Zurich’s captive services proposition development leader tells Captive Review about his perspectives and future ambitions.
CR: What is the current make-up of the EMEA captive market?
Based on global research, there are approximately 7000 captives and similar risk financing structures in place worldwide. However, this equates to a much smaller number of approximately 1700 captive owners that actively operate single-parent or “pure” reinsurance captives or cell captive structures such as Protected or Segregated Cells (PCC or SCC).
If we look at the EMEA region alone where about half of these captive owners are domiciled, we have observed a significant interest in expanding the use of captives across international P&C, specialty and life employee benefits risk. Hard market conditions have accelerated this trend as risk financing can help counterbalance the pressure from rate increases, required higher deductibles and risk retention levels, and/or retreating insurance capacity available in the market. More captive owners pursue a holistic risk management strategy to derive maximum value from their captive by adding LoB (line of business) risks and extending captive risk retentions.
Noteworthy is the growing segment of cell captives across various domiciles that provide a legal and regulatory environment to support such structures. They have gained in popularity as they can provide financial and risk management benefits that are similar to single-parent captives. However, they can be set up more quickly, and operated at significantly lower cost.
CR: What is your role and what do you hope to achieve?
Ultimately, I am looking to continuously enhance Zurich’s captive services and fronting proposition to deliver maximum added value to customers and captive owners in the form of financial and/or strategic risk management benefits. It is about shaping the captive customer experience, and my goal is for Zurich to be recognised by customers and brokers in all of Zurich’s commercial insurance markets as a best-in-class captive fronting insurer.
CR: What challenges are captive owners facing now?
Fundamentally, the challenges are somewhat similar to the ones captive owners faced in the past. However, now these are much more amplified by the pressures from a hard market environment, the impact of global health crises, and challenging global environmental, social and geopolitical developments in recent months and years. This is further aggravated by rising levels of inflation and interest rates in many markets around the world. While captives can be helpful instruments and enablers, I see captive owners struggling with developing, evaluating and implementing captive solutions to help them deal with recent and future market pressures while managing increasing exposures. Some of their questions are: Which (other) LoB risks can be reinsured by my captive? Does it make economic sense to bring such risks into my captive?
In a world of increasing regulations and growing, granular reporting requirements that impact captives, their owners are looking for digital solutions and efficiencies in producing detailed reports. It is another area where a fronting insurer’s expertise combined with its digital end-2-end capabilities such as APIs can make a big difference and deliver tangible benefits.
With reference to the above-mentioned growing popularity of reinsurance cell captives, we observe an uptick of interest in risk financing solutions for smaller multinational companies. It is often new territory for them and their brokers where Zurich can support with deep expertise and tailored training.
CR: How do you plan on building Zurich’s captive portfolio?
At Zurich, we are growing from a solid portfolio base of 255 captives who we serve with individual fronting programs. Proven reliability of fronting program implementation, operational excellence, transparency and responsiveness are “table stakes” of Zurich’s captive customer experience.
As we continue to innovate and refine Zurich’s captive propositions, unique attributes and features designed to help current or future captive or cell captive users address their challenges, we expect to build Zurich’s captive portfolio further:
- Holistic captive proposition: While the above “table stakes” are basic features of the overall proposition to address each customer’s situation, for the challenges and specific program risk(s), Zurich’s proposition features a flexible and tailored solution. Zurich’s captive proposition is broken down in sub-propositions for specific LoB risks across P&C, financial lines, specialties as well as life EB lines.
- Upper mid-market commercial customers: I expect that these customers’ appetite for risk financing solutions will develop further. Zurich provides solutions that enable customers in this growing segment to use cell captives to reinsure their domestic and/or international risks. In this segment, Zurich’s broad-based P&C and life EB fronting capabilities are especially important as premium volume from multiple lines can be combined in a captive or cell captive to support a viable risk financing solution.
- Digitalisation and transparency: For several years, Zurich has invested heavily in building its centralised global risk pooling operations and digital infrastructure which is the backbone to providing captive owners access to real-time, end-to-end captive program data across their multinational fronting programs. The MyZurich customer portal and 100% connectivity via APIs are available to captive owners who want to achieve the highest level of automation and efficiency, as well as operational transparency.
- Risk improvement through captives: I observe more and more captives successfully initiate and enable risk improvement strategies. As central hubs, they can access and pool high-quality, global risk data, and facilitate risk analysis and risk improvement activities. Such efforts are supported by Zurich Resilience Solutions’ experts and established technology partnerships. Employee benefits, property NatCat and climate change, supply chain, cyber and motor risks are just some examples where such approaches can be successfully applied. Captive owners directly benefit from a deeper understanding of their risk, better risk quality, lower loss ratios and a boost to their captive earnings over time. As the risk improves, insurance buyers are likely to gain easier access to market capacity and more affordable rates.
- Knowledge sharing and collaboration: Customers and brokers can often benefit from specialised knowledge, deeper understanding of captive and cell captive solutions, and ideas to use and improve these powerful risk management tools. Zurich’s captive proposition features training workshops to foster collaboration and exchange on challenges and solutions. In my experience this is highly valued, not just by newcomers to the world of risk finance but also owners of mature captives.
CR: How are captive owners likely to change their use of captives in the future?
When we look at EMEA based captive owners, I can see many more of them adopting holistic risk management approaches with a captive used as a central, broad-based risk finance and strategic instrument. Particularly, the strategic value of using a captive to incubate some rapidly evolving or emerging risks such as cyber, supply chain, climate change and ESG risks will become even more prominent in the future. In these types of risk, where traditional commercial insurance capacity is hard to come by, not available or highly priced due to the lack of global claims data and experience, captives can step in to incubate such risks, potentially facilitate access to reinsurance market capacity, and, wherever possible, initiate risk data generation, risk assessment and improvement activities. Zurich supports captive owners with services and the technical tools to enable such strategic ways of using a captive.
CR: What do you feel passionate about?
I am personally very passionate about inspiring and developing our next generations of risk finance captive professionals and I was particularly pleased when Zurich received the European Captive Review Award for Developing and Training “Next Gen Initiative” last year. We are committed to equip our future captive generation as best as we can to be ready to successfully navigate the landscape of challenging risks in the future.