Marsh Tracks Top Captive Trends

The number of captive insurers continues to increase globally, from 5,000 in 2006 to more than 7,000 in 2016. Once formed primarily by large companies, the captive market has opened up to mid-size and small businesses. The industry is also seeing a trend in companies forming more than one captive, using them for cyber, political risk and other exposures, according to a recent Marsh report, Captives at the Core: The Foundation of a Risk Financing Strategy.

Organizations are seeing disruptions in a number of areas and are relying more on their existing captives, Marsh said. Because of their flexibility, captives are also being used to respond to market cycles and organizational changes such as mergers and acquisitions.

While North America and Europe still dominate in numbers of captives, other regions have shown more interest in the past three years. In Latin America, captive formation increased 11% in 2016, the study found.

Within the United States, there is more competition among domiciles and some of the newer domiciles are experiencing growth. The top-growing U.S. domiciles in 2016 were Texas, Connecticut, Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee, and New York. Domiciles outside the U.S. seeing the most growth include Sweden, Guernsey, Singapore, Malta, and the Cayman Islands.
As organizations’ exposures increase in number, complexity and severity, shareholder funds generated by captives are becoming more important. According to Marsh:

For many clients, captives are at the core of their risk management strategy, going beyond the financing of traditional property/casualty risks.

Specifically, we are seeing an increase in parent companies using captive shareholder funds to underwrite an influx of new and non-traditional risks, including cyber, supply chain, employee benefits, and terrorism, as well as to develop analytics associated with these risks and fund other risk management initiatives.

Risk management projects funded by captive shareholder funds in 2016 included initiatives to determine capital efficiency and optimal risk retention levels in the form of risk-finance optimization; quantify cyber business-interruption exposures; accelerate the closure of legacy claims; and improve workforce and fleet safety/loss control policies.

For example, Marsh-managed captives used to address cyber liability increased by 19% from 2015 to 2016. Since 2012, in fact, cyber liability programs in captives have skyrocketed 210%.
“We expect to see a continued increase, driven in part by companies that are already strong captive users and by those that may have difficulty insuring their professional liability risks,” Marsh said.

Aon Introduces Single-Parent Captive Cyber Insurance Program


With cyberattack listed as one of their top risks, organizations are looking for ways to mitigate their risk in a market where cyber insurance rates are quickly rising. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the annual cost of cyber crime and economic espionage to the world economy runs as high as $445 billion, or about 1% of global income.

This does not include intangible damage to an organization, however. Companies are purchasing more insurance to cover the risk. In 2014, the report said, the insurance industry took in $2.5 billion in premiums on policies to protect companies from losses resulting from hacks.

As a result, captive insurers are being used more and more for coverage.

Aon said it is addressing shortcomings in traditional cyber coverage with a cyber captive program with capacity of up to $400 million. Companies looking to form a captive would undergo a review to quantify their cyber exposures.

According to Peter Mullen, CEO of Aon Captive and Insurance Management, the program is designed to help clients understand their risk profile. “Once this is understood, they are is in a better position to make decisions about how much risk to retain in their captive and how much risk to transfer to the program,” Mullen said. “The program allows captives to purchase coverage up to $400 million on a reinsurance or excess insurance basis.”

The cyber captive program will be domiciled in Bermuda and is available to single-parent captives. The basis for coverage will be “a very broad form which includes coverage for property damage and business interruption following a cyber event,” he added.

“Building a large tower of limits can be hampered by differing policy terms and conditions and dislocation of rates at different layers in a program,” Mullen said. “Additionally, many organizations facing cyber risks that can result in physical impacts, such as property damage and business interruption, agree that a more comprehensive approach to cyber risk is needed.”

Captive Growth Increases Need for Insurance-Experienced Board

The current climate for captive insurers is gravitating toward encouraging captives—including single-parent, association and agent-owned—to appoint experienced, independent directors to their boards. Regulators (National Association of Insurance Commissioners and Bermuda Monetary Authority) and rating organizations (A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s) have all come out in favor of the appointment of independent directors. They believe that independent directors add value by providing independent, experienced guidance to captive owners that is separate and distinct from a captive’s other advisers, including as managers, lawyers and accountants.

Their appointment could also help a company avoid a lawsuit. Independent directors do not have conflicts of interest, can provide experience that is different from others on the board and usually have a broad captive insurance perspective.

Another point worth considering is that some captive managers may have other interests, such as brokerages, reinsurance brokerages, actuarial, claims, asset investments. Some may even provide leads for a possible fee for premium financing. Furthermore, captive owners can mistakenly believe they get all the advice they need from their current advisers.

Independents on the Horizon

In the coming months, expect to see captive owners reaching out to independent directors, both because of their value-added consulting expertise and because regulators and possibly rating agencies will require it. This practice already exists in some overseas jurisdictions, and with Solvency II, it could become more important as it may ultimately apply here in the U.S.

What is often overlooked is the value-added experience independents offer. Here is a partial list of services normally expected of experienced independent directors:

  • Help in selecting the reinsurance interme­diary. They provide an independent per­spective separate from the reinsurance broker or risk manager.
  • Advise on acquisition opportunities of the captive, if any, such as buying a third-party administrator, a licensed admitted insur­ance company, or an investment in a new start-up retail brokerage firm. These sophis­ticated ideas are an expansion of most cap­tives’ business plans and need to be consid­ered carefully given the risks they present. Keep in mind, however, that the captive landscape from the 1970s is littered with the carcasses of captives that ventured ill-advised into such businesses.
  • Help in evaluating a reinsurance program’s structure and economics.
  • Attend and advise on the rating process with outside rating agencies, such as A.M. Best.
  • Attend meetings with insurance regulators, especially if there is a regulatory concern.

Independent directors are also asked to vote on many issues, including:

  • Should the captive change fronting companies?
  • Should the captive make a large dividend payment to the parent corporation, or should it return capital to its owners?
  • Should the captive write direct procure­ment policies for the parent corporation?
  • What law firm should handle uncollectible reinsurance?
  • Should the captive litigate or arbitrate certain claims?
  • Should it change asset investment managers?
  • Should the captive expand into other lines of business, such as writing third-party reinsurance business?
  • Should it move from an offshore domicile to a domestic domicile?
  • How can the captive reduce the cost of its reinsurance program?
  • How does a captive evaluate its various service providers?
  • What are the consequences of executing reinsurance or fronting agreements?