A Tale of Two Domiciles

This month brought interesting news from two neighboring captive domiciles that portend two different paths in the years ahead.

In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam appointed Julie McPeak as the new commerce and insurance commissioner. This is big news for the self-insurance world because not only does McPeak understand alternative risk transfer, she has been an advocate for self-insureds and captives in her capacity as an attorney over the past few years.

Before that, she was the chief insurance regulator for the state of Kentucky and directly contributed to the captive insurance industry taking hold in that state.

Several months ago, then candidate Haslam approached Ms. McPeak to solicit her opinion on how the insurance industry could contribute to economic development in that state. She talked-up captives among other initiatives and apparently her input made a positive impression on the soon-to-be governor.

Tennessee can best be described today as a “dormant” captive domicile because it has a captive insurance statute, but no energy or resources have been committed by either the private or public sector to encourage captive formations in that state.

Ms. McPeak’s appointment has the real potential to change this. Work is already underway to update the state’s captive law to make it one of the most progressive and competitive in the country,

With a favorable law (assuming it can be passed through the Legislature) combined with a regulator who is willing to champion alternative risk transfer solutions, the key ingredients are in place to transform this domicile from dormancy to vibrancy.

Now let’s compare and contrast Tennessee with the nearby domicile South Carolina.

As most industry observers know, South Carolina has seen a reversal of fortune over the last several years as a captive insurance domicile. Its rapid growth and success in the early years has been stalled for some time, largely due to the state’s insurance department, which has increasingly been at odds with the captive insurance industry.

Industry leaders pleaded with newly-elected Governor Nikki Haley to appoint a new insurance commissioner who could restore the state’s status as one of the world’s premiere captive domiciles.

Interestingly, Ms. McPeak’s name had been floated last year as a possible candidate who could rescue captives in South Carolina, but it was obviously not to be.

Instead, Government Haley last week named David Black, CEO of Liberty Life Insurance Company to the post.

Now, Mr. Black does have solid business credentials but he is clearly not an altenative market guy, which means there will be a learning curve about captives at a minimum and no guarantee that he will be an advocate.

This latter point is important because it’s not good enough to be just luke warm about captives. The reason for this is that in order for any captive insurance domicile to grow the bureaucracy must be constantly tamed and that takes top-down leadership imposing a vision of true public-private partnership and demanding results.

The bureaucracy inside the South Carolina Department of Insurance is particularly challenging with regard to the captive application and review process, so the leadership demands are particularly acute.

We will soon see if Mr. Black is up to his challenge. Ms. McPeak is certainly up to hers.

This tale of these two domiciles will continue.

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