs. The session is designed to be educational as well as entertaining.
Another new session is “Financial Crisis and the Captive Industry.” Leach explains that the Association’s captive owner advisors were most concerned about this topic, and it quickly rose to the top of the list. She says that early interest in this session indicates that it will be one of the most attended seminars.
“New Concerns Over Collateral—Is Your Foundation Secure?” is an additional new topic. This has been a burning issue of late, points out Leach. The VCIA has been hearing from its membership at regional meetings as well as via e-mail regarding this topic.
One other noticeable change at this year’s conference is that VCIA President Molly Lambert will not be as visible as in the past because she has taken a new appointment as the USDA’s State Director for Rural Development for Vermont and New Hampshire.
Bemi points out, “We must acknowledge that this is a great thing for Molly; after all, it is a presidential appointment.” Leach adds, “We are all proud of her.” Bemi goes on to note: “We will very much miss her—not just the staff, but the board, and the members of VCIA as well. Molly did a wonderful job, but this is a great opportunity for her.” According to Bemi, Molly will be doing some consulting on VCIA’s behalf, including in the area of finding a successor.
One of the keys to the Association’s continued success is VCIA’s desire to keep the VCIA Annual Conference “fresh.” Each year, leaders go to great lengths to improve their product. In 2009, for example, VCIA has challenged each of its session coordinators to “do something new and different with the format of their presentations,” says Leach.
Leach also says, “This year we have worked harder than ever to give the attendees the tools and resources that they will need to move their organizations forward in these challenging times.” She adds that thanks to the dedication and tireless work of the staff, Board and all the volunteers, “we are well positioned for an extraordinary conference.”
For more information about the conference, go to www.vcia.com.