One of the primary rewards from operating a captive is the ability to place more emphasis on the risk management process, in order to stabilize annual budgets, reduce long-term costs, and utilize capital more effectively. To accomplish these goals, captives rely on experienced service providers to manage almost all of their operations.
An actuary is one of these indispensable service providers. Simply put, actuaries can quantify the level of risk, which allows the company to better manage it. And actuaries provide value throughout a captive’s life cycle, from formation to dissolution (if applicable). Risk factors change all the time, so having an actuary review your experience regularly is crucial to avoiding problems.
Speaking of avoiding problems, we all love the functionality of the Waze traffic app, which steers us from one location to another in the most efficient manner possible. At its core, this traffic app helps you figure out what path to take to avoid unexpected delays, thereby reducing stress levels. Anyone who has traveled I-95 in Connecticut knows this value first-hand.
Actuaries essentially function like a Waze app for captives. They largely provide a means to keep captives on the right path by avoiding surprises and reducing potential for management stress.
Initially, actuaries are engaged in feasibility processes to help ensure a company knows what to expect as it sets out on its journey to create a captive. Where necessary, actuaries utilize data from the local environment (the industry) to supplement the company's own experience. The main deliverable of the feasibility study is a five-year pro forma financial model, which includes a projected income statement and balance sheet of a new captive’s financial business plan. Actuaries provide these projections on both an expected loss outcome basis and an adverse loss scenario basis; this is because it is crucial to understand the potential risks involved, not just what to expect on average. Both the captive business owner and regulator are key stakeholders for whom the feasibility study reduces stress levels right from the outset.
Once the journey begins (the captive is formed), actuaries perform ongoing loss reserving and loss forecasting (budgeting). As the captive’s losses emerge, the actuary has to gauge how much weight to place on an individual insured’s experience versus that of the industry when estimating ultimate losses. This is a delicate balance amidst the “noise” of random variations in losses. In the end, actuaries hold the keys to how fast the captive can travel from a loss recognition standpoint.
Periodically, at least every three years, the actuary should update the pro forma model, adjusting to the conditions of the road map that was created. This provides a continuous means of reasonableness testing of underlying assumptions, including loss ratios, loss development patterns, loss payment (discount) factors, expenses, investment income, taxes, etc.
All of this effort ultimately supports a smooth ride—the issuance of fairly stated financial statements with adequate funding of loss reserves. The actuary’s road map and process needs to be transparent enough to allow another actuary to essentially reproduce the analysis (even though no two actuaries would use all of the same assumptions or necessarily take the same route to the destination). During the process, the captive’s actuary needs to engage in dialogue with the audit firm’s actuary to ensure audit sign-off is secured; this helps to arrive at your final destination from a financial reporting standpoint.
As actuaries, we certainly wish our models could be as straightforward as the Waze traffic app. Even though we face complex questions, our processes and expertise have proven to be successful in navigating the risky terrain of running a captive insurance company. In Connecticut, our tourism branding is “Still Revolutionary.” In today’s ever advancing age of big data and analytics, using actuaries to help captives take calculated risks to justify the potential rewards noted above is still a state-of-the-art approach. And the Hartford, Connecticut area has the highest number of actuaries per capita in the United States. Talk about an opportunity. So you may want to consider the Waze-like advantages of using an actuary to help you navigate a new route to establishing a captive in Connecticut.
~ Stephen DiCenso, President