Insurance Captives

In today’s episode, Paul Martin and Colin Rooke discuss insurance captives and how they can work for your business. 


Listen to the full episode here, or read the full transcript below

Paul Martin: Welcome to Risky Business, commercial insurance with Butler Byers. This is Paul Martin, the business commentator here on Sick AOM. And joining me in studio as our usual guest is Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Byers. Colin, over the last few years we’ve been doing this program, we have covered the waterfront, everything from looking at what’s the impact of a hurricane and a tornado and a wildfire on insurance premiums, to how does the average small business owner in Saskatchewan actually go to market? How do you become a better customer of the insurance industry? And underlying all of this, you’re always talking about this thing called risk management. So I want to just maybe circle back to that and talk about risk management. And you come at this in so many different ways, and if I throw that word at you, risk management, or that phrase this month, what’s top of mind for you? What comes to top of mind when you hear that? 

Colin Rooke: Well, it’s a good point. So we always talk about risk on the show and new and emerging risks, new trends. I think we’ve talked about cyber once or twice as an example. 

Paul Martin: Or 200 times or something. 

Colin Rooke: Yeah. Cyber show with Paul and Colin. But we look at risk and the traditional insurance policy as just one tool that we use. It’s not the only tool. It’s part of the process. And when we’re having these conversations with our clients that have gone through our risk reduction workshop, when we finally get to the plan, what we are going to do to become better customers, what we are going to do together to reduce risk, we categorize that into five different areas. So we talk about a risk avoidance, things that we can do together to avoid certain risks entirely. 

Colin Rooke: That’s always part of the plan. Second is risk mitigation. If we can’t avoid something entirely, can we reduce it? So if we’re talking about employee turnover for example, and the cost of that to the company, we may never get to the point where no one leaves, but we want to focus on as few people as possible. So risk mitigation in that sense. Are there ways we can transfer risk? Usually that’s contractually, so I talk about how often we are reviewing contracts and leases that our customers are asked to sign and we look for ways to move the risk from our client to someone else if at all possible. And then we talk about risk financing. Now depending on who you’re talking to, they’ll have a different term for this, or a different definition. When I mention risk financing, I’m referring to the traditional insurance policy. 

Colin Rooke: when you pay a premium to a insurance company as a way of having that company protect your business against future claims. I mean it really is just a method of financing. Set aside some funds and then if you need more funds it’ll be there too. And then lastly we talk about assumption, and risk assumption is the costliest form of risk management. So we get in the habit of saying, okay, this is what we’ve talked about, this is what’s insurable. But here’s all the areas that aren’t, and that’s a really big portion of our risk management plan. We talk about, okay, these are some of the biggest cost factors in the business and these are items that are affecting your company each and every day and there’s nothing we can do about it. 

Colin Rooke: But we’re also quick to reference that the second most costliest way to deal with risk is the financing of risk by insurance policy. So we’re used to having those conversations with our clients in each and every risk management plan. Today I want to talk about something that’s a little different. What if we said to our clients, we can get out of the insurance market altogether. You don’t have to purchase a policy at all from one of the large insurers in Canada or United States or globally. And when we say that, there’s often a lot of eyebrows that will raise like, what are you talking about? We’re not going to self insure the whole company. 

Paul Martin: Yeah, We’re not going to go bare on this thing. Go naked on it. Yeah. We’re going to need to get someone with deeper pockets than us to play the game with us. 

Colin Rooke: You’re good. You’re not that good at working on risk. And so I want to introduce the idea of Butler Byers can help you purchase your own insurance company and it’s called an insurance captive. So when you think about an insurance captive, it is a separate entity from the business altogether. Again, you are purchasing an insurance company. Now there’s different ways you can structure that. So you could have common shareholders that would own the business and also own the insurance captive, which is quite common. Or you can have shareholders that will own a business and that business will own the insurance captive. But really the idea is we work together and help our clients form their own insurance company, which effectively takes them out of the purchase and placement side of insurance. When you own the company, you set the rules, you charge your own company for your premiums. But this whole idea of going to market and negotiating rates and should I switch insurers and that whole application process, we can eliminate all of that and it can be quite advantageous to our clients. 

Butler Byers can help you purchase your own insurance company and it’s called an insurance captive.

Paul Martin: It sounds almost like, well not magic but magical. 

Colin Rooke: Yeah, it does sound out there, but it’s actually quite common. And it’s not a loophole. It’s not something that we’ve made up. You would be purchasing your own insurance company. It can be domiciled in Canada, can be domiciled in the United States, it can be domiciled off shore. But just to give some context, it has to have all the same functions of an insurance company. In fact, any insurance captive, it would still be subject to rules and regulations wherever you are located that would apply to any insurance company. So this is a real thing. 

Colin Rooke: Your company would have to issue policies, it would have to collect premiums, you’d have to have claims staff, actuaries, the whole thing. Now it’s not as complicated to do as you would think. Really it’s just a matter of working with us. And together we select a captive and find an appropriate captive manager that would look after a lot of the functions. But again, thing and it is an insurance company. It’s not something that looks like an insurance company. It’s just the idea that you own your own insurance company. 

Paul Martin: There’s a lot of things in this realm of really, we’re talking about financial matters here. And there’s a lot of things that small business owners in particular small, medium-sized businesses just simply don’t get exposed to. And that’s probably even more so in a province the size of this, where our market place is the size that it is. That you just don’t hear about.One of the things that as a business writer, I sometimes do some work on, there’s a thing called an individual pension plan. But in all, I talk about it with business owners and they go a what, and I’m frankly quite surprised that I know about this. They don’t know about it. So it says to me, the industry isn’t talking very much about making that sales pitch, but part of it is just simply we aren’t exposed to that kind of stuff. So this notion of a captive, as you call it, you say it’s common, but yet nobody’s talking about it. So how common is common?

Colin Rooke: Yeah, so on that note, 60% of the world’s insurance premium is currently domiciled inside of an insurance captive. So when you say common, it’s on some level more common to be in a captive then actually purchase a policy. But when you’re looking at the masses, these are traditionally very large companies that have entered into an insurance captive 15, 20, 30 years ago. What’s not as common is, having this conversation with a medium-sized company, and the reason why it’s not happening and certainly in Canada is it’s non-traditional. If you look at the typical role of an insurance broker, it’s just not how it’s done. We take in an insurance application, we go to market, we negotiate on behalf of our clients and we place them with someone else. Well, what if we’re placing your insurance with your own insurance company, and that’s all I’m suggesting here. And I want to touch on I guess a little bit on the types of captives or what is this thing? 

Paul Martin: All right, I want you to hold that thought. We’re going to take a little break and when we come back we’ll pick that up. And I want to also explore, is this just for the really big companies or can average smaller, medium-sized businesses play in this? You’re listening to Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Byers Commercial Insurance. We’re going to take a little break. We’ll come back after this. 

Paul Martin: Welcome back to risky business commercial insurance with Butler Byers. Paul Martin here, your host, sitting in with Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Byers Commercial Insurance. Just before the break we were talking about these a, you raised this notion of captives and I cut you off there. You had a thought process going, so maybe I’d better let you just pick up where we left off just before the break. 

Colin Rooke: Yeah, so I want to talk about this. There’s four main types of captives and I won’t go into great detail, but just give a brief summary of what that looks like for those that are listening now and saying, I haven’t heard of this before. This is new to me. So one of the more common types of captive is a single- parent captive, which is 100% owned by the company. There’s no other members inside of this captive, so you have complete flexibility as to what coverages you would put inside that captive. You are standing alone. So types of coverage could be auto liability, general liability, errors and omissions. Cyber, which we talk about all the time when they show benefits, employee benefits, longterm disability, any predictable risk. When you own the insurance company, you can choose to place those coverages inside. 

Colin Rooke: Now, as part of a single-parent captive, there’s what’s called, this is the term, it’s rent-a-cell and you’d think there’d be a fancier name for it, but it really means you are renting a portion of somebody else’s parent captive. Now, that’s great for smaller businesses that want to enter into insurance captive. They’re not ready to, I guess jump off the deep end and it is increasingly becoming more common. The challenge though with renting a cell, look at it like you’re not the landlord, you’re a tenant and the parent is the landlord. Anything that you would want to do inside of that captive, you’d have to seek permission. So if maybe your cyber liability isn’t in the captive now and you’d like to add it, you’d have to ask. 

Colin Rooke: So there’s that side of it, but the most common is group captive and this is groups of like minded companies that are tired of paying high premiums and not seeing any benefit of that, that are working on risk management. Making that first and foremost in their business that say, okay, we’re like minded. We want to gather together where everyone shares in the risk, and it could be all one industry or it could be dozens of different industries, but these companies have similar methods of thinking and they say, okay, again, risk management is first and foremost. We’ve done the actuarial analysis and looking at our claims history and the cost of entry, we would have won that race and as would the group, we all want to reap the benefits. So that’s a very viable option. It’s certainly a great option for a medium-sized plus company. 

Colin Rooke: And the last one, which I find very interesting is called an enterprise captive. Enterprise captives exist for placing coverages where there isn’t insurance available. And so basically you would form this thing to devise or create policies as long as there’s data available to allow coverage for your company for something you can’t buy in the market. So I mean if you can imagine you could create your own insurance for example, for if a top employee leaves, you could say, okay, I’m going to pay some premium and if my top salesperson leaves, I’m going to put in a claim and there’s going to be a payable amount to my company. You are allowed to basically think outside the box and form this thing. So if anyone listening currently is saying, there’s coverages I wish were available in my industry that just aren’t, they are available. You can create that yourself and you can design it. 

Paul Martin: We need you talk about this group thing. What comes to mind for me and correct me if I’m wrong on this, is that smaller companies can entertain this idea. 

Colin Rooke: Yeah, absolutely. 

Paul Martin: This is not in the realm of, well if you’re under only the billion dollar club or something, this is much more accessible than most people would think it is. 

Colin Rooke: It is. It’s a lot more accessible than you think. And there is a bit of a barrier to entry. You want to be in a position where you are paying enough premium that the cost to create this thing are going to be worthwhile to your company. Even the consideration I guess of entering into an insurance captive, we would do what’s called a viability study and a feasibility study. 

Colin Rooke: So we can provide analysis saying, looking at the cost claims history, the structure of the company, where the company’s going, this does make sense and here’s the rationale behind it. But when you look at any business, and certainly on the liability side, if you look at all the money that would go out or again you add in the group benefits, longterm, short-term disability, key man insurance, buy sell agreements. 

Colin Rooke: And you think, I can house that all inside of a company I own and have the same functions. I pay a premium. And from there you say, okay, well what’s the difference if I’m paying a premium now to a typical insurer versus my own insurance captive, why would I do this? The difference being the profits are yours, the dividends are yours, the investment returns are yours. And if you’re focusing on risk management and your captive is collecting premiums that you aren’t using, the actuaries can release those premiums back to you. So if you think about it, so all I got to do is be a great risk, work at not using my premium. And after a few years I start getting that premium back. And that’s exactly what I’m saying. 

The difference being the profits are yours, the dividends are yours, the investment returns are yours.

Paul Martin: So we spent a lot of time talking about that company that looks at the insurance company and says, why are my rates going up? I haven’t filed a claim in 10 years. This is the way you fight that. You say, “I haven’t filed a claim in 10 years. I need to talk to you.” 

Colin Rooke: And you’d be amazed how often we hear, this is a 40-year-old company. We haven’t filed a claim once. We pay into this pot and I don’t see any benefit. Well quit doing it. Own the pot. 

Paul Martin: And so you’ll walk them through whether or not this is viable for their individual company or perhaps introduce them to a group that they could be a part of. 

Colin Rooke: Yep. And it’s not for everyone. I would say about one in five, maybe two and five that that look into an insurance captive, it actually makes sense. And so there’s a lot of work that goes into, is this a viable option? But for those that it makes sense for, it’s a fantastic nontraditional way of looking at insurance. 

Paul Martin: Well, I’m intrigued by the fact that you say about 60% of the world’s premiums go into these kinds of policies. So it’s one of those things where maybe in this case, Canada, Saskatchewan in particular, just a little behind the curve of what the rest of the world is doing. And these are financial instruments that have been invented and are novel that haven’t found their way here yet. 

Colin Rooke: That’s a fair assessment. It’s a lot more prevalent in the United States for example. The uptake has been slower in Canada, certainly. 

Paul Martin: Colin, we’ve run out of time. Fascinating conversation. We’ve been talking about insurance captives and if you’re a business owner or you run a business and you want to scratch your head about a new way of looking at how you buy insurance, this is the guy you want to give a call to and have a conversation and ask, “Is my firm a good candidate to look at a captive?” Colin, as always, thank you very much for joining us. 

Colin Rooke: Thank you, Paul. 

Paul Martin: You have been listening to Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Byers. This is risky business commercial insurance with Butler Byers. I’m Paul Martin. Join us again next time.