VCIA conference Q&A: Where the captive world comes to meet

Vermont Captive Insurance Association (VCIA) president Kevin Mead and senior marketing director Francis McGill discuss what attendees can look forward to at this year’s VCIA Conference on 12-14 August

 

It isn’t long before Burlington, Vermont, hosts one of the biggest events in the captive calendar: the Vermont Captive Insurance Association annual conference. Sitting down with Captive Review, president Kevin Mead and senior marketing director Francis McGill explain why the event’s strapline ‘Where the captive world comes to meet’ is more than just a slogan.

Captive Review (CR): We’re only a few months away from the 2024 VCIA Conference. How excited are you feeling about this year’s event?

Kevin Mead (KM): We’re extremely excited and everyone we talk to is feeling the same way. We opened registrations on 15 May and even before this, I heard three hotels were sold out, meaning we are negotiating for extra rooms. It’s clear this is a global growing industry and this is reflected in what we are seeing on the ground in Vermont.

Francis McGill (FM): We are seeing a tremendous influx of new players in the captive market. The population count, of what we call stakeholders, has recorded steady growth. We are regarded as the industry standard when it comes to events because we have such a high percentage of captive owners, who usually make up about 25% of our attendance.

When we say this is ‘where the captive world comes to meet’, that’s not just a slogan – you see it in practice at our conferences. We get representatives from every state in the country and from other countries such as the UK and in Europe, not to mention from the nearby offshore hubs such as the Cayman Islands. The captive reach is truly global and, in preparation to create a conference that matches this, we are in full ‘go’ mode now.

 

CR: What can delegates look forward to at the conference, both in terms of speakers and sessions?

KM: Our foundation stone is the quality of the education we provide. This really takes a lot of work from everyone on the conference taskforce. We make a point of ensuring the voice of the captive owner is there in the session.

It’s not just consultants and service providers doing a pitch; we want real life experience in these sessions. It’s also a semi-democratic process, as we end up with 60-70 topics that everyone in the conference taskforce votes on.

We are really taking the pulse of the industry in terms of working out what to put in there. We are also excited about enhancing what we call the ‘conference atmosphere’. This year we’ll have yoga classes in the morning, a running club and a Sunday welcome reception presented by the Vermont Captive Insurance Emerging Leaders (VCIEL) group. I’d be remiss not to mention our annual golf tournament.

This year, it’s at a mountainous resort called Spruce Peak. For the real golf die-hards it’s quite a course, offering amazing views of the green mountains. Everything will be capped off with a very interesting keynote speaker – a futurist called Jim Carroll.

In his talk, he will be forecasting some fascinating future trends, which is what risk management is all about. That will really connect with the audience, so there are many things we are doing for the first time to enhance the overall experience for attendees.

FM: That conference atmosphere is what we’re focusing on. We’re dialled in on the content but we also want the ambience to be great as well. Schedule-wise, we have 29 sessions. These run the gamut and includes a captive owner lunch and forum. We’re big on making exclusive peer-to-peer settings available as we repeatedly hear how important it is for captive owners to have honest conversations with one another.

Within that scope, we have 18 sessions that are credit-eligible, which is always big for most attendees. We have six discussion groups that cover all sorts of topics: the next captive workforce, captive examinations, the role AI will play and so on.

Then there are the add-ons – for instance, one discussion group will have a live toastmaster meeting, built around the topic of captive insurance. They’ll be fine tuning our public speaking in an entertaining way.

KM: I’ll be there and find out I’m not as good a public speaker as I think I am!

 

CR: Throughout the conference, how many delegates are you expecting to attend in total? And what will their profiles be in terms of profession and background?

KM: The big stat we like is the number of folks who are risk managers and captive owners, who I expect will account for about 25%-30% of the total attendance. If those people come, then everyone else comes to learn from them and interact with them. That is a driving number.

FM: Last year, we had 1,090 delegates in total, which was 10% up from the year before. The baseline will be 1,000 attendees but as things are trending, it could well be closer to the 1,100 count like last year. Clearly, that is the largest captive event in the US. You could even do forensic analysis on similar events in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, and it certainly rivals those.

 

CR: In terms of sponsors, who is already signed up to the event? How many sponsors are you expecting to be part of this?

KM: I recently spoke with our colleague who oversees sponsors and exhibitors. She told me if everybody who had a draft contract to exhibit comes through, we’ll have to start a waiting list. There’s quite simply no more room at the inn! This is a strong indication of the level of interest we are seeing. Interestingly, new and different exhibitors are also coming to us who are not the typical service providers – like the folks involved in property remediation as well as health and safety.

FM: Number wise, we’ll have 75 exhibitors in the central hall. That is a huge asset for us and one of the most popular experiences we hear about, simply because everyone is in one room and a lot of business happens there. This is followed by an exhibitor reception afterwards for two hours with an open bar.

We’re doing well with sponsors of the conference in general, with 28 packages sold (ranging across platinum, gold and silver). Vermont Captive is our presenting sponsor and there are many one-off sponsors such as the conference app [available from late June], transportation and so on.

We are also doing a student sponsorship programme this year. VCIEL is a group affiliated with the VCIA and committed to supporting the workforce of the next generation. Organisations can claim that sponsorship and they will get several marketing deliverables we can promote them through. Each student will also have a shadow, paired with a VCIEL member, and learn a lot throughout the conference. This whole programme is built for students to be sponsored by captive organisations.

Our opening reception is in partnership with the International Centre for Captive Insurance Education (ICCIE). It’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and, given that VCIA founded ICCIE, it’s fitting that it’s celebrating with us at the conference.

 

CR: Finally, what is it about the VCIA’s annual conference that makes it such a key event in the captive community’s calendar?

KM: Firstly, the quality of the education delegates receive. Secondly, as this is where the captive world comes to meet, it’s a one-stop shop. Everyone is under one roof. We get a lot of attendees at the conference who don’t have a Vermont-based captive but they still come here to learn. And thirdly, to put it simply, Vermont is a wonderful place to visit in the summer.

The conference is also going to be part of our listening tour. We have hired a consultant to help us with this. They will be listening to our members’ needs, comments and concerns and then meeting with them – informally or through discussion groups. We’re not putting it on the schedule, but it’ll happen throughout the conference.

FM: Captive Review comes out with its Power 50 and Sandy Bigglestone was listed as number one this year. She has a main session at this year’s conference, which shows the calibre of speakers we are arranging. Attendees will see a lot of big players at this event, either on panels or for networking. We hear this a lot: “If there is one conference you go to in the captive calendar, it’s the VCIA.”

Registration is already open and we’re excited for the start of the conference. If you’re interested in attending but you’re not a VCIA member, don’t worry, it really is welcome to everyone. However the early bird rate ends on 30 June, so it’s best to purchase a conference pass – regardless of what package it is – sooner rather than later to save a good amount of money.

12 August 2024
5-6 November 2025

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